Many many many years ago, I had the greatest educational experience of my life. It remains one of the most significant events in my life in many ways – maybe I’ll talk more about this soon – but I spent a life-altering summer in Ojai, California at the Summer Science Program. It was a six week immersion into astronomy, Calculus, and an academic world I didn’t even know existed.
I flew by myself, at age 17, to California and made my way to a designated area to wait on a shuttle from LAX to Ojai. Gradually the non-Californians congregated at a designated terminal (“The White Zone is for loading and unloading . . .”) and started to get to know each other. I met a guy from Cleveland and we started to talk, mostly about baseball, seeing as how the Texas rangers and Cleveland Indians had only recently experienced the “Nickel Beer Night Riot.” Once we got to Ojai and the SSP, Mike Weiss became my teammate in our orbital calculation (along with another brilliant student, Solomon Friedberg. We teamed together on our major project, spending time together at the telescope late at night. Solomon was a math genius – he is Chairman of the Mathematics Department at Boston College now. An absolute genius and a friend I wish I had stayed in touch with over the years. I was the astronomy geek of the three of us. But Mike was the genius. Now, many years later, I don’t know that I have ever encountered anyone as brilliant as he.
As with Solomon, I wish I had stayed in better contact with Mike. He visited Texas once – his reaction to our family meal of black-eyed peas is a memory I cherish! But I was stupid and my parents weren’t quite liberal enough to let me travel to California for reunions, to stay and play after the SSP summer ended, or to ever think I could visit Mike in Cleveland. Oh how I regret that I couldn’t and didn’t. But we kept in touch a little bit. In moving last year i ran across some letters we exchanged during our college years. In the summers, I worked at a grain elevator or on construction. Mike worked at Arecibo radio Observatory in Puerto Rico and at Livermore Labs in California.
Okay, Ricky, get to the point. A few years ago I got to see Mike and his family (beautiful and also brilliant!) at a reunion of our Summer Science Program. I knew (through the miracle of modern Facebook!) he was a doctor at Case Western in Cleveland. But I learned of his research into diabetes and insulin. I mention him frequently in my classes – that he is the smartest (and nicest) person I’ve ever met, and that I fully expect to one day learn that he has been awarded a Nobel Prize. His research into diabetes and insulin is so far over my head I can’t even begin to explain it. But I love to brag that I know him, and I consider him a friend.
Here’s a link that he put up on Facebook last week about a discovery he has made that “promises to enable design of new insulin products that will do a better job of regulating the metabolism of patients with diabetes.”
Trust me on this – he’s a genius, and the work he does will save thousands of lives.
Mike – you’re awesome! I’m proud I know you!