Blogs: Fear and Failure

Curiouser and Curiouser…

Why being at MIT is like being Alice in Wonderland

NOV 2018
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
On my first day of grad school. I drank a magic potion from the firehose! And there I went, down the rabbit hole… “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must...

You Are Not Alone OR I Am Here

Applying to graduate school with impostor syndrome

NOV 2018
Biology
At this time two years ago, I was considering not applying to graduate school.   That is not to say I did not want to go to graduate school. On the contrary, the better part of me wanted to go to graduate school to mentor students through teaching and research while earning the qualifications to do...

Tuning out the Noise

My advice on learning to use challenging lab equipment

NOV 2018
Materials Science and Engineering
Have you ever looked at an instrument that a senior labmate is using - one of those behemoth installations that has a million glowing buttons and wires sticking out everywhere - and think to yourself, "There's no way I'll EVER learn how to use that"? That was what I thought when I saw a...

Finding Belonging through Community

Make the time to seek out familiar spaces

NOV 2018
Mechanical Engineering
There’s a common feeling that many incoming graduate students can attest to: I don’t belong here. MIT seems designed to keep us feeling this way, perhaps as motivation to work long hours, or perhaps to perpetuate its imposing reputation. It starts from the moment of acceptance. Elation and surprise...

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...