Blogs

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...

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...

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...

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...

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-...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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 – ...

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 Lemon Poppyseed 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...

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.