Concepts familiar from grade-school algebra have broad ramifications in computer science.
Seema Nagpal, a junior in biology who initiated the campus-wide wearing of ribbons in memory of Scott Krueger, started wearing her own maroon-colored ribbon the day she found out Mr. Krueger was in a coma. She encouraged other students to wear the ribbons and to keep him in their prayers. After Mr. Krueger died, she felt compelled to spread the ribbons among the MIT commuity.
"I started the ribbons because I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I hadn't done something," said Ms. Nagpal, who met Mr. Krueger during rush week and said they had become friends almost instantly.
"I thought Scott was an amazing person. We didn't do small talk; we immediately talked about real things. He was very genuine--one of those people you instantly click with," said Ms. Nagpal.
Scores of students, faculty and staff wore the maroon ribbons in memory of Mr. Krueger, the freshman from Orchard Park, NY, who died of acute alcohol poisoning on September 29 after three days in a coma.
The ribbons were handed out by members of the Interfraternity Council, the Undergraduate Association Council and other student volunteers in Lobby 10 last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Ms. Nagpal said that many people donated the narrow ribbon that was cut into three-inch strips and pinned to shirts and coat lapels.
"At first, I wanted people to wear them to keep Scott and others harmed by alcohol in their prayers and thoughts. After Scott died, the meaning became even more personal to me. How can anyone possibly wear the ribbon without thinking of what Scott's death means to them personally?" she said.
Ms. Nagpal said that she had worn this type of ribbon before, when a high school acquaintance in her hometown of San Clemente, CA, was the random victim of gang violence. She and her fellow classmates wore ribbons then as a way of trying to cope with their grief and confusion, which she said was similar to what the MIT community is going through now.
"It's the same kind of shock. The community just couldn't believe it," she said. "The ribbons said something important to my high school. I thought they could say something important to MIT."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 8, 1997.