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Waiting for Rejection, Finding Empathy

Waiting for Rejection, Finding Empathy

May 23, 2017

A PhD is lonely. It’s especially lonely when all of your friends are getting married, when you are a perpetual bridesmaid watching your closest friends enter a new chapter while you are literally stuck in the same place. Most days, my life is stagnant: my code doesn’t work, paper writing is in the same place, […]

Always Where the Food’s At

Always Where the Food’s At

May 22, 2017

Is there going to be food? If the answer is yes, I’m there. On my lab group’s Slack messaging channel, the description below my name is always where the food’s @. As a student at MIT, you begin to notice that nearly all events provide free food. The usual choices are bagels and pastries for […]

Making Whoopie (Pies)

Making Whoopie (Pies)

May 20, 2017

When you think of things a graduate student might do to relieve stress, baking and assembling 90 whoopie pies probably doesn’t make the cut. Here’s the scene: every surface of my apartment is covered in misshapen disks of chocolate cake. I plop fluffy whipped cream onto the disks and sandwich them together—careful to not let […]

Defining a Real Sloanie

Defining a Real Sloanie

May 19, 2017

I still remember when I was about 5 years old, it was my first day at kindergarten and I was scared to meet so many new kids. But I recall it being less scary for me than for most of them because I knew how to tie my shoes. Spending my first few weeks helping […]

Rebooting Your PhD

Rebooting Your PhD

May 18, 2017

In July of 2013, I was abruptly told to leave lab. No warning, no chance to explain myself. The fact is, a sizable fraction of students do end up changing labs. Sometimes the cause is relatively benign — a professor gets a job offer elsewhere, or you realize you don’t like working with mice after […]

Visiting Olde Boston

Visiting Olde Boston

May 17, 2017

My dear family and friends, I am so delighted to learn of your intention to visit! It would be wonderful to see you again and show you around this beautiful city that I’ve come to call home. Although I’ve lived here for a few years, it often takes the special occasion of visitors to create […]

Ladies Lunch

Ladies Lunch

May 16, 2017

First-year students in the biology department take classes and do rotations. Since we don’t join a lab until the end of the academic year, we have a designated room — “The Pit” — where we have access to books, computers, printers, lockers, and a relaxing lounge area. During my first year in graduate school, The Pit […]

East Asian Food Odyssey

East Asian Food Odyssey

May 15, 2017

The saying, “a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” rings true to me. I inherited the joy I get from food and the importance I put on it from my late grandfather. On family trips he would pick out amazing restaurants that brought back memories of when he was young, and where […]

Glowing Green Goo

Glowing Green Goo

May 14, 2017

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “radioactive”? For many people, this word conjures up images of ominously glowing material. In the opening credits to The Simpsons, a running gag is Homer’s mishandling of a glowing green bar of radioactive material. As someone who works with a fair bit […]

Handmade Research

Handmade Research

May 13, 2017

When I first took my parents to my lab, my father was appalled. “This place is worse than my shop.” To truly understand this insult, consider that my father is a farmer who works in a 40-year-old shop with concrete floors and metal walls. Seed is sometimes stored in the back, the machining equipment is […]

Modern Love & Job Hunting

Modern Love & Job Hunting

May 12, 2017

This email isn’t quite right. I think I just need to read through it one last time and tweak that description of myself at the end. Is he going to be interested in talking to me? Is this a truthful description of who I am and what I’m looking for? Ok, I just want to […]

Graduate Women Explore a Path to Professorship

Graduate Women Explore a Path to Professorship

May 10, 2017

Learn more about the Path of Professorship program. Every November, I join a planning team of graduate students, postdocs, and the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education to offer a two-day workshop called Path of Professorship (PoP) for MIT’s graduate and postdoctoral women considering careers in academia… Read more at the Slice of MIT.

Out and About at MIT

Out and About at MIT

April 11, 2017

In graduate school I explored and developed a new side of myself. And no, I’m not talking about academics or hobbies, this was far more personal. This was about coming to terms with being gay, finding a partner and telling my friends and family. I want to share this story and how the awesome people […]

How I Learned to Drink from a Firehose

How I Learned to Drink from a Firehose

April 10, 2017

Only three weeks into my time at MIT, I was so busy that I was barely getting any sleep. I slept with my laptop and dorm room lights on; the sole reason to catch some sleep was to wake up and get going on things for the next day. I grabbed food for survival at […]

Confessions of a Green Tea Addict

Confessions of a Green Tea Addict

April 9, 2017

Just as some people are addicted to coffee, I am addicted to green tea. However, I think ‘addiction’ is a too strong of a word. I do not drink green tea twice a day in my office while working on research and problem sets, like how others drink their coffee. I cannot recall the exact […]

Being a Historian at MIT

Being a Historian at MIT

April 8, 2017

I’m a graduate student at MIT, but my experience here is not the norm. I state that with confidence because I… am a historian. As of writing this post, I’m a fourth-year doctoral candidate in an interdisciplinary PhD program shared among the History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology & Society departments—HASTS for short. There are only […]

Can You Get a PhD Without an Advisor?

Can You Get a PhD Without an Advisor?

April 7, 2017

I applied to MIT to study nuclear power policy with three top experts in the field. Any of them would be great advisor, so I decided to come to MIT. In the six months between when I visited campus and the start of classes, the first professor retired, the second was promoted out of the […]

In the Art of the City

In the Art of the City

April 6, 2017

I spent my childhood in Shanghai, the largest city in China. However, as a child, I never had the chance to explore this big city. After I graduated from high school and moved to Pasadena with my family for my undergraduate studies, I became accustomed to life in the suburbs, a place where people drive […]

My Degree by the Numbers

My Degree by the Numbers

April 5, 2017

Two teams, 11 unique personalities, seven months, 14 classes. A return to New England Patriots nation after a six-year journey where I resided in three different states (and one district). An opportunity to complete two masters’ degrees in two years supported by 27 global corporations. Adding to the mix travel to 22 states and countries […]

From My Future Self

From My Future Self

April 4, 2017

Dear Alicia (circa 2015), Hi! It’s me. Or you, from the future. I’m writing you from the fourth semester of our grad school experience (the one you’re about to embark on!). I know you’re simultaneously thrilled  and terrified to start a PhD program at MIT! Let me tell you, it’s going to be one of […]

Finding Great Escapes

Finding Great Escapes

April 3, 2017

As a 78 degree breeze brushed against my shoulders, I took my first sip of the local cocktail of choice, Ti Punch. I must look like such a local, ordering a Ti Punch and not a mojito, I thought to myself. The burning sensation of alcohol shot up my nose. Whoa! Punch was an understatement. […]

An Unexpected Mentor

An Unexpected Mentor

April 2, 2017

“You win some, you lose some. Well… you lose most,” Sunny said, reacting to our latest unsuccessful experiment. We frown at the lab bench briefly before laughing at the silliness of the situation. Sunny shrugs, standing by his statement and commenting on the nature of grad school as he reminds me that we put in […]

The Infinite Corridor

The Infinite Corridor

April 1, 2017

“How do I get to MIT?” I asked. It was a sunny afternoon with a crisp fall breeze. I was only 2 weeks into my first trip to the US, but I was already missing the warmth of Mumbai air. “Well, you are already at MIT,” the lady standing near a white sculpture of human […]

Confronting AlphaGo

Confronting AlphaGo

March 31, 2017

In March 2016, world champion Go player Lee Sedol was defeated by the computer program AlphaGo in a five-game match. As someone who doesn’t play Go, follow professional Go, or study computer science, this shouldn’t have been a big deal to me. But it was. Go is incredibly complex: if every atom in our universe […]

Communicating Science

Communicating Science

March 30, 2017

Survival of the fittest. A succinct, elegant tenant of life—and perhaps the most famous words to be uttered in all biology. Uttered by whom, though? You might be surprised to learn it wasn’t Charles Darwin. It was Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist. Spencer “lifted” survival of the fittest out of Darwin’s Origin […]

Returning to MIT

Returning to MIT

March 29, 2017

I came back to MIT as a graduate student more in spite of my time as an undergraduate here than because of it. And I’m so glad that I did. Now, don’t get me wrong. My hesitation wasn’t because my undergraduate experience wasn’t amazing. It was. I loved my first time at MIT, and would […]

Human Touch

Human Touch

March 28, 2017

As native Californian, choosing to attend MIT came as a shock to my family. When I moved to Boston, they started placing bets on whether I would stay past the first blizzard, and how long I would last in general. Luckily for me, I moved to the east coast during one of the tamest Boston […]

How the Squirtle Spawn

How the Squirtle Spawn

March 27, 2017

Graduate student life is very busy, especially at MIT. No two days in the lab are the same. In my opinion, this is what makes science and being a student at MIT so exciting. There’s never a shortage of people making strides in their research. Some days I might be in the lab for 16 […]

It’s a Match!

It’s a Match!

March 26, 2017

One of the best feelings as a student is receiving that acceptance letter from a school or program you thought was nearly impossible to get into. However, for graduate school, getting in is only the first step. The next step is to find an advisor, which can be difficult. For programs that don’t have official […]

My Road to Yelp Elite

My Road to Yelp Elite

March 25, 2017

Fact: The quickest way to attract students (and usually professors) is to promise food of any kind. Whereas I should be asking, “Interpretable natural language models talk vs. a mentorship lunch for women in computer science?” … I find myself asking, instead, “Do I want free Brazilian BBQ or free Indian curry?” Some graduate students […]

Fighting Depression

Fighting Depression

March 24, 2017

“Who is she? Why does she look so sad?” It was a summer day in 2013. After lying in my bed and staring at the ceiling without doing anything for the entire day again, I finally got up. When I looked into the bathroom mirror, I saw my eyes filled with tears. What is worse, […]

The Case for Quantum Morality

The Case for Quantum Morality

March 23, 2017

I should start by saying that everything that I’m about to write may or may not be completely bogus. Still, I haven’t convinced myself that it’s not bogus, so I guess I’ll share it anyway.   I want to make the claim that our understanding of physics should influence our ethical decisions. To ease you […]

45 Dreams Deferred

45 Dreams Deferred

March 22, 2017

Dressed in a freshly dry-cleaned suit for graduate school visits, I marched proudly and eagerly into my first one-on-one interview with a prospective PI. “Hi, I’m Amanda!” “Nice to meet you, I’m Rob. Are you good at failing?” “What do you mean?” I stared blankly, taken aback by his bluntness. He smiled knowingly and leaned […]

Overheard at MIT

Overheard at MIT

March 20, 2017

What if you could be a fly on the wall in the place where some of the most important things were invented? Arriving to MIT Sloan as an MBA student, I was determined to be involved as much as I could in the MIT ecosystem and the Boston entrepreneurship scene. This enabled me to hear […]

Bundle Up!

Bundle Up!

March 19, 2017

I grew up in Puerto Rico (PR), where the average temperature is about 85 degrees Fahrenheit in “winter” time. Despite not knowing what winter meant in New England, I decided to come to MIT for graduate school. I knew that it would be an adjustment, and a few things caught me by surprise, but if […]

Eat Your Vegetables

Eat Your Vegetables

March 18, 2017

I’ve made a HUGE mistake… It’s Wednesday afternoon, and I’m standing in my kitchen staring at a pile of vegetables meant to feed a family of 5. One problem: I’m a family of one. How will I eat all of this spinach? Is it even healthy to eat this many beets? This one looks like […]