Blogs: Fear and Failure

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...

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...

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 Business Does a Modeler Have at Sea?

Lessons learned from a research cruise

APR 2020
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
If you’re anything like me, then there is a good chance you have never even heard of a research cruise. That was about my (lack of) knowledge level until I started applying to graduate schools. Next thing I knew, I was a part of the incoming class for the MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography/...

Networking for Introverts

How to break out of your shell

APR 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted to us before the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, but we believe that the advice given here is still highly relevant in the time of quarantine  – when both group and one-on-one meetings are as important as ever. Networking. For some of us...

Fitting into MIT

How imposter syndrome gave me a sense of belonging

APR 2020
Mechanical Engineering
When I got my acceptance email from MIT, I actually cried. My childhood dream was coming true, and my emotions were a whirlwind of excitement and disbelief. In a fit of excitement, I called my mom and somehow managed to string together words to convey the good news to her. At the end of the phone...

Continued Community in the Era of Social Distancing

Rainbows among the storm clouds

APR 2020
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Coronavirus has drastically changed our daily lives as MIT students. In the span of a week, we have gone from attending regularly scheduled classes and happily discussing spring break plans to an almost vacant campus. My heart goes out in sadness to the senior undergraduate students who never got...

Forced to Leave Home

MIT Grad Housing’s Disorganized Response to COVID-19

APR 2020
Biology
A message to MIT grad housing: if your tenant’s best housing option is to haphazardly make a 13-hour interstate drive in the middle of a literal plague after being given only two days’ notice, you are doing something horribly wrong. I live in one of the graduate dorms —...

To Separate or To Engage?

Reflections during my country’s great war against the coronavirus epidemic

MAR 2020
Operations Research Center
In China, each year begins twice. First on January 1 and once again on the traditional Lunar New Year (this year’s date: January 25, 2020). The days in between the two New Years are a somewhat peculiar time – though New Year has dawned in other places of the world, in China, students are taking...

Schrödinger’s Graduate Student

The paths to success in graduate school are as arbitrary as the goal itself

MAR 2020
Biology
Four years into graduate school, I still struggle with a simple question: what makes a successful graduate student? I don’t mean the end product of a student with a flashy C.V., a long list of publications, or a dream job. Instead, I wonder: what does a successful graduate student look like in...