Blogs

My Year in the Wild

Why I Chose to Go into Industry Before Pursuing Grad School

MAY 2020
Aeronautics and Astronautics
Once I realized I wanted to be a professor, grad school felt inevitable. It was a question of when I wanted to spend at least five more years in school, not if I was going to do so. I spent my last couple years of college deliberating whether I was going to apply to graduate programs for aerospace...

The Buddy System

How checking in weekly can keep your goals on track

MAY 2020
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Graduate school is overwhelming and lonely at times. In addition to producing good research, graduate students have to balance networking, taking classes, staying updated on advances in their field by reading papers, and managing personal life goals. Everyone has a research advisor and, usually,...

A Thermodynamic Model of Friendship

Keeping up with friendships is energy-intensive

MAY 2020
Mathematics
Disclaimer: I have not taken a physics class in years, and the unavoidable inaccuracies in the discussion that follows should in no way reflect poorly on the professors/department that bestowed a physics degree upon me back in the day. Friendships take energy to maintain. Entropically speaking,...

Loafing Around at MIT

Why baking bread should be your next hobby

MAY 2020
Biology
I started baking not too long ago, mostly at the advice of acquaintances who were already proficient bakers. My first few attempts weren’t great; I once managed to omit an entire cup of water from a naan recipe, resulting in a hard puck-shaped mass with the texture of stale Ritz crackers. But I...

Terraforming Friendship

How friendship started to flourish after a game of Terraforming Mars

MAY 2020
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
My friend recently flew back to visit his grad school friends. All of us used to do many things together. Since he was back, we decided to play a game we enjoyed — Terraforming Mars. The game...

Is Grad School Harder than a Headstand?

How practicing my headstand turned into a metaphor for my PhD

MAY 2020
Chemistry
Editor Note: This post was originally written before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. The first semester of graduate school is pretty hard. You’re surrounded by new people from all over the world, you’re taking challenging classes, and in many departments, you’re also required to teach...

Teaching a Lab Module…on Zoom

How the pandemic impacted my life as a TA this semester

MAY 2020
Chemistry
“The first thing we have to talk about is coronavirus.” That’s what the director of the undergraduate chemistry laboratory said when all the lab teaching assistants (TAs) gathered at the beginning of the semester. Back then, our only concern was helping students who were missing class due to self-...

Big Changes in the Qualifying Exam Procedure

The many responses to AeroAstro's new quals process, and how it might be linked to implicit gender bias

MAY 2020
Aeronautics and Astronautics
Imagine standing in front of a panel of faculty members, some of the most prominent academics in the world of aerospace engineering, having prepared for a short 60 minutes to complete an oral exam and prove your competence in the field in which you hope to receive your PhD. In many departments at...

An Indian Spice Blend™ You Won’t Find at Whole Foods

Add one tablespoon of Indian to one tablespoon of American to achieve optimal confusion

MAY 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
One of the most challenging tasks every family must undertake at some point in their lives is deciding what to watch together. One evening, the compromise for our family was Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix standup special, Homecoming King. It was a win-win: my immigrant parents got to see a young brown man...

Dungeons and Biology

A tale of biologists, some dice, and keeping each other sane

MAY 2020
Biology
Every other Sunday, six biologists gather around my apartment’s dining table. The meeting starts out normally enough, each of us giving one science and one non-science update about our lives since we last met. We recap our previous meeting. What happens next is less normal. I begin narrating: “The...

Letters to a Not-So-Young-Anymore Grad School Applicant

Reflections during critical moments

MAY 2020
Urban Studies and Planning
Now that I am close to graduating with a masters degree in City Planning, I’m reflecting on how I’ve grown in the past two years. It was a year before that, in the summer of 2017, when I decided to apply to grad school. By that time I had worked for five years at several architecture firms. I felt...

The Bright Side of Isolation

A few positive aspects of social distancing

MAY 2020
Mechanical Engineering
Being a graduate student whose work mostly takes place on a PC, the changes in MIT policies related to COVID-19 have not impacted my academic work by a large amount so far. On the other hand, the social impact of it has been much more profound. From an exponential increase in the discussions (...

What Do I Do When I Can’t Go to Lab?

Ways to move your research forward when running experiments isn’t an option

APR 2020
Chemistry
Sometimes, going to lab isn’t an option. Whether it’s due to an injury, illness, family or, as in 2020, COVID-19, life often gets in the way of planned experiments. But that doesn’t have to stop you from working on your research! There are lots of ways to push your research forward without...

COVID-26.2

Running from your problems

APR 2020
Aeronautics and Astronautics
I’m a big fan of running, to the point where one of my labmates described me as being known among her friends as “a running and cider fiend”. I’ve written before about my...

Great Podcasts to Accompany Quarantine

Ranked from highly-dignified to 100% guilty-pleasure

APR 2020
Biological Engineering
Allow me to remind you of a fantastic form of entertainment that you used to listen to during your commute: podcasts! For those of us who have already finished Tiger King (as well as seemingly everything else on Netflix), podcasts are a great way to pass the time between Zoom calls. I’ve...

What Business Does a Modeler Have at Sea?

Lessons learned from a research cruise

APR 2020
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
If you’re anything like me, then there is a good chance you have never even heard of a research cruise. That was about my (lack of) knowledge level until I started applying to graduate schools. Next thing I knew, I was a part of the incoming class for the MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography/...

Away, with a slice of MIT

My experience with MISTI GSL

APR 2020
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
It's no secret that MIT celebrates differences and diversity. Different interests, backgrounds, working styles, expertise, ambitions, perspectives, voices … the list is endless. As an outsider, before I joined MIT, I was amazed and attracted to this deeply interwoven fabric of differences. But MIT...

Dang, You Live in Tang?

My first semester living in Tang Hall while dealing with its unexpected & unfounded notoriety

APR 2020
Mechanical Engineering
Random grad student: “Do you live on campus?” Me: “Yep.” RGS: “Where?” Me: *slightly wincing in anticipation of oncoming judgment* “I live in Tang Hall.” On the surface, this seems like a straightforward conversation. However, my answer often elicits two kinds of reactions. I either get a slightly...

Networking for Introverts

How to break out of your shell

APR 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted to us before the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, but we believe that the advice given here is still highly relevant in the time of quarantine  – when both group and one-on-one meetings are as important as ever. Networking. For some of us...

Fitting into MIT

How imposter syndrome gave me a sense of belonging

APR 2020
Mechanical Engineering
When I got my acceptance email from MIT, I actually cried. My childhood dream was coming true, and my emotions were a whirlwind of excitement and disbelief. In a fit of excitement, I called my mom and somehow managed to string together words to convey the good news to her. At the end of the phone...

Continued Community in the Era of Social Distancing

Rainbows among the storm clouds

APR 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Coronavirus has drastically changed our daily lives as MIT students. In the span of a week, we have gone from attending regularly scheduled classes and happily discussing spring break plans to an almost vacant campus. My heart goes out in sadness to the senior undergraduate students who never got...

A Different Kind of Long-Distance Relationship

Tips on how to make remote advising work for you

APR 2020
Now that we're working from home and many of us have relocated from campus, maintaining effective communication with our advisors remotely presents an additional stressor (on top of trying not to catch coronavirus). But some of us are already well-acquainted with the joys of skyping in sweatpants...

Wait? It Snows Here?

How I survived my first New England winter

APR 2020
Architecture
It was 7:00 AM. Okay, 7:08 AM because I always hit my snooze button at least once. Since Thanksgiving break had just concluded, I was feeling well rested for the first time this semester. I appreciated the break from thinking about the final projects that were threatening my next few weeks. As part...

To Build a Home

The importance of setting a foundation for open communication

APR 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
When you introduce two people to one another, you often contextualize who that person is to you. The words we use to categorize these people are sometimes simple, but sometimes people fill more than one role in your life. For example, your mother may also be your dental hygienist but you’re...

Forced to Leave Home

MIT Grad Housing’s Disorganized Response to COVID-19

APR 2020
Biology
A message to MIT grad housing: if your tenant’s best housing option is to haphazardly make a 13-hour interstate drive in the middle of a literal plague after being given only two days’ notice, you are doing something horribly wrong. I live in one of the graduate dorms —...

COVID-19 Prequel

The outbreak of COVID-19

APR 2020
Chemical Engineering
Unlike a lot of MIT community members, who were only affected by the coronavirus outbreak starting in March 2020, I was paying attention to the outbreak since the very beginning on 12/31/2019. This was because one of my high school classmates - also my best friend - worked in Wuhan, the epicenter...

Reset (or Set) Your Morning Routine

Tips for jumpstarting your days when working from home

MAR 2020
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Coronavirus has caused a work from home (WFH) phenomenon unlike anything seen before. It’s an experimental time for many and, given the circumstances, it can be stressful and isolating. Setting up a good routine can be a great way to create order in chaos. A while ago, I read a book called “...

Work From Home 101

How to be productive when working in the lab isn’t an option

MAR 2020
Chemistry
Being a grad student is hard. Being a grad student during the coronavirus pandemic is even harder. We’re used to running between classes, meetings, and labwork; suddenly, we’re barricaded in our apartments with no access to our labs, coffee shops or libraries, and we’re somehow expected to still be...

To Separate or To Engage?

Reflections during my country’s great war against the coronavirus epidemic

MAR 2020
Operations Research Center
In China, each year begins twice. First on January 1 and once again on the traditional Lunar New Year (this year’s date: January 25, 2020). The days in between the two New Years are a somewhat peculiar time – though New Year has dawned in other places of the world, in China, students are taking...

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...