Blogs

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,...

Getting FIT at MIT

How MIT makes it easy to accomplish your New Year’s fitness resolutions

MAR 2019
Civil and Environmental Engineering
“I’m going to get in shape this year!” “This time I’m serious about going to the gym.” “New year, new me.”   We’ve all said it. The start of a new calendar year — or a new academic year — brings with it sweeping declarations of change and audacious intentions for self-improvement. The first few...

The Pursuit of Happiness

Make today different from tomorrow

MAR 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Happiness is a strange thing. Take one of your glorious moments. Mine would probably be the day I learned I was joining MIT. It felt like I had just received my letter of admission to Hogwarts, from Dumbledore himself. I had worked so hard to get to that point, and for all I knew, it was the...

Stress Mechanics for Graduate Students

A highly rigorous investigation into the avoidance of cracking under strain

MAR 2019
Aeronautics and Astronautics
MIT is a crazy place, there’s no doubt about that. But just because you’re in a crazy place doesn’t mean that you’re crazy. During grad school, everyone has days (or weeks, or months…) where things might not be going so well. Maybe your classes are really intense, or the data you’re collecting...

Wasting My Degree

Why is having kids, moving out of the city, and following an unusual path a waste?

MAR 2019
Media Arts and Sciences
"She's worried you'll waste your degree." My friend (let's call her Anna) relays this message to me as coming from another friend, but I can tell from her tone of voice that she's clearly worrying about the same potential waste. That makes the question doubly irritating. As if pretending to be...

The Right Choice for the Wrong Reasons

Why I shouldn’t have chosen MIT, and why I’m glad I did

MAR 2019
Biology
“There’s no wrong choice.” This was an oft-stated sentence from my friends and family when I was deciding between graduate programs. And okay, sure, when you have the option to attend two wonderful institutions for graduate school, there is no “wrong” answer. But there is often a “better” answer....

How Not to Die Alone

Free cats at MIT

MAR 2019
Nuclear Science and Engineering
This is an account of how three grad students came to befriend a cat at MIT.   Year 1 B.C. (Before the Cat) Grad school can be an isolating experience if you allow yourself  to be consumed by the lab or classes. Fortunately, I found at least two acceptable individuals in my program named Guillaume...

A Perfect Campus Tour

See most of MIT in 30 minutes

MAR 2019
Mechanical Engineering
I have been at MIT for almost two and a half years, and during this time I have repeatedly been asked to give campus tours to visiting friends and family. Though most of campus is within walking distance, extremely convoluted paths resulting from high building density and weird building numbering...

Unscrambling a Scrambled Egg

An algorithmic approach to sustain a healthy long-distance relationship

MAR 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
“We are pleased to offer you a spot for the HST MEMP program for Fall 2018….” I freeze while my brain works very hard to process multiple emotions and thoughts. I send a message: “the HST program offered me a spot.” Shortly after, my computer blinks with a response. “Can we talk?” I minimize one...

At MIT, New York City Is in Your Backyard

Navigating your transit options for weekend trips

MAR 2019
Biological Engineering
It was a Friday at 10:30am, and I was behind schedule to catch my bus to New York City. I rushed from the Red Line T stop at South Station to the bus terminal, annoyed that my rolling suitcase prevented me from running up the escalators. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have worried. The Megabus area...

Pottery before P-Sets

How marriage and a reindeer plate gave me some much needed perspective

MAR 2019
by Sam M.
Technology and Policy Program
I wouldn’t really call myself a pottery guy. Don’t get me wrong… I can appreciate a good bowl every once in a while, and some of those vases can really knock my socks off, but that hardly means I was dreaming of making my own. And yet, there I was in a small pottery painting shop called the Clay...

Embrace rather than Escape

Culture shock in the States

MAR 2019
Chemical Engineering
There is a saying in Chinese: “It is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books.” Embracing this old saying, I started my four-year undergrad journey in Minnesota after graduating from my high school in Beijing. I got this stamp on my passport when I first came to the...

Nature and Nurture

Living and learning through the MIT Outing Club

MAR 2019
Physics
My undergraduate research advisor gave me one piece of advice before I came to MIT: join the MIT Outing Club (MITOC). She gave no further explanation, but I figured she knew what she was talking about. She had completed her PhD at...

The Grad School Cha-Cha

Scientists and engineers dance too!

FEB 2019
Aeronautics and Astronautics
“Nope,” I told the girl I was dating in high school, “I don’t dance.” And I meant it. Or at least I thought I did until she broke up with me. My post-breakup energy simmered over the following months until – awkwardness and fear be damned – I added ballroom dancing to my schedule at Penn State. I’...

Subtle Scandals

Everyday lies incentivized by funding sources

FEB 2019
Chemical Engineering
My first experience with academic misinformation occurred during my junior year of college. In my final project for my engineering ethics course, my group found that the EPA’s initial report on the impact of hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as “fracking”) on drinking water lacked sufficient...

How My Wife Stole My Car in Massachusetts

An object lesson in navigating the registry of motor vehicles

FEB 2019
Biological Engineering
When we moved from Arizona to Massachusetts, my wife graciously offered to take care of registering our car, letting me focus on starting classes at MIT. If someone offers to go to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) on your behalf, you say two things, and two things only: 1) ‘Yes’...

Tell Us What to Blog About!

FEB 2019
Dear Reader, We hope you've enjoyed reading about funny, impactful, and day-to-day graduate life...

Downsizing Our Footprint

Comprehending the impact of space amidst a “tiny movement”

FEB 2019
Architecture
You may have seen the recent film Downsizing, reveling in the antics of Matt Damon as he navigates life as a shrunken 5-inch man.  Despite the humor of the film’s premise, I believe it reflects a growing movement of people cutting excess from their lives and relocating to tiny spaces. For many MIT...

Midnight Showers

(Non)sensical schedule optimization

FEB 2019
Media Arts and Sciences
In undergrad, I had what my friends called an "absolutely insane" schedule. I followed it because I felt like there was not enough time in the day to get everything done and I had the luxury of a flexible routine as a student. Sunday through Friday, my day looked like this: 2:00—3:15 AM  //  Gym 3:...

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

IAP Workshop application deadline December 18

DEC 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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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?...

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...

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...

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...

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...