Blogs: That's So MIT

Exploring Scientific Boundaries

Musings of a scholar in progress

AUG 2018
Urban Studies and Planning
I was recently asked by a colleague of mine here at MIT whether I thought that urban planning and design could be considered true science. His point was that the discipline lacked the precision of the natural and exact sciences. Whatever findings we get from our research couldn’t really be labeled...

Don’t Study; Imagine

Creativity is a critical ingredient to learning

JULY 2018
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
When I was quite young I asked my mother if I could take apart a VCR – a relic of the old times when movies came from video rental stores on cassettes you had to rewind. Like any good mother, she told me that I was under no circumstances allowed to disassemble what she paid for. Like any ornery son...

Doggos or Manatees?

My journey through machine learning

JULY 2018
Computational and Systems Biology
This past fall, I challenged myself and hopped on the machine learning bandwagon. It’s been quite the ride. For those not familiar with the field, machine learning is essentially the art of making predictions with computers. Furthermore, it is a HOT field. Researchers are using machine learning for...

Linguistics Is Basically Physics

Debunking myths about the study of linguistics

JULY 2018
Linguistics and Philosophy
“Would they hire you to talk to aliens?” “That’s so funny I have a friend who studies French literature!” “So what do you think of Chomsky’s political views?” “Linguistics? At MIT? I didn’t know they had that. I thought they just did science and stuff.” Thanks to the popularity of the movie Arrival...

Passing on the Fountain of Knowledge

Knowing when to say no

JUNE 2018
Media Arts and Sciences
As soon as I officially started as a grad student in the Media Arts & Sciences program, I was paired with a more experienced graduate student in the lab to learn protein engineering and molecular cloning techniques for the first time in my life, though my undergrad studies had covered some of...

My First Desk on Campus

The good and bad of moving into a student office

JUNE 2018
Linguistics and Philosophy
The key to my new student office finally arrived in the mailbox. On my first day as a graduate student of the linguistics program, I found my way to the office, and stood outside the door for a minute before opening it. I had never had an office of my own before. What would the office look like?...

Policy Debate vs. Research

Applying high school debate skills to PhD research

JUNE 2018
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Unlike many of my fellow graduate students in computer science who have been doing programming and math competitions since high school (or potentially earlier), I spent six years in middle and high school in policy debate. This usually meant...

Good Ideas

They don't grow on trees, so where do you get them?

JUNE 2018
Media Arts and Sciences
Even at MIT, good ideas don't grow on trees. Instead, I've found that good ideas have two ingredients: preparation and practice.   1. Preparation. The act of acquiring new knowledge and ideas. The foundation on which my good ideas will be built.   2. Practice. Generate lots of ideas. Engage with...

Do What You’re (Not) Good At

Avoiding the tendency to over-specialize in science

JUNE 2018
“What do you want to work on?”   This is one of the most expected--and sometimes dreaded--questions that prospective graduate students encounter during the interview process. Because, as they say, “it’s a trap!”...

In Pursuit of Riches

Publications as the currency of academia

MAY 2018
I am a poor grad student. And I don’t mean in the classic, monetary sense. (Although, let’s be real, what grad student isn’t poor?) I am ‘poor’ in the currency of academia- publications. If you’ve never experienced academia for yourself, you might not be aware of how profound and accurate that...