Close your eyes and imagine for a second what it feels like to be excluded and isolated because your mind and eyes work differently. That’s how it felt for 5-year-old Carter Braconi, a boy with autism and ADHD.
It was his birthday recently and he wanted to go to a skate park with his mother in his home state of New Jersey. What he and his mother were not expecting was to come across a group of teenage skateboarders.
After the teenagers arrived, Carter was experiencing too much stimulation and became nervous, until he was befriended by 13-year-old Gavin, a teenage boy a part of the skateboarding group.
Initially, Gavin spoke to Carter to give him tips on how to safely roll down the skate ramps without falling. Afterwards, he taught him how to skateboard.
The boys connected like long time friends, laughing and chatting away.
Learning it was Carter’s birthday, Gavin and his friends sung “happy birthday” and even presented Carter with a mini skateboard for a birthday present.
Kristen Braconi, Carter’s mother was very touched by the teenager’s kindness and posted several videos of their interactions to a Autism Facebook group, praising them for their actions.
“They were absolutely amazing with him and included him and were so beyond kind, it brought me to tears,” wrote Braconi. “I can’t even begin to thank these kids for being so kind and showing him how wonderful people can be to complete strangers.”
She bought them ice cream, but felt it wasn’t enough for gratitude. “Thank you to whoever these children are and thank you to their parents because you are doing a wonderful job!!!”
The videos were shared thousands of times until they eventually caught the eye of local news outlets and police officers.
The police department gave the teenagers honorary coins as appreciation for their compassion.
Braconi plans to arrange a pizza party for the teenagers as a thank you for making her son feel happy and included.
“That day made me feel overjoyed to see kind, compassionate, respectful teenagers doing the right thing on their own,” Braconi told People.
For the first time in history, the world’s most prestigious mathematics prize is awarded to a woman.
Karen Uhlenbeck, Ph.D., 76, a emeritus professor at the University of Texas, Austin and current visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study was honored with the Abel prize, a.k.a, a Nobel prize for mathematics. The Abel comes with a prize of $700,000 and the King of Norway will present the prize to Uhlenbeck in Oslo in May.
Uhlenbeck was recognized due to her, “pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integrable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry, and mathematical physics,” according to The New York Times.
She found out about her award after leaving her Unitarian Universalist Church, when she received a message from a colleague telling her to keep an eye out for a call from Norway. She checked her missed calls. “I pressed the button and called the Abel committee back, and they told me I’d won — and I had to sit down,” she told Glamour.
Another notable scientific contribution was Uhlenbeck’s work with predictive mathematics inspired by soap bubbles.
“Her theories have revolutionized our understanding of minimal surfaces, such as those formed by soap bubbles, and more general minimization problems in higher dimensions,” said Hans Munthe-Kaas, the chairman of the Abel Committee.
“The recognition of Uhlenbeck’s achievements should have been far greater, for her work has led to some of the most important advances in mathematics in the last 40 years,” said Jim Al-Khalili, Royal Society Fellow.
In the 1960’s, Uhlenbeck had to work tirelessly to even become a professor. “It was really only at the period of time that I got my degree, that the jobs in academia—and probably elsewhere—were slowly being opened up to women,” she says. “I was right on the edge of that. There were certainly universities that would not consider hiring me. There were universities that said, ‘Oh well, why don’t you go teach at a women’s college?’ I was told things like that, but I guess I have a rebellious streak, so I persevered.”
As a child, she loved reading and wanted to become a scientist, but because there were not a significant amount of women before her time in STEM, she looked to other women for inspiration who had pioneered in other fields. The famous Julia Child was a particular role model for her. “She was 6’2″, a big woman with this immense presence,” she says. Uhlenbeck recalls the story of Child dropping a turkey on her television show and carrying on nonetheless. “She had a presence and wasn’t perfect. The feeling was if Julia Child could do it, maybe you could too,” she says.
Over the years, Uhlenbeck emulated Child’s style of approachability, gentleness, and the ability to be a role model to many women desiring to enter the STEM field. “Since winning the award, I’ve gotten innumerable emails from women telling me how important my being there is, and it’s a great feeling,” she says.
“I have to say that it struck me at some point that if I were to look around and see no women coming up through mathematics behind me, how would I feel? I would feel terrible. Now I see these lively, enthusiastic, brilliant, wacky young women coming up and doing mathematics. When I was young, I couldn’t afford to be wacky. I had to be careful. I couldn’t dye my hair purple and get up and teach a calculus class, but I love seeing it; it’s wonderful to see.”
Today, she is a contributing scholar at Princeton University as well as the Institute for Advanced Study. She is one of the founders of the Park City Mathematics Institute, which strives to train younger researchers in their interests and in the challenges faced in mathematics.
Uhlenbeck hopes more women will come to work in mathematics. “I don’t know how many young girls are still being told that they don’t have to bother taking advanced-placement math because they’re a girl and they don’t need it—but I know it still happens. However, all I can say is that it’s getting better.”
This recent Nobel prize winner decided to give away $250,000 in prize money.
George P. Smith, a emeritus professor of biology, won the 2018 Nobel prize for Chemistry in December.
This past week he announced he will donate every cent to launch the Missouri Nobel Scholarship Fund for students in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“This might surprise some people, but my first degree was actually a bachelor of arts, not a bachelor of science,” Smith said at a community event in Columbia with his wife, Margie. “My liberal arts education was the springboard for a lifetime of learning and cultural engagement. Margie and I hope that supporting the liberal arts as a whole will enrich the lives of future Mizzou students, whatever careers they choose.”
In support of Smith’s kindness, the university will also donate an additional $30,000 to the scholarship fund.
MU Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright also announced a new tradition to set aside $100,000 in scholarships, every time a faculty member wins a Nobel Prize. Smith is the first MU faculty member to win a Nobel prize.
“Time and time again we have been overwhelmed by George’s incredibly humble attitude, and today we are amazed even further by his spirit of generosity,” Cartwright said in a statement. “Gifts such as these make it possible for more students to attend our university and have the experience of being taught by other world-class faculty.”
At this week’s scholarship launching event, Smith spoke of his Nobel prize win and the award ceremony he attended with his wife in Stockholm, Sweden, in December, and discussed his work in phage display, a process that allows researchers to easily screen and harvest molecules for attacking bacteria.
This process is now utilized in laboratories worldwide.
According to Kansas City Star, after Smith won one of the most prestigious awards in the world, the University honored him with his own space on a campus bike rack. He lives less than a mile away and rides his bike to work each day.
To this day, faculty members still congratulate him for his win.
“George Smith has been a star of the College of Arts and Science for more than 40 years,” said Pat Okker, the college’s dean. “He is a fabulous researcher, an exceptional teacher and an awesome human being. This gift continues to prove how completely committed George and Margie are to student success.”
Herman Gordon, a 65-year-old deemed a beloved and hardworking custodian at Bristol University got surprised with a luxury vacation by 230 university students back in June.
Bristol students spoke of their appreciation and love for Gordon on their school Facebook page.
On this page, a student noted that Herman had not been able to see his Jamaican family for four years. As a result, students worked together to raise money for his trip.
University students donated to a JustGiving page and managed to raise over $2,000; enough for a one-week vacation to Jamaica for Herman and his wife Denise.
Herman broke into tears when students handed him the envelope of cash. Students posted his reaction and it circulated to many social media sites.
The couple finally got to celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary for two nights at the Sandals Resort in Moteye Bay, enjoying a couple’s massage and a candlelight dinner before heading off to see Herman’s family.
After Herman posted photos of his luxurious treatment, he personally thanked the Bristol students: “God Bless you all. Everybody will see this and think that I’m a trillionaire.”
Denise also thanked the students. “I just wanted to say thank you to all the University of Bristol students for this gift that they have given to me and Herman.”
The students spoke of how it was an act that Herman deserved. A student said this about Herman on the school’s social media fundraising page:
“All year round, this man works hours on end to provide us with a clean working space to study. But most importantly, his undying positive energy and chit-chat has managed to turn many students’ dark days into positive ones filled with joy. Whether you’re just generally down and stressed out due to exams, Herman is always there to speak to you.”
Another student also had something else to say about Herman.
“This legend proves that happiness is not about what you own, what job you have or how much money you’ve got, but about appreciating what you currently have in life.”
It was a blast from the past when Brandon Seminatore, a doctor, and nurse Vilma Wong reconnected.
Wong, 54, has worked as a neonatal nurse for 32 years at the hospital in Palo Alto, California.
One day, curiousity catapulted at her brain after she saw the name Seminatore on a young doctor’s ID badge.
Approximately, 30 years ago, there was a premature baby with the same last name Wong cared for. The baby weighed 2 pounds and 6 ounces and was born at 29 weeks on April 19, 1990.
After Seminatore settled into his job, Wong had asked Seminatore about his background.
“She asked me if I grew up in this area, he said. “I said, ‘yes I was actually born in this hospital.’”
Wong knew the name sounded familar. “I kept asking where he was from and he told me that he was from San Jose, California, and that, as a matter of fact, he was a premature baby born at our hospital,” Wong said. “I then got very suspicious because I remember being the primary nurse to a baby with the same last name.”
Seminatore’s mother told him about a nurse she and his father bonded with during his time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for 40 days.
Another nurse worked with Wong. His mother had urged him to find both nurses when he was on his month-long rotation at the hospital’s NICU. “They were wonderful nurses,” his mom, Laura Seminatore said. “They helped calm a lot of our fears.”
“My mother said, ‘look for Vilma,’ he recalled. “She was our favorite nurse. She took care of you.”
Very soon, Seminatore questioned if he knew this nurse and Wong was still suspicious.
“There was a big silence,” Wong said. “And then he asked if I was Vilma.”
Seminatore immediately texted his parents when he and Wong reunited in the NICU.
Recently, the nurse and doctor took a photo together in the NICU. Now, Seminatore is a few inches taller and wearing scrubs. Both have elated smiles on their faces.
Wong is not considering retirement any time soon because she loves her job too much.
“As a nurse, it’s kind of like your reward,” she said. Seminatore agrees. “She cares deeply for her patients, to the point that she was able to remember a patient’s name almost three decades later.”
It was such an awe-inspiring event for Seminatore and Wong that both not stop smiling.
“In the end I didn’t have to look for Vilma,” he said. “She found me. We smiled that whole day.”