Beyond the Lab

PhD parenting in a pandemic
When I first heard about SARS-CoV-2, my wife and I had just flown back to the U.S. from visiting her family in China. She was already in her second trimester…
Routine in chaos
About a month into my first semester at MIT, I found myself sitting on my couch at 4pm, still in my pajamas I’d been wearing all day, working on a…
Pandemic pupils
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…
Hunting for what we lost
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…
When is the best time to start graduate school?
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…
Mayan, what else?
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…
Launching into the new year
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…
Getting closer to my “luck”
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,…
Fostering success
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…
A food scientist’s views on instant foods
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.…
Join today, plan for tomorrow
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)…
My musical journey in Boston
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.…
Does this make Epstein my boss?
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…
Grad student by day, standup comic by night
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…
New England-themed reading list
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…
This isn’t Canada, eh?
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.…
Packing for MIT: Laptop, winter coat, math phobia
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…
Unleashing my inner rockstar
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…
A journey through time: Voyaging into Boston’s “other” history
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…
COVID-19 elevates incidence of impostor syndrome in 1st year PhD student
“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…
There is more to MIT than lectures and labs!
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…
Be the [climate] change you wish to see
“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…
The silent 50%
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…
An unconventional path to MIT
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.…
A (rest)room of one’s own
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…
Dousing first-year burnout
“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…
Mitconceptions
“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…
Lost hobbies and how to find them
“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,…
Art of comfort
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…
Prospects of a prospective international student in a pandemic era
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…
Between three worlds
“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…
My advisor left MIT during my PhD
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…
Welcome to the CandE shop
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…
Safer grocery shopping guide during the COVID-19
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…
Ohana means family
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…
To the mom applying to grad school:
“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,…