I was very surprised one day to realize that I had developed a single callous on the pad of my right thumb. I can’t remember the last time I got a callous: I don’t rock climb, play an instrument, or do extreme sports. I don’t even take classes anymore, so I rarely write with a pen. Then it hit me: literally the only thing I do with my right thumb is pipetting. It was a pipetting callous.
I love helping people learn.
I first got a taste of this at the military academy where I completed my undergraduate degree. I taught new cadets and new Airmen about marching and other aspects of being in the military. Later, I worked an obstacle course where I had to teach safety and proper obstacle completion technique. It was one of the few activities where I found myself smiling while doing it.
Fast forward to my first year of grad school.
"Let us choose for ourselves our path in life,
and let us try to strew that path with flowers."
– Emilie du Chatelet, Physicist
I love dresses and bows, face masks and makeup.
When I get ready for a day in lab, I avoid it all.
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 our luggage had to be left behind in the airport at my home country (India) due to technical difficulties. A check-in bag, my wallet, and a phone without a network was all I had.
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.
"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 merely the messenger could disguise the passive-aggressive way of questioning my life decisions. Decisions which, I might add, I'm pretty darn happy with.
The primary decisions in question are these:
“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.”
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 conference (the deadline was the day before the competition), and I was exhausted. However, I had been so excited to practice my public speaking skills!.. When I saw that this year’s theme was “Taking Risks”, I knew exactly what the topic of my speech should be.
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.
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 elected president. In their own ways, both opened my eyes to a whole new way of seeing the world.