George S. Zaidan ’08, while an undergraduate at MIT, ran into a conceptual problem while teaching a course for high school students (See The Tech article). He asked his students to plan an experiment and in the process realized that most students did not understand the process of developing a scientific hypothesis and designing hypothesis driven experiments. George conceived the idea of having an online presence for students interested in science to go and explore who was doing research and how they were doing it. He called it OpenLabWare. With the help of John Essigmann, his academic adviser, George started to assemble a working team. He recruited other MIT undergraduates and worked tirelessly for three years, obtaining funding and academic support for his vision.
The process of research and scientific discovery still remains a mystery to most people. But thanks to George’s ideas and hard work, more people can understand how scientists develop research programs and carry out their research. OpenCourseWare provides a glimpse into the every day lives of the individuals who help develop the next generation of scientific and engineering discoveries.
Professor John Essigmann was awarded the Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Award tonight for his work over his tenure at MIT as an advocate for the minority community making students, faculty, and all other members of MIT feel welcome at MIT. John is one of those people who you meet in life and are immediately comfortable with him. I first met John when I was visiting MIT in the spring of 2000. I had just been accepted to the Chemistry PhD program and was in Cambridge on the prospective student visiting weekend. I sat at the dinner table with Professors John Essigmann and Cathy Drennan and had a great time at dinner. John and Cathy made everyone feel comfortable and welcome to MIT.
The next time I met John was when I was a Teaching Assistant for 5.07, the Chemistry version of Biological Chemistry. I got to know John and eventually asked him to be the chair of my Thesis Committee. As time passed and I got to know John better, I realized what an amazing person he is. He and Ellen, his wife, at Simmons Hall, a really cool undergraduate dormitory at MIT. The things John does around MIT are just too numerous to list here.
John also works to educate students who suffer from economic necessity worldwide. He has worked as an educator in Thailand for over two decades, dedicating his time to teach students in Thailand on how to design and develop drug research programs that investigate and provide relief to diseases which affect third world countries.
I can’t think of a better person to receive this prestigious award than John. Kudos to you!