Blogs

Mayan, what else?

Take the time to breathe and do what you like

April 2021
Technology and Policy Program
I was tired. My first semester at MIT was tougher than I had expected. I still have vivid memories of that defining evening of November. I was making my way back home with research ideas spinning in my head and started to feel anxious about the three p-sets I had to finish by week’s end. In short,...

Launching Into The New Year

Experiencing my first rocket launch

April 2021
Aeronautics and Astronautics
Though I’ve been called a space nerd and a rocket scientist before, I’ve never felt that I never really earned that title. After all, I’ve never witnessed a live rocket launch before—that is until this past MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP) in January 2020.  After finishing my first term as...

Pandemic pupils

How Covid-19 has transformed my perspective on outreach and education

April 2021
MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography / Applied Ocean Science and Engineering
Going to graduate school anywhere can be a form of culture shock. Often, the transition is from cosmopolitan to erudite and razor-focused, or team-based and casual to more isolated. But moving to do graduate school in a northeastern city in the U.S. from somewhere more rural, such as southwestern...

When is the best time to start graduate school?

Pros and cons of fresh-out-of-undergraduate and post-young professional paths

April 2021
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
I’ve technically had two “first days” of graduate school. The first one was in September 2012. Fresh out of undergraduate, I arrived that fall semester at MIT - completely burned out. After graduate school applications and a grueling final senior semester, I was running on fumes. I joined a lab...

Hunting for What We Lost

How the MIT Mystery Hunt Reminded Me Of How Bleak Pandemic Life Is

April 2021
Aeronautics and Astronautics
It is a unique feeling to be having such a fantastic time that you make yourself hopelessly, achingly sad.  During the Independent Activities Period (IAP) this past January, the annual MIT Mystery Hunt took place, and I competed with my undergraduate team, NES*. For those that don’t know, the MIT...

Getting closer to my “luck”

The story of my journey to MIT

March 2021
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
This is a story about an imperfect person finding her way towards incredible mentors and places. One day, I wish to hear your version of this story. 4 years ago, I was a sophomore in Singapore, studying signal processing and software development. I wasn’t the person I aspired to be - I wanted to be...

Fostering Success

Sometimes the youngest kids can teach the biggest lessons

March 2021
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Over the course of the fall semester, places in the US underwent varying stages of lockdown in hopes of slowing the spread of coronavirus. My hometown had some of the most severe lockdown rules, with all nonessential businesses halted for an extended period of time. But for all the personal...

A Food Scientist’s Views on Instant Foods

How to consciously generate instant happiness!

March 2021
System Design and Management
What comes to your mind when you hear the word "instant"?  How about "instant foods"?  When it comes to food, people tend to relate instantaneity with unhealthy, "bad for you", or processed. All those associations were also on my mind as a consumer. However, other questions were: Why do people...

Join today, plan for tomorrow

Why you should join your professional society

March 2021
Nuclear Science and Engineering
Whether it’s IEEE, ASME, AIChE, APS, or a different acronym, you are probably familiar with your field’s specific professional society. I became a member of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) as a college freshman in 2013. Eight years later, serving on the ANS board of directors and working toward...

Does This Make Epstein My Boss?

How MIT handled the Epstein scandal, dirty money, and why I’m still here.

March 2021
Microbiology
MIT’s Money Mistakes Just as I was starting graduate school at MIT, my pride in coming here was tainted by a national scandal that made me think twice about sporting that MIT hoodie. The arrest of Jeffrey Epstein in July of 2019 may seem like a lifetime ago, considering all the issues we grappled...

My musical journey in Boston

How a fortuitous encounter started my musical career

March 2021
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
An Instrumental Encounter “I am a musician.” I did not expect to hear those words during my lab rotation for the Health Science Technology program. I clearly remember the day. It was a chilly winter afternoon of 2018 at Lansdowne Street in Cambridge when I was introduced to a lab administrator, who...

Grad Student by Day, Standup Comic by Night

Finding communities outside of MIT

March 2021
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
According to Psychology.com, Americans fear public speaking more than death. Personally, I’ve never been followed by an unknown man in an alley after dark and thought I bet he’s trying to...

Packing for MIT: Laptop, Winter Coat, Math Phobia

How I survived MIT classes without a math background - and you can too!

March 2021
Biological Engineering
When I put my pencil down after muddling through the last particularly hairy integration-by-substitution puzzler on the 2013 AB Calculus AP exam, I felt relieved – both that I had survived the exam, and, more fundamentally, that I’d never have to take a calculus class again. Seven years later,...

New England-themed Reading List

Weathering this Winter with Literary Escapes

March 2021
Technology and Policy Program
First Impressions I grew up in southwestern China and Singapore, two sweltering hot places on Earth. In 2015, when I graduated from a college in Connecticut not too far from here, I decided that never again would I venture back to the New England climate and promptly moved to California. Well, fast...

A Journey through Time: Voyaging into Boston’s “Other” History

Personal Growth Outside of MIT

March 2021
Sloan School of Management
When you read the words “Boston” and “history,” what do you think of? For most folks, two events typically come to mind: 1) The Boston Tea Party, or 2) Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride (contrary to popular belief, he...

This isn’t Canada, eh?

The times Americans thought I was crazy

March 2021
Aeronautics and Astronautics
Born and raised in Canada, I wasn’t expecting a big societal change coming to MIT for grad school. In my mind, Canada and the US had essentially the same culture. But in this post, I wanted to share some of my experiences in the US that left me deeply confused. This isn’t going to be about the...

Unleashing my Inner Rockstar

Becoming a BollyX fitness instructor during grad school—and a pandemic

March 2021
Biology
How can we have work-life balance when the “work” part is infinite? This was my excuse for not prioritizing exercise when I came to grad school. In reality, I was drowning in insecurity. I despised every form of exercise while I was growing up. In school, I always had the slowest mile (by far), and...

COVID-19 Elevates Incidence of Impostor Syndrome in 1st Year PhD Student

A virtual MIT student, by any other interface, still belongs here.

March 2021
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
“Please have your tracking number or a copy of this email and your MIT ID with you when you come to the Facilities Customer Service Center located in Building 7 Room 019. Keys may be picked up Monday through Friday from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM excluding MIT holidays.” Great! Today was the day I would...

The Silent 50%

Women and Men Are NOT Equal

Feb 2021
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Every year, I look forward to the annual Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology (HST) Fall Dinner. Not for the free food, open bar or rare opportunity to dress up (although they surely don’t hurt), but almost exclusively for the company. HST is a unique program that allows PhD, MD and MD-PhD...

Be the [Climate] Change You Wish to See

Don’t underestimate the ripple effects of small changes

Feb 2021
Civil and Environmental Engineering
“What were they thinking?” That’s a common phrase we might say when we shake our heads at past generations for war, genocide, and slavery. As we eat our cheeseburgers in our air-conditioned cars while rolling past carefully manicured and fertilized lawns (otherwise called a...

There is more to MIT than lectures and labs!

How one day at Boda Borg changed my perspective of work-life balance

Feb 2021
Chemistry
I couldn't have been more excited when I joined MIT in summer 2018 and started with research straight away. I came here thinking that all I could do at MIT is complete the coursework and conduct research because that is what I had done as an undergrad. However, I knew not that something very...

An Unconventional Path to MIT

From Industry, to MicroMaster’s, to Master’s

Jan 2021
Supply Chain Management
For many of us, MIT has been our dream school since childhood. My personal journey leading to MIT took four years. It was a long time, but worth the wait. Let’s start at the beginning, in the summer of 2013. I had recently obtained my bachelor's degree, and had decided to take some time off before...

A (rest)room of one's own

Experiencing MIT through all-gender bathrooms

Jan 2021
by Cal G.
Biological Engineering
In the COVID-19 research ramp-up, one return-to-work guideline was hotly contested. Community members should remain seated while flushing to limit viral transmission. For a moment, my department was as obsessed with toilets as I was, although for different reasons. As a non-binary trans person, I'm...

Lost Hobbies and How to Find Them

Finding time for hobbies during graduate school

Jan 2021
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology
“Someday I’ll have more time for _______(insert your lost hobby here).” For years, this statement has been my approach to hobbies. I’ll have more time when this project is completed, or when the semester is over, or when I graduate from college. By constantly pushing these activities into the...

Dousing First-Year Burnout

The importance of making MIT your home

Jan 2021
Nuclear Science and Engineering
“How was your first week, hon? Have you found any fun clubs to join? Are you making any friends?” Typical Mom, still thinking of me as a kid. I had just started a graduate program at MIT. I was joining a group of the world’s most elite scientists, and I certainly didn’t have time for the frivolous...

Mitconceptions

Unlearning what I thought I knew about PhDs and MIT

Jan 2021
Biological Engineering
“Wait up for me!” I shouted after my father as I scrambled to keep up with him. At 6 years old, I didn’t really fit in with the college students dotting the quad under the hot summer sun, but I also didn’t really care. My dad, a professor of economics, was letting me tag along as he went about his...

Prospects of a prospective international student in a pandemic era

Hey, it’s 2020 everyone!

Dec 2020
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
The first six months of 2020 have been an emotional rollercoaster. The initial highs included receiving my acceptance letter from MIT; the lows — the COVID-19 outbreak and everything that followed from it, a canceled flight travel nightmare, the MIT campus closing, changing policies for...

Art of Comfort

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

Dec 2020
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
What’s your deepest impression of Boston? Lobster, or the Charles River maybe? For me, it’s the rich art atmosphere. It’s not just about how good museums are, but more about how convenient it is for us students to visit them. The Harvard art museum is by far my preferred destination. It’s right...

Between Three Worlds

There are more things in science and engineering, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your departmental curricula

Dec 2020
Computational Science and Engineering
“So are you an aerospace engineer or a mathematician?” asked my interviewer. I grinned. I was applying for a job in an applied math department, and with two degrees (bachelor’s and master’s) in aerospace engineering, I was expecting some form of this question. “I’m a computational engineer,” I...

My advisor left MIT during my PhD

Making difficult decisions with incomplete information

Dec 2020
Biological Engineering
It was a chilly November morning in 2014, and two months into my second year at MIT. My PhD advisor called for an all-hands group meeting with required attendance. We crammed into a tiny conference room: all 15 of us, whose lives were about to be turned upside-down. On the screen, my advisor...

Welcome to the CandE Shop

Building an Online Community for MIT Climate and Energy Enthusiasts

Dec 2020
Technology and Policy Program
I came to MIT knowing exactly what I wanted to pursue: ensuring reliable, secure, clean, and affordable energy for all. You’d think that it would be easy to find a community of similarly minded peers in MIT’s large climate and energy ecosystem. And in a way, it was. My master’s program,...

Safer Grocery Shopping Guide During the COVID-19

Grocery shopping has been even more difficult during the pandemic, but here are some tips!

Dec 2020
System Design and Management
I never thought that getting good food without a car would be difficult in my life since I lived in Taipei before moving to Cambridge. In Taipei, you’ll see convenience stores everywhere because Taiwan has the highest density per capita of convenience stores in the world. A five-minute walk in...

Ohana means family

Finding a community outside of MIT

Dec 2020
Biology
I was freaking out. My whole body was shaking from a massive adrenaline rush. No, I hadn’t just seen the data that would complete my thesis work. I had just been hit by a car. Honestly, it was more of a “love tap” and I was okay, but there was real contact by a real clueless driver, and I needed to...

To the Mom applying to Grad School:

How Motherhood led me to MIT

Dec 2020
Supply Chain Management
"Can't believe you got it done with children! Good for you!"  an old friend told me. I received similar remarks from other people as they learned that I had applied, enrolled and now attend graduate school with two young toddlers; they applaud my ability to do so DESPITE motherhood. However, as I...

MIT-isms

Crack the Code to MIT Conversation

Dec 2020
Mechanical Engineering
“Are you a first-year grad student?” “Yes, I am! What are you studying?” “Oh, I’m a Course 2, working on my SM – I’m taking my last 24 Units this semester. What Course are you?” “… ah, well, I’m taking statistics this semester?” To fresh recruits to the graduate community at MIT, this conversation...

Strange lands

On being a (foreign) grad student mom

Dec 2020
Political Science
“So how’s everything? How’s the baby?” This is the opening line at almost all of my meetings. And I really can hear the emphasis on the second part.  Growing up watching my own parents complete graduate degrees and then becoming a grad student myself for many years did not prepare me for the life...

Volunteering in a home away from home

Is it possible to volunteer while studying at MIT?

Dec 2020
History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society
When I was accepted to the Comparative Media Studies Master’s program at MIT, I had spent the previous five years working on technology for social justice nonprofits in Mexico. This work exposed me to and involved me in hundreds of projects with all sorts of collectives and organizations, and it...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...