Blogs

From Portugal to MIT

Learning to adapt to new time management challenges

MAY 2018
School of Engineering
I have been a visiting PhD student at MIT since February, coming from a PhD program called MIT Portugal. This is a collaboration between several Portuguese universities and MIT. Some of...

Why Would You Want to Do a PhD?

Student perspectives on the value of a graduate degree

MAY 2018
Mathematics
If you are reading this blog post, there is a good chance that you are thinking about a PhD, possibly at MIT. But MIT or not, almost every doctoral program would ask you why you are interested in their program and how it fits into your career goal. A typical answer would be: I am interested in your...

In Pursuit of Riches

Publications as the currency of academia

MAY 2018
Biology
I am a poor grad student. And I don’t mean in the classic, monetary sense. (Although, let’s be real, what grad student isn’t poor?) I am ‘poor’ in the currency of academia- publications. If you’ve never experienced academia for yourself, you might not be aware of how profound and accurate that...

A Tale of Two Responsibilities

Living sustainably while researching climate change

MAY 2018
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
“So all my office plants died from how high the heat’s turned up.” “Wait. You mean your succulents?” “Yeah. The ones I specifically got for their drought and heat resistance.” Such occurrences might seem unexpected in the MIT Green Building, where I and many others study humanity’s impact on our...

Learning to Engage in Deep Conversations

How a conflict management class awoke my interest in interfaith dialogue

MAY 2018
Biological Engineering
In the third year of my PhD, two things happened that dramatically changed the way I see the world: I took MIT's 40-hour conflict management course in my training to become an MIT REF, and Donald Trump was...

MIT Graduate Housing

The guide I wish I'd had

MAY 2018
Biological Engineering
During my interview weekend at MIT, I went on a brief housing tour of three MIT graduate housing residences that current students lived in. One student proclaimed her room was the biggest bedroom in the whole building. I made a mental note—the biggest room in the furnished dorm is not very big. Don...

Beyond the Dorms

A guide to off-campus housing near MIT

MAY 2018
Biology
When I committed to attending MIT for graduate school, I was ecstatic. I immediately began planning out my courses, researching clubs on campus, and looking up potential advisers. But wait, I’d need a place to live, too. Boston’s a city- but how bad could housing be, really? Ah the naiveté! As...

What’s the PC Term for Santa?

How we overthink issues that don't deserve the time and energy that we put into them

APRIL 2018
Urban Studies and Planning
The US is often dubbed the land of the free. As someone who was raised in the Middle East, arguably a place not as free, Americans have always seemed to me to be fiercely proud that the First Amendment of their Constitution protects the freedoms of press and of speech. Many of the Americans I have...

Introductions

What to do if nothing goes according to plan

APRIL 2018
Technology and Policy Program
As a military brat, growing up was often an exercise in how to exist in the in-between. Moving every two years fostered a patchwork identity that seemed too foreign for anywhere, and so I was content to introduce myself in a brief, adapted way: Hi. I’m Julia, I’ve moved around a lot, but I consider...

Addir

Where scientists talk religion

APRIL 2018
Physics
Every Monday night, I shuffle down Mass Ave, past the towering columns of MIT’s entrance to a small unassuming building almost directly across the street. Inside I meet with a group of about ten students. We continue our discussion of something that can make people uncomfortable, something that isn...

Time Travel

The imperceptible passing of seasons in graduate school

APRIL 2018
Biology
The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen all at once. -Albert Einstein Time passes strangely in graduate school. Many days I enter a flow state where I’m completely absorbed in my task. First I am setting up an experiment or a stack of papers to read. Light, streaming in from...

Hurricane María’s landfall in Cambridge

Trying to focus on graduate school despite natural disaster in my home country

APRIL 2018
Biological Engineering
Moving to a new place after spending a whole life on a small island in the Caribbean was very daunting. My expectations as a first-year graduate student in New England were not out of the ordinary. I would have to adjust to a different culture, prepare for different weather (far colder than...

The Mysterious Markings on the Bridge to MIT

How the stories and history of MIT inspire me

APRIL 2018
Nuclear Science and Engineering
A bridge: “a structure carrying a pathway or roadway over a depression or obstacle” (Merriam-Webster dictionary). As a daily pedestrian across one such bridge (the Harvard bridge, spanning the Charles River to MIT) I agree that it is a structure carrying a pathway. However, I object to the use of...

The Art of Giving Things Up

MARCH 2018
Biology
I’m not sure if I would be a graduate student at MIT if I had kept playing the double bass. I’ve had many identities including son, brother, student, runner, and musician, but one of the challenges of becoming a scientist is that research becomes your sole identity. As a professor of biology once...

Mugshots

Amassing collectibles as a graduate student

MARCH 2018
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that every graduate student has an item they become a collector of, squirreling away specimens like it will keep them warm through the Bostonian winters. One of my friends has filled two drawers in his search for the perfect pen; another has acquired enough...

According to Plan

How facing and conquering obstacles makes us better scientists

MARCH 2018
Chemistry
Many people I talk to at MIT have high expectations for their first year. They’ll ace their classes, breeze through teaching, and have two publications by the time they are a second-year student. A sixth-year student I met, however, summed up reality: “If there’s one thing I learned in grad school...

Eating and Socializing on a Budget in Cambridge

Cooking dinner with friends as an alternative to overpriced, generic restaurants

MARCH 2018
Linguistics and Philosophy
Ok, so you’re in a restaurant looking at a menu. The walls are unrefined brick or cement with steel beams, the ceiling has an old warehouse look, the lighting is dim, there are subway tiles on the floor and Edison style lightbulbs. The menu has fancy cocktails and dishes like pork belly, brussel...

Home

MIT has gradually morphed from a place of discovery to a place of belonging

MARCH 2018
Urban Studies and Planning
MIT is my home. There is no other way to say it. Over the years (let’s just say I’ve been here awhile), this place has gradually morphed from a place of discovery to a place of learning to a place of belonging. There is a daily routine that sets in after a while; in my case it’s walking through the...

Inaccurate Prior Probabilities

Moving to a new city and worrying about the future

MARCH 2018
Computational and Systems Biology
The day after I committed to MIT for my PhD, a wave of panic set over me. I felt like I was about to repeat a disaster. I’d tried moving to a new city before and things hadn’t worked out well, yet here I was doing it all over again. I’ve been a west coaster almost my whole life. I was born and...

Teaching as a Graduate Student

My experience as a TA and advice for future TA's

MARCH 2018
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
When I signed up to be a teaching assistant for MIT’s performance engineering course (6.172) in Fall 2017, multiple people warned me about how much work it would be. Their advice made me nervous...

An MIT Professor's Advice While Crossing a Bridge

We are all being formed into our best selves by the professors at MIT

MARCH 2018
Nuclear Science and Engineering
It is fall and the Charles River is a deep black beneath the shining man-made light of the Boston skyline. I am walking home across the Harvard bridge from MIT to my home in Boston after a day of classes and a lab. As I marvel at the beauty of the evening and my luck at being able to study my...

Option B

How to help a grieving friend

MARCH 2018
Technology and Policy Program
On November 1st, 2017, I lost my father. He was one of my best friends. And now, instead of my best friend, all I have left is memories and emotions.   My father died of an unexpected heart attack in my hometown of Izmir, Turkey at the age of 57. The two weeks that followed were the hardest of my...

My Life as a GRT/Two Time Scootah Hockey World Champion

MARCH 2018
Physics
The 2017 Scootah Hockey World Championship was certainly a nail-biter. Each year, the tournament is hosted by MIT undergraduate dorm Simmons Hall. For the past two years, B-Towah (i.e. 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of B-Tower in Simmons) has scooted away with the trophy (check out the 2017 exciting...

From Neurons to Language

Joys and sorrows of interdisciplinary research

MARCH 2018
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
When I was waitlisted for MIT undergraduate admissions, I put together a statement that would serve as an addendum to my application. It included a Venn diagram that depicted my scientific interests at the time.  Not a single person from the waitlist was accepted that year, but little did I know...

Auspicious Boston Snow

Celebrating the successes of my labmates in the new year

MARCH 2018
Nuclear Science and Engineering
As an old Chinese saying goes, “A timely snow promises a good harvest.” In China, it is thought, snow at the New Year always brings some good luck. In early January, I found myself thinking, what kind of good luck might a really heavy Boston snow (“near blizzard conditions,” according to The...

The Duality of a Dual Program

The challenges and rewards of MIT's MST-MCP Program

MARCH 2018
Urban Studies and Planning
Since the dawn of human civilization, we have been fascinated with duality: good and evil, yin and yang, darkness and light. (Oh yeah, light -- the epitome of duality in a scientific context!) It’s kind of funny that I am writing this post in January, a month named after Janus who is the god of...

Are You Alive Still?

Maintaining a healthy marriage in the face of graduate school challenges

MARCH 2018
Urban Studies and Planning
“Are you alive still?” the text read. My wife Alex woke up in a panic. 4:41 AM and the bed was still empty next to her. My team and I had been working in the urban design studio on our final proposals for a development in Union Square since 9 AM the morning before. I laughed. Her texts and...

To stay in academia or not, that is the question

Weighing the costs versus the benefits of pursuing an academic career

MARCH 2018
Mathematics
Should I stay in academia or not after I graduate? It’s a question that most PhD students find themselves asking at some point in their graduate careers. Some have unequivocal answers from the beginning, while others struggle with the decision even towards the end of their studies. Some just don’t...

PhD and a Baby

Debugging code and changing diapers

MARCH 2018
Media Arts and Sciences
I wasn't married when I got to MIT, but I had a boyfriend named Randy who moved up to Boston with me. Two years in, we discover that it is, in fact, possible to simultaneously plan a wedding and write a master's thesis! Two years after that? I'm sitting uncomfortably in a floppy hospital gown at Mt...

Drawing the Lines of Work-Life Balance

How my time-management skills are crucial to my productivity, and more importantly, to my happiness

MARCH 2018
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Most mornings, I don’t set an alarm. As a student in cognitive science, when I’m not working with participants, almost all of my work is done on the computer and can be done from anywhere at any time. This is both a blessing and a curse, but it translates to the fact that I am almost entirely...

Remember That Undergraduate Internship?

How an unhappy internship experience helped me discover my passion for research

MARCH 2018
Biological Engineering
I did not know I was considering graduate school until the beginning of my senior year. During undergrad, I felt like a squirrel in a nut factory jumping at every opportunity that came my way. In the summer of my sophomore year, I began working for a traditional chemical engineering company called...

Defense of the Ancients

An alternative get away

MARCH 2018
Civil and Environmental Engineering
After losing an 82 minute Dota2 match, maybe it is time for me to step back and write a brief, informative post about competitive video gaming and how it helps to relax. Wait, what is Dota2 – other than being the sequel or re-creation of the Defense of the Ancients (DotA)? For non-gamers: Dota2...

What Do I Do with My Spare Change?

Learning to be proactive with my money and financial habits

MARCH 2018
Urban Studies and Planning
I am now at that age (25!) where I have become too old not A) to be fully aware of my financial situation and its grim reality, and B) to realize that I need to begin investing what I have if I plan on retiring. Now this thought scares me terribly, as I’m sure it scares many people in their mid-...

Impostor Syndrome vs. the Scientific Method

My strategies for fighting the idea that I don't belong at MIT

MARCH 2018
Technology and Policy Program
I received my acceptance letter to MIT a few days after the 2017 Oscars – shortly after a human error led to the wrong film being announced as Best Picture winner live on national television.   The mix-up loomed large in my mind.   As I slowly read the email informing me that I had been admitted to...

Dressing Down for Success

A fashion conscious female navigating the judgement of her peers

MARCH 2018
Biological Engineering
What you need to know about me: I am a 25 year old white female, 5’5”, with long legs and a burst of tangled brown curly hair. I have more Lululemon leggings than pairs of jeans, and I prefer wine to beer. I listen to NPR and the Chainsmokers, and love any season of the Real Housewives (except...

Sticky Little Scientists

Working towards better community sampling for psychology studies

MARCH 2018
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
The excited squeals of a young child as she bursts into a new place designed just for her to explore can be a magical thing to witness; but multiply that excitement and noise (and sticky hands) by a few hundred and you have a typical Sunday at the Boston Children’s Museum. As a second year graduate...

The Importance of After-work Beer

Building personal connections through the medium of alcohol

MARCH 2018
Nuclear Science and Engineering
I never took beer so seriously before coming to MIT. I’ve had beers, of course. But before, most of the times when I go out with my friends to have some beer, we would have something really nice to eat. In fact, I was always more into the food.  However, things are quite different here. If a person...

Behind on the race towards education

How we can tackle the systemic problems that affect disadvantaged students

MARCH 2018
Biological Engineering
Skimming through current MIT undergraduates’ CVs (for potential UROPs), I realized I probably wouldn’t have gotten into MIT for an undergraduate degree. There wasn’t really anything exciting about me five years ago. Back home in Puerto Rico, competitiveness to get into college isn’t really a thing...

Being very far away…

Always make time to talk to your loved ones

MARCH 2018
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Dear Friend, I am going to tell you a very personal story that has changed my perspective towards the many challenges that become default as you move forward as an MIT Ph.D. student. It was a Tuesday evening, and I was in the Z-center, the athletic facility at MIT. I was standing on the second...

An Open Letter to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The life lessons I have learned from my favorite extra-curricular

March 2018
Urban Studies and Planning
Dear Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, When we first met, I was a chubby fifteen-year-old kid. I had no real experience with martial arts, nor any natural physical ability I could call “athleticism.” You first captured my imagination through reruns of the Ultimate Fighting Championship that aired late night on...

Myths Worth Busting to Stay Sane in Grad School

March 2018
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Caricatures by Maria G. (Zoya’s sister) As we approach the middle of the second semester and inch on all-fours towards the summer, we look back at what we’ve gained and cultivated since the year began, and we inevitably start to make resolutions to do things bigger, better, and faster before the...

Let’s Break Down Echo Chambers

The importance of different perspectives in science and in life

March 2018
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
“Luckily, we live in a blue, blue state. I mean, if you don’t like living in a blue state… well, too bad.” I shivered. I was at a mandatory ethics training session held here, at MIT. We had just finished talking about inclusion and acceptance. And yet our instructor demonstrated the very opposite...

Undercover Art

Discovering the (not so) hidden artsy side of MIT

MARCH 2018
Mechanical Engineering
Before coming to MIT, I had this idea in my head that it was a super tech focused, STEM-driven institution. And it is, in many ways. But thinking of it that way scared me a little, because despite being a physics major in undergrad and a mechanical engineering major now that I’m in graduate school...

Every Scientist is a Sherlock Holmes

Why we do experiments, even if they don't work

FEBRUARY 2018
Materials Science and Engineering
This summer I voluntarily stayed up all night for about nine days to stare at some computer screens and push some buttons. Voluntarily, I became a true night dweller by waking up at 7pm and going to bed at 8am. I wasn’t practicing some weird voodoo sleeping schedule or avoiding the sunlight. I was...

Be Wrong

MIT graduate students, like pigeons, run into glass doors sometimes.

FEBRUARY 2018
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
When I was in college I smacked my head on the same tree branch three times within a single month. A year later, during a particularly hectic period, two glass doors each acquired a decent print of my face. I am delighted to report that my head has not come into contact with a tree or glass pane...

Ayşe, Ali, and Oya

Three types of students- from the eyes of a procrastinator

FEBRUARY 2018
Technology and Policy Program
After seventeen years of being a student at three different schools, in three different countries. I have come to the resounding conclusion that students can more or less be placed into three categories based on how they procrastinate: the always-overachiever, the workaholic socialite, and the...

Craving a Muffin

Learning to contextualize desires

FEBRUARY 2018
Media Arts and Sciences
Five years ago, I ate a red velvet muffin every morning for about six weeks. It was the first semester of my freshman year, and I enjoyed the community of regulars that came with this breakfast ritual. The muffins were always these amorphous, half-goo red masses with too much sugar and never enough...

Wow, You're at MIT! You Must be a Genius!

Undervaluing hard work in grad school

FEBRUARY 2018
Media Arts and Sciences
"Wow, you're at MIT? You must be a genius!" Um. Not sure how to answer that. Look down at my shoes. Nervous laugh. "Uh, thanks?" The random passerby who saw my MIT shirt and just had to comment on my presumed brilliance seems satisfied with my response. Perhaps the "awkward genius" trope played in...

Finding My Home

Learning to thrive in grad school

FEBRUARY 2018
Chemistry
“70 Pacific Street. I guess this is it,” my dad declared as we pulled the minivan to the front entrance. The nine-story brick building loomed over us like Mount Everest. I could feel my heart beat as I walked to the front door, my parents not far behind. A banner with “Sidney Pacific” on the front...

Turning to the Dark Side

Questions about Industry Options for PhD Candidates

FEBRUARY 2018
Mathematics
Last semester I Ubered home every night. Often times I got into interesting talks with the drivers. Whenever my PhD study came up in conversations, two of the most typical responses were, “Oh so do you want to teach afterwards” and “are you going to be a professor?” I am always baffled there. To be...

Exploring Options

Navigating "big science" as a trainee

FEBRUARY 2018
Biological Engineering
After arriving at MIT in September, I was excited to begin rotating in labs. I did my research, so I knew what professors I wanted to work with. I was ready to meet labmates, do some projects, and find a lab I matched with. Little did I know that some professors not only ran their own lab but also...

Literature Review for Pleasure

The importance of reading in my life, both for research and personal pleasure

FEBRUARY 2018
Urban Studies and Planning
Literature review - nothing strikes terror into a graduate student’s heart more than these two words! You can’t live with it, you can’t live without it. Considered an essential part of research, you print hundreds of papers till the printer’s ink and/or paper runs out, read tens of papers with...

Build Bridges, not Walls

Celebrating linguistic diversity at MIT

FEBRUARY 2018
Linguistics and Philosophy
When the movie Arrival came out in 2016, I was overjoyed: for the first time, a woman linguist was the main character in a Hollywood movie, not to mention the fact that the linguistic consultant of this film – ...

Out of the lab, into the Rice Paddy

A reflection on engineering principles observed on an adventure in Laos

DECEMBER 2017
Biological Engineering
I’ll pose this question to the MIT and scientific community: how would you identify and separate healthy rice grains from empty or insect-damaged grains to feed to the chickens? As MIT graduate students, we’d probably over-engineer this. Is there some protein in the healthy grain I can image for? I...

Have something to say or share? Then blog about it!

December 2017
MIT
Hi MIT Grads! The MIT Graduate Admissions Blog is excited to announce its second IAP workshop on blog writing. In brief, Attend a 3-day blogging workshop: January 16, 18, and 23 from 9-11am Attendance at all sessions is expected Write two blog...

Girls just wanna have FUNding

My perspective on the proposed tax bill H.R.1

November 2017
Biological Engineering
Joining thousands of other activists at the March for Science last spring, I proudly held my handcrafted, glittery poster in the air. “Girls just wanna have FUNding,” it said. Now, I realize I should have been more specific: “Girls just wanna have FUNding­--for their research, but also for...

Mentee vs. Minion

Working with undergrads as a graduate student

September 2017
Biology
I know from personal experience how much an undergraduate research experience can shape your future.   At the end of my junior year in undergrad at Swarthmore College, I was struggling with the idea of what to do after college and how my major (physics, at the time) would help me achieve that....

Saying Goodbye

The sadness and pride of bidding farewell to a long-time collaborator and friend

September 2017
Nuclear Science and Engineering
This week, I got to celebrate Brandon’s defense. For four years we worked together, studying for quals, desperately rebuilding accelerators, taking data for hours ... and now he is done. I helped him prepare for his defense, sat in the front row, and even got nervous as he started. It hits me now...

We Believe in Coffee

Coffee as a source of deeply individual and social experiences for our generation

September 2017
Biological Engineering
How do you take it? Just black? Add almond milk? Maybe a cold brew (but definitely not iced coffee, that’s too acidic)? How about a pour-over (but not a French press, you hate the grit)? Let’s get a little fancier. How about a flat white (but please not a latte—you want those espresso notes to...

The Seven Deadly Sins of Conferences

September 2017
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Past the construction site, across the deserted parking lot, and through the shrubbery, I finally arrived at the front entrance of Northeastern University for my first academic conference. Over the next two days, with 270 brilliant minds, I learned...