Blogs: Why I Came

Iḷisavsaaqtuam aakam qaitkaa uqautchiñi kiŋuvaamiñun

A graduate school mom gifts language to the next generation

SEP 2019
Linguistics and Philosophy
Aullaqisaqtuq – It is the beginning Iḷisaguuruŋa Iñupiatun MIT-mi. I study Iñupiaq at MIT. Iñupiaq is the language of the Alaskan Inuit, whose population numbers 24,500 and whose speakers’ number 2,000. Iñupiaq is considered “moribund,” which means having few or no child speakers because the...

An Open Letter to My Future Self

Thoughts from my last first day of school

SEP 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Dear future Ming, The date is August 26, 2019 - today is your/my/our first day at MIT. When you next read this after/if you graduate, it may well be the year 2025. How’s life at 27 treating you? In the year 2025, your younger brothers, currently high school freshmen, will be halfway done with...

Advising Advice

What should you look for when choosing an advisor?

MAY 2019
Aeronautics and Astronautics
At the end of my second year at MIT, I chose to switch to a different advisor, based on our overlapping interests in a specific research area. This turned out to be a great decision, but for many reasons that I hadn’t even remotely thought about when I made the choice. I’m very conscious now that I...

Gambling with Degrees

Coming to MIT with a master’s

APR 2019
Nuclear Science and Engineering
How many master’s degrees is too many? It’s not a very common problem to have. Yet for some of us that have already completed a couple years of postgraduate education before coming to MIT, the question comes up. I must admit I hadn’t looked much at the course requirements for a PhD before applying...

You Got NSF, Now What?

How NSF can change grad school selection

APR 2019
Chemical Engineering
It's early April. You wake up and refresh the emails on your phone. There is an email from your professor congratulating you on getting the NSF, a colloquial expression for getting into the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. You...

A Corridor full of Giants

My transition from a tiny college to MIT

APR 2019
If you told me in high school that I would go to MIT, I definitely wouldn’t have believed you. And if I had, I would have been terrified of the future. Although I certainly was not sheltered from most aspects of life, I would say that I was, to some extent, sheltered academically. I went to a...

Perfection versus Persistence

How I got into grad school

MAR 2019
Aeronautics and Astronautics
A skinny envelope containing a fat “No”: my first rejection. I’d been confident of my eventual acceptance to Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College, and my 17-year-old ego winced at the surprise. “Dear Brandon,” the letter started. “Many qualified applicants this year … Very strong accomplishments...

My First Autopsy

The importance of seeing the reality of death

MAR 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
As the autopsy technician split the cadaver’s chest open with a scalpel, a part of my identity that I had wrestled with since my undergrad finally settled into focus. I have absolutely no desire to become a doctor. This has not always been the case. Like many of my peers, I had started my...

How can Philosophy Help Policy?

How I stepped outside my comfort zone and attended courses outside my research area

MAR 2019
Urban Studies and Planning
Before coming to MIT, I had no idea how much courses outside my field could influence my research and shape my intellectual beliefs. I had earned a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering and a master’s in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences with a minor in public policy. I had also worked with the...

Weighted Decision Matrices and the Happiness Question

How I decided to come to MIT

MAR 2019
Mechanical Engineering
Deciding to pursue a Ph.D. and finding appropriate programs was straightforward for me; choosing where to go was much more tortuous. Even before I had received any acceptance letters, I fretted over the question: “How will I choose?”. Should I choose the most prestigious school? The cheapest city,...