Blogs: Biology

Do What You’re (Not) Good At

Avoiding the tendency to over-specialize in science

JUNE 2018
Biology
“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
Biology
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...

Beyond the Dorms

A guide to off-campus housing near MIT

MAY 2018
Biology
When I committed to attending MIT for graduate school, I was ecstatic. I immediately began planning out my courses, researching clubs on campus, and looking up potential advisers. But wait, I’d need a place to live, too. Boston’s a city- but how bad could housing be, really? Ah the naiveté! As...

Time Travel

The imperceptible passing of seasons in graduate school

APRIL 2018
Biology
The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen all at once. -Albert Einstein Time passes strangely in graduate school. Many days I enter a flow state where I’m completely absorbed in my task. First I am setting up an experiment or a stack of papers to read. Light, streaming in from...

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...

Mentee vs. Minion

Working with undergrads as a graduate student

September 2017
Biology
I know from personal experience how much an undergraduate research experience can shape your future.   At the end of my junior year in undergrad at Swarthmore College, I was struggling with the idea of what to do after college and how my major (physics, at the time) would help me achieve that....

Living the Journey

Five ways to enrich your life in grad school

SPRING 2017
Biology
In undergrad, I lost the journey for the destination. I came to college with blinders on. I was determined to focus 100% of my energy on academics and not let anything distract me from good grades. And, for better or worse, that is exactly what happened.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, I fell naturally...

Rebooting Your PhD

Switching labs partway through your graduate studies

SPRING 2017
Biology
In July of 2013, I was abruptly told to leave lab. No warning, no chance to explain myself. The fact is, a sizable fraction of students do end up changing labs. Sometimes the cause is relatively benign — a professor gets a job offer elsewhere, or you realize you don’t like working with mice after...

Ladies Lunch

How I helped form a group by and for female scientists

SPRING 2017
Biology
First-year students in the biology department take classes and do rotations. Since we don't join a lab until the end of the academic year, we have a designated room — “The Pit” — where we have access to books, computers, printers, lockers, and a relaxing lounge area. During my first year in...

Bundle Up!

Winter survival guide from a tropical islander

SPRING 2017
Biology
I grew up in Puerto Rico (PR), where the average temperature is about 85 degrees Fahrenheit in “winter” time. Despite not knowing what winter meant in New England, I decided to come to MIT for graduate school. I knew that it would be an adjustment, and a few things caught me by surprise, but if I...