Blogs

Finding My Grad School Home

An experiment in communal living

MAY 2019
Chemical Engineering
When I arrived in the foreboding metropolis of Boston, I sought a group of friends that brings soup when someone is sick, welcomes each other into our homes even at the lowest of times, asks deep questions, and challenges each other to be the best we can be. I struggled adapting to this new place...

An Ode to My Slow Cooker

How a special appliance has saved me both time and sanity

MAY 2019
Media Arts and Sciences
 The special appliance: my slow cooker   I want to thank one special appliance Whose dedication and trusty alliance Have been a time saver for a busy grad mom. You snuck into my kitchen with quiet aplomb, Arriving, in a box, some years ago-- Black and sleek. How was I to know That you would save...

Trains, Buses, and Feet

Seeing all of Boston on the way to class

MAY 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
On Tuesday mornings, I catch a 7:30 bus to get to an 8:30 class. This class is roughly 2.5 miles from my apartment.  Why so far? Well, I’m a PhD student in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program, which focuses on integrating clinical experience into an engineering PhD. This involves...

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...

A Primer for Understanding ‘Merica

My first few weeks in the USA

may 2019
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
This blog is the continuation of my first blog where I wrote about my first few days in the USA. When I came to the USA from India to attend grad school, I had to learn many cultural norms that were very different from those at home on the other side of the planet. It was a steep learning curve,...

Educating Myself Out of Education

I’m a fast climber, but why should it matter?

MAY 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t always tell the truth.  When people ask me about MIT, I tend to oversell it. After all, it is one of the best, if not the best, university on the planet, nestled at the top of all international rankings. Once up here, everyone simply expects you to be proud of...

A Minor Change for A Major Reward

How playing guitar made my grad school life more enjoyable

MAY 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
I should start a new hobby. I came to this conclusion when my answer to the question, “research + sleep = 24 hours?” was “yes, but not always”. Although finding downtime can be difficult, especially when you are taking courses, it is a necessary part of staying sane and healthy in graduate school....

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

When a PhD gets personal

MAY 2019
Mechanical Engineering
Some people choose their PhD projects based on raw scientific curiosity. Some seek buzz words, industry partners, or flashy technology to jumpstart profitable future careers. Some find their projects based on available funding. Me? I chose my project because it had almost killed me. Sepsis. Global...

What the Puck?

How a new sport helped me find clarity in grad school

MAY 2019
Chemistry
In my first year of graduate school, I fell on my butt a lot. It’s as if I would forget about my feet. I would be gliding along smoothly, comfortably shifting from one skate to the other, but if a puck slid in my direction — and I had to get it! — my skates would be gone from under me, my heavily...

BYOB or… Bring Your Own Bowl

How we could all make our lunchtimes at MIT zero-waste

APR 2019
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
I don’t know about you, but I like to take a break at lunchtime. When, two years ago, I started my PhD, I used to walk everyday out of building 54 to go to the Stata Center cafe, ...

How to Pass a Harvard Class

What it’s like to be a cross-registered student

APR 2019
Technology and Policy Program
Shopping Day is like speed dating for courses at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Herds of students filter in and out of classrooms. Nervous chatter splinters out across the students until the professor sweeps in and quiets the crowd. There I sat...

MIT in a Year

How to make the most of a brief MIT experience

APR 2019
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Nine months. The length of a human pregnancy. Also the length of my time at MIT. To clarify, this is not a story about pregnancy. Ask most MIT graduate students how long they plan to be here, and two years is the minimum. Many will be here well beyond four as they pursue a PhD. But for...

Back to Square One

Learning to appreciate family

APR 2019
Operations Research Center
I just came back from Shanghai a week ago. It was my first trip home since I came to MIT in the summer of 2017. It’s been over a year and a half. I saw a lot of friends and family on this trip, including my high school math teacher. He told me the story of his wife giving birth to their twin...

Grief

Feeling at MIT

APR 2019
Physics
My dead dad emailed me today. I was sitting in a shared office along with a postdoc when I saw my dad’s name pop into my inbox. My breath caught in my throat. Is this a message from beyond? A beat passed. I clicked. I was sure the note was written by my dad. Alyssa, You have written this almost...

The Simple Pleasures of Gardening

Reaping actual fruits and vegetables while at MIT

APR 2019
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
There are few things in life as satisfying as eating home-grown food. Whether it is flavorful herbs, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers or other delicious produce, it is simply delightful to consume freshly picked fruits and vegetables. This is especially true after the endless supply of greasy pizzas...

So... What Do You Two Even Talk About?

The wonderful aspects of being in a relationship with a non-scientist

APR 2019
Chemical Engineering
When a new acquaintance learns that I am a graduate student at MIT, their first question is often about whether or not my husband is also an MIT student or postdoc. They are usually surprised to hear that he is not an MIT researcher — and further amazed to learn that he is not a scientist, engineer...

First Impressions of the USA

Did he just call me Mrs. Lincoln?

APR 2019
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
I arrived in New Jersey to attend graduate school two years ago. I was mostly nervous and a little bit excited. This was the first time I had flown internationally and also the first time I had flown in an airplane! Upon arrival I was greeted by the air hostess who apologetically told us that all...

Taking the Lead on Leadership

What MIT could do better

APR 2019
by Sam M.
Technology and Policy Program
A surprising portion of my undergraduate education at the United States Military Academy (West Point) was spent getting punched in the face, trying to stay alive in a class called survival swimming, and gasping for fresh air as I ran indoor obstacle courses. My after-school activities included...

Ways of Responding to Accusations of Intelligence

Use in case of emergency

APR 2019
Nuclear Science and Engineering
An awkward yet common situation that I’ve witnessed at MIT is one in which someone is accused of being intelligent. While grateful for such charitable perceptions, the accused is often left speechless, befuddled or even reflexively defensive. This post is not about how I feel about said accusations...

The Project Management Triangle

Applying project management fundamentals to graduate school

APR 2019
Integrated Design and Management
Graduate school is a wonderful time to indulge in research, fun side projects, and coursework. This is especially true at MIT, where opportunities are plentiful, whether it be startups, teaching, courses, or working with professors. This is both a blessing and curse, especially for someone like me...

Cambridge Tea Party

Maintaining your productivitea by getting off campus

APR 2019
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
I might be the only person in the world that looks forward to working on weekends. For most people, weekends are a time to sleep in or to catch up on their favorite TV shows but for me, I use work as an excuse to visit some of my favorite places in Cambridge: coffee shops. On weekdays, I rarely...

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...

Safety First!

When science comes before safety

APR 2019
Chemical Engineering
As an MIT grad student doing cutting-edge research, have you always keep safety as your first priority? I hope your answer to this question is, “yes”. But in reality, many people feel that paying attention to safety will reduce their productivity. All graduate students coming to MIT are undoubtedly...

Dressing for Battlefield Science

Fashion & being yourself while complying with laboratory safety

APR 2019
Biological Engineering
My first three years of grad school blur together as a haze of experiments and little else. Doing laundry every other week marked the passage of time. I would wash the same set of Gap Body shirts in every neutral color along with my three identical pairs of NYDJ jeans. At some point, I realized I...

You Can't Run Before You Walk

Navigating the initial stressful months at MIT

APR 2019
Mechanical Engineering
After completing my undergraduate studies in 2014, I began a slow-paced government job in India. As part of the job, I got a chance to explore the depth and widths of the country, with temperatures ranging from -10oC to 50oC. Overall it was an enriching experience, it taught me a lot about the...

A Corridor full of Giants

My transition from a tiny college to MIT

APR 2019
Chemistry
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...

Bilingualism is a Feature, Not a Bug

Shifting perspective on my non-native English

APR 2019
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
If you are a non-native English speaker like me, have you ever felt that your English was not good enough? And worse, did you feel that your English would never be as good as a native speaker’s? I did.   My native language is Mandarin Chinese, and while I learned English growing up in China and...

Venturing Into My Comfort Zone

When research and travel go hand in hand

MAR 2019
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Travelling is one of my favorite things to do, so I'm always excited when I get to travel for work. Since I’m a Ph.D. student in atmospheric chemistry in the environmental engineering department, you might think that my work naturally lends itself to performing research in the field. However, I do...

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...

The Art of Microwaving Food at MIT

How to avoid inviting harmful chemicals to your table

MAR 2019
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
My mom has been in the fertility business for more than ten years, developing solutions to ease the exhausting hormonal treatments required before in vitro fertilization. She introduced me to the concept of EDCs, or endocrine disruptor chemicals, which can interfere with the hormonal response of...

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...

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...

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 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...

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’...

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’...

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...