Blogs

A stroke of luck?

Hospitalization during a pandemic

Dec 2020
Aeronautics and Astronautics
Back in April, I wrote about how running has remained an important form of stress relief to me during the pandemic, despite the loss of the usual social runs and goal races that motivate me to put on my shoes and get out of the house. On April 20th, I was meant to run my first Boston Marathon....

Vacation time!... What to do? What to do?

Opportunities for graduate students during pandemic and non-pandemic periods

Dec 2020
Integrated Design and Management
When packing my suitcases to do my Master’s in Engineering and Management at MIT, I was not just thinking about which classes I was going to take, but also about what I was going to do over the vacation period.      Three months of summer vacation is a lot of time to travel around the world. At...

Reasons to Cook for Yourself

An optimization problem

Dec 2020
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
 Have you noticed how MIT seems to repel good restaurants? Go Northwest to Harvard Square, and you'll see a squadron of restaurants catering to fortunate Harvard students. Go South, across the river, and you'll see a delightful selection of restaurants catering to happy shoppers. Go further East to...

Why I Vote and Why You Should Too

Your voice matters, so make it heard

Oct 2020
Aeronautics and Astronautics
“Voting is our civic duty.” This sort of rationale can seem awfully abstract to a graduate student who has multiple class assignments due this week and is being hounded by their advisor about an impending paper deadline. Taking time out of your busy day to register, apply for an absentee ballot,...

Beer in Class—but Peers Afar

Navigating the Freedom and Isolation of Virtual MIT

Oct 2020
Supply Chain Management
I sat in class, the professor again repeating the technique we were expected to learn but about which I was still woefully confused.  I was immediately struck with self-doubt.  I put my head down on the desk and started to cry. The small upside was that at least no one could see my meltdown. ...

How I came to Cambridge before I came to Cambridge

Lessons I learned as a newly accepted student during a pandemic

Oct 2020
Comparative Media Studies
I could finally see the finish line. If you were to ask me five months ago where I would be by Aug 10, 2020, I’d have said “in Boston” without blinking an eye. But guess what: COVID-19 spoiled my plans, and here I am, still in Mexico. To be honest, it was a bummer, mostly because I knew that I wasn...

Finding a Cambridge coffee home

An inner journey in pursuit of good coffee

Oct 2020
Biology
* Writer’s Note (September 2020): Wow, how things have changed. Re-reading this piece, which as written pre-COVID, makes me feel as if I’m now in my late seventies, looking back fondly upon the simpler times of my youth. Ironically, I write this note while drinking jasmine tea, alone in my garden,...

Playing Avalon on Zoom

How a virtual board game keeps us connected during quarantine

Sept 2020
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Many of us feel lonely during quarantine times, especially international students who are now outside the US, such as myself. To stay mentally healthy through this pandemic, it’s important to stay connected with friends back at MIT. So recently, we reconstructed a favorite Friday-night ritual of...

From Rockets to Rocking Chairs

Sitting in a rocking chair holding a baby wasn’t how I expected to kick off graduate school

Sept 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Lots of things have changed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Classes have moved online, schedules have shifted for fall breaks and holidays, and in general, everyone’s life has been altered. Personally, I had planned on moving to Cambridge in August to start pursuing my Ph.D. in MIT and...

Bench, bath and beyond

Transform your apartment into a yeast lab, and have fun doing it!

Sept 2020
Microbiology
One of the very first lessons you learn in microbiology is that while countless things can - and will - go wrong, you can almost always count on your microbes to grow. There is some strange comfort in knowing that what looks like clear liquid today will reveal countless gleaming colonies smiling up...

Shaking hands with death

My clinical experience through MIT

Sept 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
When I entered the room, I took a few moments to look around. The room was lit by a warm, orange glimmer sneaking through the window blinds, announcing the end of another beautiful summer afternoon. I took one step forward as the nurse pulled the bed curtain closed behind us. The patient was an old...

Ode to Crosswords

Are you down for a cross?

Sept 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
(If you are interested in listening along to me reading the poem aloud, click here)   Eighteen across, “Ponzi scheme”: fraud. Twenty-four down, “Heap kudos on”: laud.   “Opening word”, “Deli stock seed”, Two...

Managing your finances when your spouse can’t work

Being an F1 and F2 couple living on graduate stipend is challenging but manageable

Sept 2020
Technology and Policy Program
“Are you ready for the change in lifestyle?” That is the question that most of our friends asked when they heard about my plan to go back to school. We had a good life back in Jakarta, and we were about to leave all that and live on a budget in one of the most expensive areas in the US. But we...

Any tips on tipping?

The plight of an international student new to the tipping culture in America

Sept 2020
Mechanical Engineering
Picture having dinner at a restaurant with some friends. There’s a fun conversation going on right up to the point where the bill arrives. Perhaps it's only me, but I feel that in the moments that follow, the conversation dies down a little as everyone enters their tipping ‘headspaces’. A few take...

L’Autre, c’est moi

Sondering away in the heart of a young boy

Aug 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
As a child, I vividly remember staring for hours out the window in the back seat of my parents’ car, scrutinizing nearby people stopped at the red light or passing us on the highway. I’d see a driver singing her favorite tune, a couple absorbed in some deep conversation, or an entire family sitting...

How I passed my 1st-year classes

...by skipping them (please don’t tell anyone)

Aug 2020
Chemical Engineering
That’s right, I confess: I am a serial class skipper. It all started in high school, when I discovered it was possible to learn a lot more about a subject if I studied the material during class instead of paying attention to the teacher. Of course, I couldn’t physically skip classes back then...

My response to COVID-19

How my family came together during the pandemic

Aug 2020
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Being aware of the COVID-19 crisis in China and Italy, I found myself researching it and getting involved in conversations about it here in the US. Even before MIT sent out its first official announcement to shut down the campus, I was already working from home. A few days later, the official...

Navigating MIT

How to Survive in the Forest of Numbers

Aug 2020
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
MIT exemplifies a uniquely analytical and quantitative intellectual approach. It's a good thing, usually; after all, scientific revolutions like Newtonian physics began when we started putting stuff into quantitative perspective. MIT, however, took it a bit too far.  Humans are, in general, pretty...

The Infinite Rotation

After six failed lab rotations, one last chance to find a home

Aug 2020
Computational and Systems Biology
Switching labs is, optimally, disruptive. On September 3, 2019, the very beginning of my second year at MIT, my PhD program director called me into his office to explain that I needed to switch labs because one of my co-advisors was a research fellow, not a tenure-track professor, and the other...

Am I too busy for radio?

How my time spent on-air made me a better scientist

Aug 2020
Technology and Policy Program
The way I see it, a major part of being an “entitled millennial” is our personal conviction that we all have a message to share and a voice to be heard; its primary symptoms are the oversaturated podcast market and the unlimited supply of Instagram influencers. As a new graduate student at MIT with...

Rethinking orientation in the COVID-19 era

How the MIT graduate orientation is reforming itself this year

July 2020
Mechanical Engineering
Orientation is the stepping stone of the graduate student life experience at MIT. Every year, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) Orientation Committee (OC) organizes a series of orientation events for...

All-Weather Outings/Innings in the Northeast

Year-round climbing around New England (outings) and MIT (innings)

July 2020
Urban Studies and Planning
Moving to Boston from the Bay Area to start school at MIT, I had already mentally prepared to reduce my outdoor climbing and indoor climbing train time. Paradoxically, while being in the Bay Area, while I had access to world-class climbing destinations within a 4 hour drive, distance was a barrier...

Times May Have Changed, but MIT will Not

Looking Back at International IAP Adventures

July 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
My first year at MIT was filled with opportunities, more than I was able to take advantage of. In just one walk down the Infinite corridor, I could pick out a dozen flyers that piqued my interest. I deliberately slowed down, knowing that I had four to five more years to explore all that MIT had to...

Best Burgers and Convos at BBC

A quirky tradition unfolds the journey of grad school

July 2020
Chemistry
The first friend I made in grad school doesn’t go to MIT. We didn’t even meet in Cambridge. Josh and I met at a chemistry grad school visit weekend at Princeton. We instantly clicked not only over our obvious shared interest in chemistry, but also a strong passion for teaching. I spent a good chunk...

Making the switch

My journey of changing labs

July 2020
A year and a half into my master’s program, I decided to change labs. This may not sound as terrifying, but it means jumping into an ocean of uncertainty. Unlike many PhD programs at MIT, my master’s program doesn’t have the luxury of lab rotations with secure funding from the department. This...

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

Apply for August 10 & 13 online workshop

JUL 2020
Hi MIT Grads! The MIT Graduate Admissions Blog is excited to announce its upcoming August workshop on blog writing. In brief, Attend a 2-day blogging workshop: August 10th and August 13th, 10am-12pm. Write one blog submission Earn $100 upon...

Life at MIT could be stressful, but not for you!

Simple ways to manage stress as a grad student

July 2020
Mechanical Engineering
Stress is one of the common issues that every grad student experiences. Experiments or simulations don’t work most of the time, and the relationships with advisors/lab mates/friends might have their ups and downs. We all know the feeling of getting closer to a deadline and not having enough data to...

Pass the class — get a tat

The process of making permanent decisions

July 2020
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
Of all the injustices committed by well-intentioned cartographers, the one dealt to Antarctica is one of the most common and, from the point of view of this glaciologist, the worst. Picture Antarctica: do you see a wide, skinny strip at the...

So… you were accidentally admitted to MIT

Here’s how to fool everyone for five years

July 2020
Biological Engineering
I’m going to let you in on a secret: I’m a total imposter. I was admitted to MIT even though I’m not nearly as smart, driven, or successful as any of my peers. I can only tell you this now because I’ve passed my qualifying exams, so they can’t kick me out now. Although I can’t be sure, I believe...

It’s not just about the degree

Grad school is also about becoming the person you want to

July 2020
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
The beginning of grad school coincided with a lot of life changes. Grad school was one of them. Moving from Europe to the US was certainly another. However, the biggest life change operated silently, gradually and almost took me by surprise: I became an adult. But importantly, I learned, not...

What’s Your Grocery Strategy?

Feeding yourself in Cambridge without a car

July 2020
MIT Sloan MBA Program
Good food has long been my main vice. Before moving to Cambridge, I lived in DC and loved taking advantage of the diverse food scene. My Sunday ritual was going to the farmers market, heading to Whole Foods, and then coming home to cook for the afternoon. I knew once I was on a graduate student...

Getting into gear

The grad student’s survival guide to biking in the Boston area

July 2020
Biological Engineering
Living in the south of the US for most of my life, where the distance between locations of interest are large and biking infrastructure is almost non-existent, biking as a primary form of transportation never seemed like a serious option. Moving to Boston, I knew I wouldn’t be able to bring my car...

How to Walk (or Bike, or Bus) a Mile in My Shoes

The Joys of My Daily Commute

July 2020
Architecture
According to Apple Maps, my apartment is exactly one mile from the entrance of MIT’s campus. I just moved to Boston last August and was able to find a great place in the neighborhood known as “Cambridgeport.” I love this area. It’s quiet, close to a Trader Joe’s, and there is a freedom to how I can...

In Defense of the MBTA

You don’t know how good you have it.

July 2020
Technology and Policy Program
Trash littered across the floor. Stifling, oppressive heat in a poorly lit space. Loud screeching. The smell of burning… I don’t even know. No, I’m not at a damp college party. I’m in a T station. Man, I love the T. And I mean it. Let me explain why. One, my research revolves around combating...

Changing Your Habits One Sunrise at a Time

How to become a morning person through photography

Jun 2020
Biological Engineering
In my third year of graduate school, I decided to become a morning person. I had fallen into a group of friends who regularly got up at ungodly times of the day to go on various wilderness adventures, like climbing and skiing. Since I wasn’t getting up early on weekdays, my morning wakeup times...

Get out of the lab, get on Twitter

Why science Twitter is one of the greatest tools you have never heard of

Jun 2020
Chemistry
As any millennial, I spend a lot of time on social media. Facebook is my go-to place for cute animal videos or life updates from baby boomer relatives. Instagram is how I stay posted on what my friends, favorite celebrities, and social media influencers are up to. Every once in a while, you might...

*Actually* Looking Forward to my Commute

Or, my newfound love of podcasts

Jun 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Remember when iPods first became popular in the early 2000s and included an innocuous purple icon for the “Podcasts” app that hardly anyone paid attention to? Flash forward to 2019, when podcasts experienced a...

Mental Health Matters: Issue #2

Prioritizing your mental well being in difficult times

Jun 2020
This week we are publishing a second issue on mental health, with our first issue released in February 2020. In these difficult times for all of us, we believe that it's especially important to know that it is okay to reach out...

Ask and you shall receive

How grad school put me on a healthier path

Jun 2020
Biological Engineering
It was my first semester of grad school, and I was curled up in a ball on my dorm room bed. I was experiencing a distinct mixture of flu-like symptoms and crushing dread. It felt like the world was ending, even though from a rational place I knew that it definitely wasn’t. From my bed, I could see...

Holidazed and Confused

A guide to MIT’s institutional resources

Jun 2020
It’s December. Holiday music peals through the air, and the hallways are decked in reds, greens, golds and silvers. The anticipation for the end of the year hangs in the air, breathing down the napes of necks and nipping at the ankles of passersby. For many adults, December means the holidays and...

You mean, it’s not unhealthy?

Recovering from an eating disorder at MIT, and how we can make our Institute a healthier place

Jun 2020
Computational and Systems Biology
TRIGGER WARNING: eating disorders The road to kale is paved with good intentions Many students select their college majors because of inspiring teachers, envisioned careers, or particular interests. I was motivated to study Biochemistry for another, somewhat unusual reason: an eating disorder I’d...

My Journey Home

How I Came to Love Cambridge

Jun 2020
Mechanical Engineering
I am a California girl. I love walks on the beach, wearing shorts in January, cultural acceptance of athleisure wear as commonplace dress, and every restaurant having a vegetarian option. As a result, moving to almost the furthest state possible for at least half a decade came with some concerns....

Doing a PhD is a solo trip

It’s time to buckle up and take off

Jun 2020
Chemical Engineering
As the plane bound for Switzerland took off towards my first solo trip, the feelings of fear in that 3rd-year PhD student gave way to excitement as I realized: I am alone! What was so different about it this time? I had already been living alone and regularly traveling to visit family for nearly a...

Piruksraurugut!

We have to do it!

Jun 2020
Linguistics and Philosophy
For thousands of years, Inuit women celebrated womanhood and rites of passage by giving and receiving traditional markings. Two years ago, I received my tavluġun (chin tattoo) through a traditional Inuit hand poke method, where a needle is dipped into ink and then poked into the skin. Part of the...

Adapting to a Pandemic World

And how to make a difference in the process

JUN 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
I am the absolute worst at working from home. During college I often did my homework not only from home, but also while all nice and cozy in my bed – needless to say, those days are long behind me. When I got to grad school, I vowed to have some sense of normalcy about my workday and have done...

Making It Work

Makerspaces, corgis, and my Grad School Puzzle

JUN 2020
Mechanical Engineering
What if I told you that a grad school education could include the finer details of wooden corgi carving? If you told me that a year ago I would immediately respond with skepticism — “right, because that’s a productive use of time”. Yet, today I would argue that such education is not only possible...

Two cats move to Cambridge

How—and why—to relocate with pets

JUN 2020
Biology
Every night, when I come home, I’m greeted by the hungry calls of my two cats, Kiwi and Clem. Clem, the tortie, usually weaves in between my legs as I walk in, while her sister Kiwi, the calico, leads the way to the kitchen. After dinner, the cats loaf around in their usual spots―Kiwi on the couch...

The Buddy System

How checking in weekly can keep your goals on track

MAY 2020
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Graduate school is overwhelming and lonely at times. In addition to producing good research, graduate students have to balance networking, taking classes, staying updated on advances in their field by reading papers, and managing personal life goals. Everyone has a research advisor and, usually,...

A Thermodynamic Model of Friendship

Keeping up with friendships is energy-intensive

MAY 2020
Mathematics
Disclaimer: I have not taken a physics class in years, and the unavoidable inaccuracies in the discussion that follows should in no way reflect poorly on the professors/department that bestowed a physics degree upon me back in the day. Friendships take energy to maintain. Entropically speaking,...

My Year in the Wild

Why I Chose to Go into Industry Before Pursuing Grad School

MAY 2020
Aeronautics and Astronautics
Once I realized I wanted to be a professor, grad school felt inevitable. It was a question of when I wanted to spend at least five more years in school, not if I was going to do so. I spent my last couple years of college deliberating whether I was going to apply to graduate programs for aerospace...

Loafing Around at MIT

Why baking bread should be your next hobby

MAY 2020
Biology
I started baking not too long ago, mostly at the advice of acquaintances who were already proficient bakers. My first few attempts weren’t great; I once managed to omit an entire cup of water from a naan recipe, resulting in a hard puck-shaped mass with the texture of stale Ritz crackers. But I...

Terraforming Friendship

How friendship started to flourish after a game of Terraforming Mars

MAY 2020
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
My friend recently flew back to visit his grad school friends. All of us used to do many things together. Since he was back, we decided to play a game we enjoyed — Terraforming Mars. The game...

Is Grad School Harder than a Headstand?

How practicing my headstand turned into a metaphor for my PhD

MAY 2020
Chemistry
Editor Note: This post was originally written before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. The first semester of graduate school is pretty hard. You’re surrounded by new people from all over the world, you’re taking challenging classes, and in many departments, you’re also required to teach...

Teaching a Lab Module…on Zoom

How the pandemic impacted my life as a TA this semester

MAY 2020
Chemistry
“The first thing we have to talk about is coronavirus.” That’s what the director of the undergraduate chemistry laboratory said when all the lab teaching assistants (TAs) gathered at the beginning of the semester. Back then, our only concern was helping students who were missing class due to self-...

Big Changes in the Qualifying Exam Procedure

The many responses to AeroAstro's new quals process, and how it might be linked to implicit gender bias

MAY 2020
Aeronautics and Astronautics
Imagine standing in front of a panel of faculty members, some of the most prominent academics in the world of aerospace engineering, having prepared for a short 60 minutes to complete an oral exam and prove your competence in the field in which you hope to receive your PhD. In many departments at...

An Indian Spice Blend™ You Won’t Find at Whole Foods

Add one tablespoon of Indian to one tablespoon of American to achieve optimal confusion

MAY 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
One of the most challenging tasks every family must undertake at some point in their lives is deciding what to watch together. One evening, the compromise for our family was Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix standup special, Homecoming King. It was a win-win: my immigrant parents got to see a young brown man...

The Bright Side of Isolation

A few positive aspects of social distancing

MAY 2020
Mechanical Engineering
Being a graduate student whose work mostly takes place on a PC, the changes in MIT policies related to COVID-19 have not impacted my academic work by a large amount so far. On the other hand, the social impact of it has been much more profound. From an exponential increase in the discussions (...

Dungeons and Biology

A tale of biologists, some dice, and keeping each other sane

MAY 2020
Biology
Every other Sunday, six biologists gather around my apartment’s dining table. The meeting starts out normally enough, each of us giving one science and one non-science update about our lives since we last met. We recap our previous meeting. What happens next is less normal. I begin narrating: “The...

Letters to a Not-So-Young-Anymore Grad School Applicant

Reflections during critical moments

MAY 2020
Urban Studies and Planning
Now that I am close to graduating with a masters degree in City Planning, I’m reflecting on how I’ve grown in the past two years. It was a year before that, in the summer of 2017, when I decided to apply to grad school. By that time I had worked for five years at several architecture firms. I felt...

What Do I Do When I Can’t Go to Lab?

Ways to move your research forward when running experiments isn’t an option

APR 2020
Chemistry
Sometimes, going to lab isn’t an option. Whether it’s due to an injury, illness, family or, as in 2020, COVID-19, life often gets in the way of planned experiments. But that doesn’t have to stop you from working on your research! There are lots of ways to push your research forward without...