Blogs: Fear and Failure

Working from 0 to 1 instead of from n to n+1

Considering an academic career

NOV 2018
Aeronautics and Astronautics
After pondering for a long time whether I should choose an academic career, I started to rediscover the motivation that originally led me to become a scientist: asking new questions and helping design fundamental innovations. What makes me hesitant about academia Although coming to MIT as a...

Are You Smart Enough to Be at MIT?

Attacking the smart versus non-smart cliché

OCT 2018
Aeronautics and Astronautics
The Letter: It is mid-April. You receive an email from the MIT graduate office congratulating you on your admission to MIT. You are overjoyed. You tell your family and friends about it. A few days pass by. The news sinks in, and a cloud of doubts appears as you browse through the MIT webpages, the...

When It’s Hard to Talk

Cultivating meaningful relationships in graduate school despite social anxiety

OCT 2018
Biology
I walk into a meeting with my advisor. I’ve met him before, but this is our first meeting since I joined his lab. He is a leader in the field, like most professors at MIT. I feel as though I need to make a good impression: come up with a brilliant idea or at least say something reasonably...

The Risks of Speaking Up

How to win a speech competition by going meta

OCT 2018
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Ping – a new email in my inbox. It was a reminder that I had signed up for the “MIT Can Talk” Oratory Competition, taking place tomorrow. The email window stayed open for a while, waiting patiently while I was deciding whether I still wanted to participate. I had just submitted a paper for a...

The Wonderful World of Procrasti-Baking

How I manage grad school stress in the kitchen

OCT 2018
Biological Engineering
You have spent days – maybe even weeks – planning the perfect experiment. You have gathered all the materials you need, written down the protocol in your lab notebook, and made sure all the necessary equipment is available. Line by line, you perform the protocol with precision and manage to get...

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...

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...

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...

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...