Blogs

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...

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...

Evolution of the MIT Grad Blog

The blog helped her regain a voice, and she didn't want it to end

September 2017
Biological Engineering
Understanding what graduate student life is like at MIT is challenging for an outsider. Before I arrived, I had preconceived notions about what the student body would be like: ultra-nerdy kids that participated in hackathons on the weekend and probably couldn’t chug a beer. While admittedly some of...

PhD Student vs. PhD Candidate

How I use gentle, digital nudges to stay current in the post-exams world

SPRING 2017
Science, Technology, and Society
Do you know the difference between a PhD student and a Ph.D. candidate? A candidate is someone who has fulfilled all the requirements for the degree except the dissertation. I’m a historian (see my earlier post about being a humanist...

My Recipe for Getting In

An application assistance program to level the playing field

SPRING 2017
Biological Engineering
I had never considered a PhD until late in my undergraduate degree. Most students in my program were either grabbing one-year master's degrees or becoming entry-level grunts at consumer goods or biomedical device companies. I remember a career fair where I talked to a recent graduate who was...

The Key to Successful Applications

The qualified match approach to personal statements

SPRING 2017
Biological Engineering
If you are applying for graduate school and fellowships – variations of this paragraph will read eerily familiar to you: The Statement of Purpose should briefly detail your reasons for applying to the proposed program at [organization]. Please describe your background and experience (academic and...

From Professional to PhD

The costs and benefits of a substantial career change

SPRING 2017
Nuclear Science and Engineering
A 70 percent cut in pay — that’s what my next career move would cost me. And yet it was an opportunity I knew I couldn’t pass up, and it was possibly the best thing I could for my career. Still, a 70% pay cut would definitely change my idea of a vacation for the next few years…  When I started my...

Living the Journey

Five ways to enrich your life in grad school

SPRING 2017
Biology
In undergrad, I lost the journey for the destination. I came to college with blinders on. I was determined to focus 100% of my energy on academics and not let anything distract me from good grades. And, for better or worse, that is exactly what happened.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, I fell naturally...

Being a Muslim Woman at MIT

Why I choose to wear a hijab and how it has affected my graduate school experience

SPRING 2017
Mechanical Engineering
On a sunny day last fall, I wanted to try cooking a typical Indonesian food called ‘rendang,’ a delicious spicy beef curry.  Figure 1. Rendang is best served with warm jasmine rice, shrimp crackers, and fresh cucumber. I left my apartment to go grocery shopping while catching Pokemon at the same...

Where Are All the Women?

Experiences in computer science from visit weekend and beyond

SPRING 2017
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
This may sound crazy, but for a brief time, I pictured MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) department as only women. Yes, this happened. Due to a weirdly warped golden recall of MIT’s Visit Weekend, I somehow only remember the Saturday Pancake Breakfast for women in EECS: A...

The Many Flavors of Theoretical Computer Scientists

An explanation of my field for non-experts

SPRING 2017
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Sometimes I tell people that I'm a theoretical computer scientist. If they haven't yet found some sort of excuse to go to the bathroom before I take my next breath, the next question is often an exasperated, "What does that even mean?"   I tell them that it's sort of like math except that instead...

Get Beyond the Bubble

The importance of interacting with non-MIT people during graduate school

SPRING 2017
by Lee W.
Mechanical Engineering
Last Saturday night I was in my living room surrounded by a dozen people, but there was only one topic of conversation: the joys and sorrows of working at a hospital. My girlfriend Jaimie is a psychiatry resident, and we had invited her co-residents over for dinner. Doctor-talk monopolizing the...

Don't Panic

How to survive falling into a grad school hole

SPRING 2017
Materials Science and Engineering
The people that get into MIT and places like it are used to being the best of the best. The people who come here are used to success. In particular, they’re used to success being easy. The easy success you may have experienced in undergrad is not going to continue at MIT. (Okay, it might continue...

It's Not About the Weather

Don't choose a grad program for the location or climate

SPRING 2017
Materials Science and Engineering
I’m a first year graduate student in Materials Science and Engineering, or "Course 3" to anyone who’s familiar with MIT’s classification system for majors (more on this later). I’m on my way to a PhD (or as my good friend calls it – Permanent Head Damage, Piled Higher and Deeper, Pretty Huge...

The MIT School of Witchcraft & Wizardry

How I learned to enjoy getting lost in the maze of MIT

SPRING 2017
Biological Engineering
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. No! Thank you but no. I will not be going. Your magic and professors and creatures are wondrous, sure. But your stairs?...

Waiting for Rejection, Finding Empathy

How my choice to pursue research at MIT has influenced my personal life

SPRING 2017
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
A PhD is lonely. It’s especially lonely when all of your friends are getting married, when you are a perpetual bridesmaid watching your closest friends enter a new chapter while you are literally stuck in the same place. Most days, my life is stagnant: my code doesn’t work, paper writing is in the...

Always Where the Food's At

A grad student's guide to free food at MIT

SPRING 2017
Chemistry
Is there going to be food? If the answer is yes, I’m there. On my lab group’s Slack messaging channel, the description below my name is always where the food’s @. As a student at MIT, you begin to notice that nearly all events provide free food. The usual choices are bagels and pastries for...

Making Whoopie (Pies)

Baking as a stress relief from the rigor of MIT academics

SPRING 2017
Microbiology
When you think of things a graduate student might do to relieve stress, baking and assembling 90 whoopie pies probably doesn't make the cut. Here’s the scene: every surface of my apartment is covered in misshapen disks of chocolate cake. I plop fluffy whipped cream onto the disks and sandwich them...

Defining a Real Sloanie

A guide for first-year Sloan students

SPRING 2017
Sloan School of Management
I still remember when I was about 5 years old, it was my first day at kindergarten and I was scared to meet so many new kids. But I recall it being less scary for me than for most of them because I knew how to tie my shoes. Spending my first few weeks helping others learn how to tie their shoes was...

Rebooting Your PhD

Switching labs partway through your graduate studies

SPRING 2017
Biology
In July of 2013, I was abruptly told to leave lab. No warning, no chance to explain myself. The fact is, a sizable fraction of students do end up changing labs. Sometimes the cause is relatively benign — a professor gets a job offer elsewhere, or you realize you don’t like working with mice after...

Visiting Olde Boston

The best tourist attractions in the Boston area

SPRING 2017
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
My dear family and friends, I am so delighted to learn of your intention to visit! It would be wonderful to see you again and show you around this beautiful city that I’ve come to call home. Although I’ve lived here for a few years, it often takes the special occasion of visitors to create a...

Ladies Lunch

How I helped form a group by and for female scientists

SPRING 2017
Biology
First-year students in the biology department take classes and do rotations. Since we don't join a lab until the end of the academic year, we have a designated room — “The Pit” — where we have access to books, computers, printers, lockers, and a relaxing lounge area. During my first year in...

East Asian Food Odyssey

Places to visit for quality East Asian food in the MIT area

SPRING 2017
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
The saying, “a way to a man's heart is through his stomach," rings true to me. I inherited the joy I get from food and the importance I put on it from my late grandfather. On family trips he would pick out amazing restaurants that brought back memories of when he was young, and where the food was...

Glowing Green Goo

Why we think all radioactive materials glow

SPRING 2017
Nuclear Science and Engineering
What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “radioactive”? For many people, this word conjures up images of ominously glowing material. In the opening credits to The Simpsons, a running gag is Homer's mishandling of a glowing green bar of radioactive material. As someone who works...

Handmade Research

How building and repairing equipment with my hands has made me a better scientist

SPRING 2017
Nuclear Science and Engineering
When I first took my parents to my lab, my father was appalled. “This place is worse than my shop.” To truly understand this insult, consider that my father is a farmer who works in a 40-year-old shop with concrete floors and metal walls. Seed is sometimes stored in the back, the machining...

Modern Love & Job Hunting

The similarities between online dating and building a career

SPRING 2017
Technology and Policy Program
This email isn’t quite right. I think I just need to read through it one last time and tweak that description of myself at the end. Is he going to be interested in talking to me? Is this a truthful description of who I am and what I’m looking for? Ok, I just want to read through his profile one...

Graduate Women Explore a Path to Professorship

May 10, 2017
Media Arts and Sciences
Every November, I join a planning team of graduate students, postdocs, and the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education to offer a two-day workshop called Path of Professorship (PoP) for MIT’s graduate and postdoctoral women considering careers in academia... Read more at the Slice of MIT.  

Out and About at MIT

Coming to terms with my sexuality

Spring 2017
Chemical Engineering
In graduate school I explored and developed a new side of myself. And no, I’m not talking about academics or hobbies, this was far more personal. This was about coming to terms with being gay, finding a partner and telling my friends and family. I want to share this story and how the awesome people...

How I Learned to Drink from a Firehose

Learning to filter and focus to prioritize my learning needs

SPRING 2017
System Design and Management
Only three weeks into my time at MIT, I was so busy that I was barely getting any sleep. I slept with my laptop and dorm room lights on; the sole reason to catch some sleep was to wake up and get going on things for the next day. I grabbed food for survival at odd times, and only when I was not...

Confessions of a Green Tea Addict

Where to find quality green tea in the MIT area

SPRING 2017
Mechanical Engineering
Just as some people are addicted to coffee, I am addicted to green tea. However, I think ‘addiction’ is a too strong of a word. I do not drink green tea twice a day in my office while working on research and problem sets, like how others drink their coffee. I cannot recall the exact time when I...

Being a Historian at MIT

Perspectives on MIT from a student of the humanities

SPRING 2017
Science, Technology, and Society
I’m a graduate student at MIT, but my experience here is not the norm. I state that with confidence because I… am a historian. As of writing this post, I’m a fourth-year doctoral candidate in an interdisciplinary PhD program shared among the History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology &...

Can You Get a PhD Without an Advisor?

How I learned to take charge of my education and ask questions of the world

SPRING 2017
Nuclear Science and Engineering
I applied to MIT to study nuclear power policy with three top experts in the field. Any of them would be great advisor, so I decided to come to MIT. In the six months between when I visited campus and the start of classes, the first professor retired, the second was promoted out of the department...

In the Art of the City

Boston as a source of culture and adventure

SPRING 2017
Chemical Engineering
I spent my childhood in Shanghai, the largest city in China. However, as a child, I never had the chance to explore this big city. After I graduated from high school and moved to Pasadena with my family for my undergraduate studies, I became accustomed to life in the suburbs, a place where people...

My Degree by the Numbers

Learning to find find inspiration from other students, professors, and the community

SPRING 2017
Leaders for Global Operations
Two teams, 11 unique personalities, seven months, 14 classes. A return to New England Patriots nation after a six-year journey where I resided in three different states (and one district). An opportunity to complete two masters’ degrees in two years supported by 27 global corporations. Adding to...

From My Future Self

Advice from a fourth-semester graduate student

SPRING 2017
Nuclear Science and Engineering
Dear Alicia (circa 2015), Hi! It’s me. Or you, from the future. I’m writing you from the fourth semester of our grad school experience (the one you’re about to embark on!). I know you’re simultaneously thrilled  and terrified to start a PhD program at MIT! Let me tell you, it’s going to be one of...

Finding Great Escapes

Take advantage of grad school flexibility and book a bargain vacation

SPRING 2017
Biological Engineering
As a 78 degree breeze brushed against my shoulders, I took my first sip of the local cocktail of choice, Ti Punch. I must look like such a local, ordering a Ti Punch and not a mojito, I thought to myself. The burning sensation of alcohol shot up my nose. Whoa! Punch was an understatement. Doesn’t...

An Unexpected Mentor

The value of informal networking and human connections

SPRING 2017
Media Arts and Sciences
“You win some, you lose some. Well… you lose most,” Sunny said, reacting to our latest unsuccessful experiment. We frown at the lab bench briefly before laughing at the silliness of the situation. Sunny shrugs, standing by his statement and commenting on the nature of grad school as he reminds me...

The Infinite Corridor

How the design of MIT represents its philosophy

SPRING 2017
Architecture
“How do I get to MIT?” I asked. It was a sunny afternoon with a crisp fall breeze. I was only 2 weeks into my first trip to the US, but I was already missing the warmth of Mumbai air. “Well, you are already at MIT,” the lady standing near a white sculpture of human body replied. “Just walk straight...

Confronting AlphaGo

The value of human teachers in the age of machines

SPRING 2017
by Lee W.
Mechanical Engineering
In March 2016, world champion Go player Lee Sedol was defeated by the computer program AlphaGo in a five-game match. As someone who doesn’t play Go, follow professional Go, or study computer science, this shouldn't have been a big...

Communicating Science

I believe it is not enough to do science. We must also communicate it and defend it.

SPRING 2017
Biological Engineering
Survival of the fittest. A succinct, elegant tenant of life—and perhaps the most famous words to be uttered in all biology. Uttered by whom, though? You might be surprised to learn it wasn’t Charles Darwin. It was Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist. Spencer...

Returning to MIT

Choosing to attend graduate school at my undergraduate institution

SPRING 2017
Materials Science and Engineering
I came back to MIT as a graduate student more in spite of my time as an undergraduate here than because of it. And I’m so glad that I did. Now, don’t get me wrong. My hesitation wasn’t because my undergraduate experience wasn’t amazing. It was. I loved my first time at MIT, and would definitely...

Human Touch

Embracing what you need in graduate school

SPRING 2017
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
As native Californian, choosing to attend MIT came as a shock to my family. When I moved to Boston, they started placing bets on whether I would stay past the first blizzard, and how long I would last in general. Luckily for me, I moved to the east coast during one of the tamest Boston winters. For...

How the Squirtle Spawn

The importance of relaxation at MIT

SPRING 2017
Chemistry
Graduate student life is very busy, especially at MIT. No two days in the lab are the same. In my opinion, this is what makes science and being a student at MIT so exciting. There’s never a shortage of people making strides in their research. Some days I might be in the lab for 16 hours doing...

It's a Match!

The eerie similarities between online dating and finding an adviser

SPRING 2017
Materials Science and Engineering
One of the best feelings as a student is receiving that acceptance letter from a school or program you thought was nearly impossible to get into. However, for graduate school, getting in is only the first step. The next step is to find an advisor, which can be difficult. For programs that don’t...

My Road to Yelp Elite

Eating and reviewing through grad school

SPRING 2017
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Fact: The quickest way to attract students (and usually professors) is to promise food of any kind. Whereas I should be asking, "Interpretable natural language models talk vs. a mentorship lunch for women in computer science?" ... I find myself asking, instead, "Do I want free Brazilian BBQ or free...

Fighting Depression

The importance of seeking help and building a support system

SPRING 2017
Chemical Engineering
“Who is she? Why does she look so sad?” It was a summer day in 2013. After lying in my bed and staring at the ceiling without doing anything for the entire day again, I finally got up. When I looked into the bathroom mirror, I saw my eyes filled with tears. What is worse, I could not recognize the...

The Case for Quantum Morality

A thought experiment in support of the many-worlds philosophy

SPRING 2017
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
I should start by saying that everything that I'm about to write may or may not be completely bogus. Still, I haven't convinced myself that it's not bogus, so I guess I'll share it anyway.   I want to make the claim that our understanding of physics should influence our ethical decisions. To ease...

45 Dreams Deferred

Learning to accept rejections in academia

SPRING 2017
Biological Engineering
Dressed in a freshly dry-cleaned suit for graduate school visits, I marched proudly and eagerly into my first one-on-one interview with a prospective PI. “Hi, I’m Amanda!” “Nice to meet you, I’m Rob. Are you good at failing?” “What do you mean?” I stared blankly, taken aback by his bluntness. He...