Blogs

Have something to say or share? Then blog about it!

IAP Workshop application deadline December 18

December 6, 2018
Hi MIT Grads! The MIT Graduate Admissions Blog is excited to announce its third IAP workshop on blog writing. In brief, Attend a 3-day blogging workshop: January 15, 17, and 22 from 9-11am Write two blog pieces Earn $200 upon completion of posts...

How to Combat Homesickness

Building your village in Boston

DEC 2018
Aeronautics and Astronautics
It’s a small thing, ordering a coffee. Most of us do it, in some cases several times a day (or more likely several times an hour if you’re a grad student at MIT). But for an Australian international student like myself, this simple action comes with a pang of homesickness. Back home in Sydney, my...

Celebrating Science Outside the Lab

From teaching a class on anything to mentoring a summer student project

NOV 2018
Materials Science and Engineering
The cult of contagious scientific curiosity is something I’ve totally loved about MIT ever since I’ve stepped on campus as a starry-eyed prospective undergrad during Campus Preview Weekend (CPW). My CPW host welcomed me into her living space (a co-ed co-op living group called ‘pika’) and impromptu...

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...

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...

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...

Boston Left?

Lessons learned from driving in Boston

NOV 2018
Aeronautics and Astronautics
During my first experience driving in Boston I was waiting at an intersection on campus (Vassar and Mass Ave), my co-pilot, a fellow grad student, turned and said to me: “Watch out for the Boston left.” “Boston left?” “You’ll see.” When the light turned green and I immediately gunned it (I’ve...

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...

Moving to Boston with a Dog

What you need to know about pet ownership

NOV 2018
Chemical Engineering
When I was first considering accepting MIT’s offer of admission to a PhD program, one of my main concerns was finding housing for my family. I had heard that Boston’s housing situation was brutal, and to top it off, my then-fiancé and I were trying to bring two large dogs to the big city with us....

Fighting Unfair Rules

Aligning MIT’s actions with its mission

NOV 2018
Chemical Engineering
When I got an offer to be a Graduate Resident Tutor (GRT),  a graduate student mentor who lives in an undergraduate dorm, I leapt across the hallway to exclaim to my friends that I didn’t just get a GRT position:  I got assigned to Random Hall - the quirkiest, nerdiest dorm filled with murals in...

A Good Place to Nap

Finding the best place to sleep on-campus after a sleepless night

NOV 2018
Materials Science and Engineering
I was in the middle of a formal dinner with the Under Secretary of the US Department of Energy, when my cell phone signaled the Outlook notification – Thursday, August 9, 2018 at 9:30 PM [70 AMHERST] FACILITIES EMERGENCY - BUILDING CLOSING The severity of the situation did not strike me at first...

Culture Goes Beyond Your Lab

Appreciating the quirks and stories that makes MIT special

NOV 2018
Aeronautics and Astronautics
When I started grad school, I met the other graduate students in the lab - most of whom, unlike me, had not gone to MIT for undergrad. We had conversations about hobbies, research, families, etc. Nothing about meeting them seemed any different to me than meeting students during undergrad, but I...

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...

Staying Sane

An insider’s view on underappreciated graduate struggles

OCT 2018
Chemistry
Brainstorming the challenges of an upcoming graduate school? Let me help. Soon after grad school kicked off I started hearing complaints from my classmates about how insanely intense the workload and expectations are. I, too,  started to feel a lot of pressure. Here I will share a few honest facts...

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...

Fiddling through Grad School

My experiences learning the violin as a grad student

OCT 2018
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
“Do you want to get lunch this weekend?” “Can we get dinner instead? I have a violin class in the afternoon.” You can do that as a grad student? Wow. As a first-year graduate student, I had not yet realized the degree of independence I now had in the choices I made in my life. Having gone to...

Starting Over Summer

Settling down before the semester starts

OCT 2018
Materials Science and Engineering
Out of school for a year, I was not sure if I could fit in classes, choosing a lab, doing research, and settling down in a new country all at once when I started graduate school in the fall. So, when the option on the acceptance letter said that I could join over the summer instead, I was more than...

Not a Contradiction

You can raise a family at MIT

OCT 2018
Biological Engineering
“You know,” my wife said, “For our kids, MIT won’t be this abstract place they hear about sometimes in the news. It’ll be home: where they learned to ride their bikes and to read. They’ll think of it as the place where they grew up.” My wife – who deserves more credit than I could ever give her –...

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 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...

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...

The Yellow Zone

Five Ways to Break Out of the Department Bubble

AUG 2018
MIT Sloan MBA Program
In my very first lecture at MIT Sloan School of Management, a professor started class with a drawing of a huge three-ring target. The bullseye was colored green, the middle ring was yellow, and the outer ring was red. “This is your comfort zone,” she said, pointing to the green circle. “We want you...

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...

Where Are All the Engineers in Congress

Lessons from talk radio

JULY 2018
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
The United States has elected one of the most anti-science Congresses in the democratic world. Mainstream leaders unabashedly espouse scientifically untenable positions in areas such as climate change, vaccinations, and evolution. In a world that is becoming increasingly technologically driven, it...

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...

Finding Work-Life Balance Through Sport

Extracurricular activities can help keep you sane

JUNE 2018
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
After a long day of class or research in lab, there is no better feeling than walking across campus to soccer practice. The stress of the day melts away as I step onto the field. Finally, I am able to clear my head and to connect to the present. We pull on our cleats and start to warm-up, the...

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...

Getting Your Hands Dirty

Bridging the gap between theory and practice

JUNE 2018
Urban Studies and Planning
How often have you stared at a blackboard wondering whether the formulae you’re seeing will ever be useful in a practical real-life setting? Ever wondered what’s the use of welding and workshop classes if you’re a computer science engineer? Well, to my astonishment, I found out that everything we...

Shaping Another Person’s Decision

Navigating the interview process

JUNE 2018
Media Arts and Sciences
After just 30 days of officially starting grad school in the Synthetic Neurobiology group at the Media Lab, my advisor asked me to help interview a couple of rotation...

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
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!”...

From Portugal to MIT

Learning to adapt to new time management challenges

MAY 2018
School of Engineering
I have been a visiting PhD student at MIT since February, coming from a PhD program called MIT Portugal. This is a collaboration between several Portuguese universities and MIT. Some of...

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...

Why Would You Want to Do a PhD?

Student perspectives on the value of a graduate degree

MAY 2018
Mathematics
If you are reading this blog post, there is a good chance that you are thinking about a PhD, possibly at MIT. But MIT or not, almost every doctoral program would ask you why you are interested in their program and how it fits into your career goal. A typical answer would be: I am interested in your...

A Tale of Two Responsibilities

Living sustainably while researching climate change

MAY 2018
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
“So all my office plants died from how high the heat’s turned up.” “Wait. You mean your succulents?” “Yeah. The ones I specifically got for their drought and heat resistance.” Such occurrences might seem unexpected in the MIT Green Building, where I and many others study humanity’s impact on our...

Learning to Engage in Deep Conversations

How a conflict management class awoke my interest in interfaith dialogue

MAY 2018
Biological Engineering
In the third year of my PhD, two things happened that dramatically changed the way I see the world: I took MIT's 40-hour conflict management course in my training to become an MIT REF, and Donald Trump was...

MIT Graduate Housing

The guide I wish I'd had

MAY 2018
Biological Engineering
During my interview weekend at MIT, I went on a brief housing tour of three MIT graduate housing residences that current students lived in. One student proclaimed her room was the biggest bedroom in the whole building. I made a mental note—the biggest room in the furnished dorm is not very big. Don...

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...

What’s the PC Term for Santa?

How we overthink issues that don't deserve the time and energy that we put into them

APRIL 2018
Urban Studies and Planning
The US is often dubbed the land of the free. As someone who was raised in the Middle East, arguably a place not as free, Americans have always seemed to me to be fiercely proud that the First Amendment of their Constitution protects the freedoms of press and of speech. Many of the Americans I have...

Introductions

What to do if nothing goes according to plan

APRIL 2018
Technology and Policy Program
As a military brat, growing up was often an exercise in how to exist in the in-between. Moving every two years fostered a patchwork identity that seemed too foreign for anywhere, and so I was content to introduce myself in a brief, adapted way: Hi. I’m Julia, I’ve moved around a lot, but I consider...

Addir

Where scientists talk religion

APRIL 2018
Physics
Every Monday night, I shuffle down Mass Ave, past the towering columns of MIT’s entrance to a small unassuming building almost directly across the street. Inside I meet with a group of about ten students. We continue our discussion of something that can make people uncomfortable, something that isn...

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...

Hurricane María’s landfall in Cambridge

Trying to focus on graduate school despite natural disaster in my home country

APRIL 2018
Biological Engineering
Moving to a new place after spending a whole life on a small island in the Caribbean was very daunting. My expectations as a first-year graduate student in New England were not out of the ordinary. I would have to adjust to a different culture, prepare for different weather (far colder than...

The Mysterious Markings on the Bridge to MIT

How the stories and history of MIT inspire me

APRIL 2018
Nuclear Science and Engineering
A bridge: “a structure carrying a pathway or roadway over a depression or obstacle” (Merriam-Webster dictionary). As a daily pedestrian across one such bridge (the Harvard bridge, spanning the Charles River to MIT) I agree that it is a structure carrying a pathway. However, I object to the use of...

My Life as a GRT/Two Time Scootah Hockey World Champion

MARCH 2018
Physics
The 2017 Scootah Hockey World Championship was certainly a nail-biter. Each year, the tournament is hosted by MIT undergraduate dorm Simmons Hall. For the past two years, B-Towah (i.e. 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of B-Tower in Simmons) has scooted away with the trophy (check out the 2017 exciting...

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...

Mugshots

Amassing collectibles as a graduate student

MARCH 2018
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that every graduate student has an item they become a collector of, squirreling away specimens like it will keep them warm through the Bostonian winters. One of my friends has filled two drawers in his search for the perfect pen; another has acquired enough...

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...

Eating and Socializing on a Budget in Cambridge

Cooking dinner with friends as an alternative to overpriced, generic restaurants

MARCH 2018
Linguistics and Philosophy
Ok, so you’re in a restaurant looking at a menu. The walls are unrefined brick or cement with steel beams, the ceiling has an old warehouse look, the lighting is dim, there are subway tiles on the floor and Edison style lightbulbs. The menu has fancy cocktails and dishes like pork belly, brussel...

Home

MIT has gradually morphed from a place of discovery to a place of belonging

MARCH 2018
Urban Studies and Planning
MIT is my home. There is no other way to say it. Over the years (let’s just say I’ve been here awhile), this place has gradually morphed from a place of discovery to a place of learning to a place of belonging. There is a daily routine that sets in after a while; in my case it’s walking through the...

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...

Teaching as a Graduate Student

My experience as a TA and advice for future TA's

MARCH 2018
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
When I signed up to be a teaching assistant for MIT’s performance engineering course (6.172) in Fall 2017, multiple people warned me about how much work it would be. Their advice made me nervous...

An MIT Professor's Advice While Crossing a Bridge

We are all being formed into our best selves by the professors at MIT

MARCH 2018
Nuclear Science and Engineering
It is fall and the Charles River is a deep black beneath the shining man-made light of the Boston skyline. I am walking home across the Harvard bridge from MIT to my home in Boston after a day of classes and a lab. As I marvel at the beauty of the evening and my luck at being able to study my...

Option B

How to help a grieving friend

MARCH 2018
Technology and Policy Program
On November 1st, 2017, I lost my father. He was one of my best friends. And now, instead of my best friend, all I have left is memories and emotions.   My father died of an unexpected heart attack in my hometown of Izmir, Turkey at the age of 57. The two weeks that followed were the hardest of my...

From Neurons to Language

Joys and sorrows of interdisciplinary research

MARCH 2018
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
When I was waitlisted for MIT undergraduate admissions, I put together a statement that would serve as an addendum to my application. It included a Venn diagram that depicted my scientific interests at the time.  Not a single person from the waitlist was accepted that year, but little did I know...

Auspicious Boston Snow

Celebrating the successes of my labmates in the new year

MARCH 2018
Nuclear Science and Engineering
As an old Chinese saying goes, “A timely snow promises a good harvest.” In China, it is thought, snow at the New Year always brings some good luck. In early January, I found myself thinking, what kind of good luck might a really heavy Boston snow (“near blizzard conditions,” according to The...