Blogs

Schrödinger’s Graduate Student

The paths to success in graduate school are as arbitrary as the goal itself

MAR 2020
Biology
Four years into graduate school, I still struggle with a simple question: what makes a successful graduate student? I don’t mean the end product of a student with a flashy C.V., a long list of publications, or a dream job. Instead, I wonder: what does a successful graduate student look like in...

Practice Imagination in MIT Hogwarts

Where empathy and compassion are the real magic

MAR 2020
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
In J.K. Rowling’s commencement speech at Harvard, she talked about the importance of imagination. I was really struck by her definition of imagination - how she described it as people “thinking themselves into...

A Matcha Latte a Day...

This student’s secret weapon

MAR 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
It’s no secret that students everywhere love their coffee, so when I tell people that I almost never consume the magical beverage, I usually receive an incredulous response. Something along the lines of: “So, you just... wake up in the morning and live?” Most of the time, that’s exactly right. I...

The Unlikely Friends You’ll Find

How disparate interests bring the graduate community together

MAR 2020
Mechanical Engineering
I still remember the feeling of disappointment. This was right in the first week as a grad student and I was still in the social-butterfly phase, meeting the people I would be spending the upcoming years with. The thought flew through my head: “what a shame, he seemed like such a nice guy”. This...

I Want to Be a Ballerina When I Grow Up

Don’t let your dreams die in grad school

MAR 2020
Physics
It was an average Wednesday. I rolled out of bed at 7:30AM, turned on Spotify’s “Monday Motivation” playlist and tried to let the cheerful pop seep into my bones.  Everything’s looking up now! How could you not believe him when he sings so convincingly? I swayed to the music as my routine swung me...

Guidance Beyond Your Advisor

The different types of mentorship and how to seek them out

MAR 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Before starting grad school, whenever I considered the concept of “mentorship,” the first person I envisioned was my future advisor. However, as a PhD student in the middle of my second year, I have come to realize that there are many facets of mentorship throughout the graduate school experience....

A Week in the Life: Food Edition

Building community by breaking bread

MAR 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
I love to cook. I picked up most of my culinary know-how during my junior year of college, through a combination of YouTube videos and scrappily assembled family recipes. That year, my housemates and I would go shopping together every weekend and designate one day a week for each of us to cook a...

How to Cordially Interrogate Graduate Students

The art of finding a lab

MAR 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
This semester, I have had a ton of practice interrogating graduate students. During orientation, I was immediately given the task of rotating in various labs to find my lab home. Our advisors instructed us to reach out to professors who caught our interest, find out if they are looking for PhD...

A Furry Solution to the Grad School Blues

Adopting a dog during grad school

MAR 2020
Computational Science and Engineering
The summer after finishing undergrad, I thought nervously about spending most of my 20’s as a student. I was starting grad school in a few weeks and wasn’t sure when ‘real adult life’ would start for me. I knew going to grad school would be productive for my career, but what about my personal goals...

“Deity’s Book Collection” Twenty Minutes Away

Rediscovering my cultural identity at Harvard-Yenching Library

FEB 2020
Operations Research Center
Deity’s Book Collection Overseas 「海外嫏嬛」 Façade of the Harvard-Yenching Institute On a bright and crisp morning in late April 2019, when I first set foot into the warm Harvard-Yenching (哈佛燕京) library, it was as if I finally returned home...

Finding UberGirl

An emotional lyft

FEB 2020
Materials Science and Engineering
I hate Uber. I hate that people love it because it’s convenient. I hate that people think it’s better for the environment than owning a car. I hate that people think it’s a good way for people to earn a living. I hate cars and I hate making excuses to keep them around. I grew up in Texas. All we...

Controlling Chaos

Learning to love my calendar

FEB 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
“Hey, you ready for the call in five?” The what? With who? Did I have to prep for this? When did we decide to schedule a call? What are we even talking about? Maybe I’ve just been getting old, but I never had a problem remembering all my commitments before graduate school. Or maybe I never had to...

Taking Engineering Too Far

Food, weight, and body image in grad school

FEB 2020
Materials Science and Engineering
This post is part of a special issue: "Mental Health Matters: Asking for Help & Reaching Out". I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't trying to lose weight. When I'm sitting in my office and can't focus on my work...

Overcoming Anxiety

How my first year of graduate school pushed me to reach out for help

FEB 2020
MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography / Applied Ocean Science and Engineering
This post is part of a special issue: "Mental Health Matters: Asking for Help & Reaching Out". Hey there! I’m Jessica, a current 3rd year graduate student and PhD candidate, and I have anxiety. I choose to say this in the...

Surviving Grad School for the Strong of Mind

A year with anxiety and depression

FEB 2020
Biology
This post is part of a special issue: "Mental Health Matters: Asking for Help & Reaching Out". It was New Year’s Day ’17 when I first set foot at MIT for a one-week intensive...

If Something Feels Wrong, Speak Up

How I used my story to advocate for grad students

FEB 2020
Physics
This post is part of a special issue: "Mental Health Matters: Asking for Help & Reaching Out". My first year of grad school at MIT was no piece of cake. I struggled to understand what was going on in lab, classes felt like...

Mental Health Matters

Asking for Help & Reaching Out

FEB 2020
Encountering setbacks while gaining crucial research skills, struggling to keep up in that one class where you have no prior background, fumbling your way around a new campus during a conference, and preparing last minute for group meeting presentations — these are just some of the common day-to-...

The Myth About Inbox(0)

Learning to manage my unmanageable email inbox in graduate school

JAN 2020
by Sam C.
Mechanical Engineering
After extolling the logistical heroics of Alexander the Great and his Macedonian Army, my military history instructor turned to the class and declared, “Good generals study tactics; great generals study logistics.” To my fellow graduate students, I offer a customized message: “Good graduate...

Iñupiuraallaniptigun Uqausiptigun Maŋŋuqaqtugut

With our Iñupiaq language, we have an identity

JAN 2020
Linguistics and Philosophy
Aullaqisaaqta! Let’s begin! Iġñiġa Daał miluguuruq. My son Daał nurses often.  I once read somewhere that Karl Marx had to chain himself to a library desk in order to finish Das Kapital. You might wonder what Marx has to do with nursing? Well, more than you might imagine. Baby Daał’ feeding habits...

Where Computing Meets Brain Research

My first impression of the BCS Department at MIT

JAN 2020
by Yu X.
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Three years ago, I first came to the U.S. for an international conference in Boston. As I passed through the MIT campus during a morning jog, I saw the beautiful sunrise on the Charles River. The sky was crystal clear and the great dome was golden brown. I was wondering how happy the students at...

The Craziest Thing I’ve Done during Grad School

My whole lab agreed to run... across New Hampshire

January 7, 2020
Aeronautics and Astronautics
Last year, I started to get really into running, in part due to the fact that it’s a great way of relieving some of the stresses of grad school. I’ve written before about all the different...

A Well-Kept Secret for Finding a Job post-PhD

Reducing graduation stress by putting off your full-time job search with short-term consulting

JAN 2020
Biological Engineering
During my PhD, I performed a lot of exit interviews with graduating students and learned that finding a job is often the most stressful part of graduating, and among the most stressful in the entire PhD. After my own defense, however, I was able to avoid some of that stress by discovering a...

Biking Diaries of a Graduate Student

Why did I get a bike? I was just two-tired

JAN 2020
Chemical Engineering
“I guess I’ll just power through the weekend and get this P-set done,” I said to myself. This was a common refrain during the first year of my PhD program in Chemical Engineering. An endless stream of assignments from courses and self-imposed research deadlines meant that I ended up spending most...

The Pod Leader Experience

Mentoring for the MIT Summer Research Program

DEC 2019
Biological Engineering
Every year, the Office of Graduate Education (OGE) hosts around 40 undergraduate students from around the country to engage in meaningful research at MIT during the summer. This effort, called the MIT Summer Research Program (MSRP), aims to provide underrepresented minorities an opportunity to...

The Vicious Cycle of Boston Leases

New Year, New Lease

DEC 2019
Mechanical Engineering
Raise your hand if you hate moving!  The Greater Boston Area, especially lovely places such as Allston, Cambridge, and Somerville, can be quite a painful place August 31st when most housing rental leases end. For one night, until the new lease begins on September 1st, many people become practically...

A Nature Lover’s Journey in Cambridge

How MIT changed my perspective on little things

DEC 2019
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Are you a nature lover? I sure am, and I only realized how important it was to me when I moved to Cambridge after being admitted to the PhD program in the MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences department. I felt nature deprived for quite some time before experiencing a shift in my perspective. Before...

Learning to Sail

A unique recreation activity offered at MIT

DEC 2019
Mechanical Engineering
As mentioned in one of my previous blogs, the trio-factors of inability to swim, belonging to a country where sailing is not common, and the presence of the Charles River, always full of sailing boats right next to the campus, instilled a...

The Dizzying Cost of Life Science Research

If sticker shock is freaking you out, you’re not alone

DEC 2019
Biological Engineering
Where were you when you bought the most expensive thing you’ve ever purchased? I was definitely in lab. In life science, you can spend a staggering amount of the lab’s money on tiny tubes of liquid. As a small, delicate, expensive thing, purchasing a tiny tube of liquid feels a bit like buying...

Graduate Student becomes Chickpea Master Masher

Finding new skills in unfamiliar places

DEC 2019
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
I am sitting at my desk, debugging some code that does not seem to work. The week has been tiring, to say the least. But next week is Brunch Week! When I first joined MIT, I was plagued by the usual...

When Science Is More Art than Science

Or how I learnt to start worrying and stop loving science

DEC 2019
Maybe climate change is a hoax and vaccinations cause autism. Maybe 9/11 was an inside job, the earth is as flat as my grandma’s pancake, pineapple belongs on a pizza, and you should switch to Geico. Just maybe. Being the curious species that we are, we have to entertain all possibilities, even if...

Taking the Plunge

Choosing Grad School over Industry

Nov 2019
Mechanical Engineering
Applying to grad school can feel like climbing a mountain.  We’ve all heard the analogy, but I’ve found that there’s very little advice on what to do once you’re at the top. After all the effort of making applications and getting in, the decision on what to do next can make you feel like you’re...

How I became an engineer overnight

From basic science to medical engineering

Nov 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Applying to graduate school is a nerve-wracking process. It’s a blanket of excitement that, when uncovered, reveals a flood of conflicting emotions--from wondering whether you are rushing and have no experience and should work for a few years to questioning your self-worth and doubting if you have...

Realizing running is awesome

How I went from the couch to running a marathon

Nov 2019
Civil and Environmental Engineering
This is a story about me transitioning from occasional running to try and get fit, to becoming super into running. Only two years ago, I was struggling with the boredom and difficulty of exercise and could never sustain regular running for more than a month or two. Now, however, running is an...

When Your Hobby Is Your YouTube Channel

Balancing research, classes, and content creation

Oct 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
It was two months before I was set to move to Boston for my PhD, and I had decided that there would never be a better time to create a science YouTube channel. While it might seem like a crazy idea to take on such a huge commitment while doing a PhD, I strongly believe that this unusual hobby has...

A Home Away from Home

The Genesis of MIT Chinese Music Ensemble

Nov 2019
Operations Research Center
Prologue   When I first came to MIT, I planned to work, but not much else. Certainly no time to play Gu-zheng – the Chinese zither. There are simply too many things to learn, to explore. But, from time to time, I was possessed by a lingering anxiety – an integral part of my voice was left silent,...

The Paradox of Choice:

Too many flavors at the ice cream store

Nov 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
I am a brand-new Ph.D. student and I have already figured out my least favorite part about MIT: the overwhelming number of choices. As I am enrolled as a student in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Medical Engineering Ph.D. program, the situation is even more intense. I can take...

Full Send

Running stadiums is fun, right?

Nov 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
What if I told you that the most fun thing that I do regularly since moving to Boston is running up and down a lot of tall steps (technically, seats) a lot of times, twice a week? Would you think that I’m crazy? A masochist? That Guy™ at the party who won’t shut up about how great running stadiums...

Discovering the multiverse at MIT

My journey towards a holistic grad experience

Nov 2019
Mechanical Engineering
I still remember that chill running up my spine seeing the MIT dome for the first time from the Harvard Bridge, a chill that was indicative of the bounty of emotions running through each and every nerve in my body. Awe, excitement, nervousness, and pride were but a few of them. After all,...

Creating my niche in grad school

How diversity and outreach initiatives helped me find my place in MIT

Nov 2019
Biology
Imagine being in a roller coaster that’s on fire, adrift, going full speed. That was my first year at MIT. Coming straight from an undergraduate institution in Puerto Rico, it was difficult for me to get used to the fast pace in which topics were taught in a different language and to the amount of...

Eating my way through Cambridge’s cultural heritage

This city is more Portuguese than you think

Oct 2019
by Eli P.
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
“What’s for lunch?” is one of the more universal questions of the human experience, though the presence of two large universities in Cambridge affects the range of choices available to a hungry grad student. Many of the food options near MIT and Harvard Square cater to the fast-casual appetites of...

Dynamic equilibrium through Classical dance

Constrained motions in harmony to obtain peace and inspiration

Oct 2019
Materials Science and Engineering
Stepping away from India into the US led me to a stage where I was frantically searching for some semblance of my culture to hold on to. It was at this time that Bharatnatyam — an Indian classical dance form — crept onto me subconsciously.   First and foremost, I am a major klutz; reactions that I...

Making the most of Cambridge's amazing salsa scene

Plus a story of how I went from ballet to salsa

Oct 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Thankfully, life at MIT as a grad student is not ALL about research. For me, one of the greatest breaks from lab is dancing. Growing up, classical ballet was part of my daily routine. Classical ballet requires physical resilience, a focused mind, and musicality, but above all, it requires...

B-list Superpower – Food Edition

The underrated, unrestrained power of meal prep

OCT 2019
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
What is “meal prep”? First things first, what does “meal prep” mean? Is it the newest fad in age of fitness and health fanatics? Is it a euphemism for being lazy? Well, maybe. At its core, meal prep is exactly what is sounds like — preparing your meals. The key, however, is that it is done prior to...

The Most Important Change in My Life

Why everyone should meditate

OCT 2019
Materials Science and Engineering
I was an anxious child, an anxious teenager and an anxious young adult. So much so that the concept of anxiety didn’t make much sense. “You’re telling me it’s possible to not constantly think and worry about everything that has happened to me and that could possibly happen to me? Don’t bullshit me...

Starting Graduate School on the Right Foot

A PhD student’s guide to running in Boston

OCT 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
On the snowy February morning before my MIT graduate school interview, I rolled out of bed, bundled up and went for a run along the Charles River path. As a former Division One cross country and track athlete, I have been running almost daily for almost a decade. The picturesque scene of a light...

When You’re Up for an Exercise Adventure!

A rundown of bougie group exercise classes in Boston

OCT 2019
Biological Engineering
Feeling sluggish after indulging in one too many conference happy hours? Your normal gym workout not really doing it for you (or you not really doing the workout)? Try something new with a group exercise class: part workout, part experience. PILATES REFORMER CLASSES You know the torture device in...

A Techless Path To MIT

How I, an aspiring philosopher, wound up choosing the world’s most famous Tech school

OCT 2019
Linguistics and Philosophy
When people hear that I’ll be spending the next half decade at MIT, many seem to think I’ll be spending my days huddled over an intelligent robot plotting for the technological apocalypse. When people hear that I’ll be spending the next half decade — and, hopefully, a lifetime — studying philosophy...

Diving into The Deep

How I became an MIT maker

SEP 2019
Mechanical Engineering
Ever since high school, I have been a maker to my core. I spent almost all my free time in an art room and my evenings were often spent wrenching on old motorcycles. One of the biggest threats to my academic success during undergrad was spending too much time on Instructables (an online source for...

The Unofficial Guide Book for the Grad School Applicant

If you have no idea what to do, you’re well on your way!

SEP 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
I made the decision to apply for graduate school in mid-September of my senior year of college. With application deadlines only weeks away and the GRE looming in the distance, I spent one month scrambling to familiarize myself with the application materials that some of my peers had been refining...

On Becoming a Professional Student

How I emerged from the chaos of undergrad to embrace professionalism in my graduate career

SEP 2019
by Sam C.
Mechanical Engineering
If you are an academic masochist who constantly enjoys being over-involved and under pressure, then your undergraduate “career” was probably something like mine. My (pre-grad) college years regularly felt like a frenzied, unorganized attempt to accomplish the umpteen items on my mental to-do list....

Iḷisavsaaqtuam aakam qaitkaa uqautchiñi kiŋuvaamiñun

A graduate school mom gifts language to the next generation

SEP 2019
Linguistics and Philosophy
Aullaqisaqtuq – It is the beginning Iḷisaguuruŋa Iñupiatun MIT-mi. I study Iñupiaq at MIT. Iñupiaq is the language of the Alaskan Inuit, whose population numbers 24,500 and whose speakers’ number 2,000. Iñupiaq is considered “moribund,” which means having few or no child speakers because the...

An Open Letter to My Future Self

Thoughts from my last first day of school

SEP 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Dear future Ming, The date is August 26, 2019 - today is your/my/our first day at MIT. When you next read this after/if you graduate, it may well be the year 2025. How’s life at 27 treating you? In the year 2025, your younger brothers, currently high school freshmen, will be halfway done with...

Ivy League Entitlement

How not to date at a high-profile school

SEP 2019
Physics
“No.” I said. “I don’t want to.” I was standing on the street in front of a man in a suit. That man (let’s call him Ryan) was frantically trying to usher me into his apartment building. He held the door wide open, incredulous that I wouldn’t do what he wanted. “It’s not that big of a deal! Let’s...

Being Strong in Strong Situations

Having agency even when your choices aren't fully your own

SEP 2019
Technology and Policy Program
At my undergraduate institution (one of the three big U.S. military academies), every cadet was required to take a class called “The Behavioral Science of Leadership”. In this class we discussed something called strong situations. Strong situations are environments in which a person's options...

Unashamed to Be a Nerd

Proclaiming my love for Harry Potter

SEP 2019
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
My friends at school weren’t really into Harry Potter. Many had watched the movies, and a few had read the books, but the magical world did not have the same appeal for them as it did for me. I was enthralled by the story of the Boy Who Lived, captivated by the psychological complexity of the...

Giving Back to Society

How I got involved in service activities at MIT

AUG 2019
Mechanical Engineering
The ultimate aim of all the jobs the world has to offer in today’s time, whether in the field of entertainment, business or research, is to ultimately serve the human civilization. While none can claim to be better than others, some have a more direct and faster impact. These include service...

Biologists Need More Angle Grinders

Biological science is aesthetically female

AUG 2019
Biological Engineering
I was very surprised one day to realize that I had developed a single callous on the pad of my right thumb. I can’t remember the last time I got a callous: I don’t rock climb, play an instrument, or do extreme sports. I don’t even take classes anymore, so I rarely write with a pen. Then it hit me:...

Fated Friends

Human interaction at MIT

AUG 2019
Physics
Walking into my MIT dorm for the first time, I itched to meet my peers. Although MIT students are known for being nerdy, I figured grad students (myself included) already went through a social awakening in undergrad. Making friends would be a piece of cake. I rounded the corner on the way to...

Dildo.io, Where Did You Go?

The MIT approach to online dating

AUG 2019
Nuclear Science and Engineering
Cambridge and the online dating landscape  When I first arrived in Boston, I was teeming with curiosity and excitement. My thirst for scientific discovery and research was paralleled only by one thing: my eagerness to explore the multitude of online dating platforms. Up until that point, I had...

How to Craft a Personal Statement

Some practical tips and perspective

AUG 2019
Biological Engineering
There’s one part of any application that can always make you freeze: the dreaded personal statement. Writing about yourself is an exercise in embarrassment, anxiety, and existential doubt. Don’t worry; I’m here to help! Let’s get one thing out of the way first. The point of a personal statement is...