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May 13 2008

A Day in the Life (3)... [Biochemistry]

Posted in: Academics & Research

[by Patrick '09]

I am another Biochemist coming from MIT to Cambridge. I am not nearly as advanced as Kathy, so I have no lab work at all. Instead, I take a lecture course, hashing out the basics. Differences between the two educational systems
are very fundamental.

As Kathy has said, Biology as conceived by Cambridge is about knowing a vast set of facts. Moreover, this set is rather rigidly defined for undergrads; it's an old philosophy, which says that all "educated" people should have a common foundation. Ask any young Cantabridgian to expound on collagen, but s/he may not know how to use a pipette:

Cambridge teaches passion. It assumes that tools will appear if the idea is planted in you. Learn about poetry, and you will acquire literacy to write your own.

At MIT, students are equiped to look pretty in the lab. For example, I can pour a gel, then set up a PCR and eat lunch before the gel sets. I understand not how or why. Last year, I finished an entire project on a protein,... read the post »

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May 8 2008

Life and Learning in the Other Cambridge

Posted in: Academics & Research

[by Justin '08]

"We are, we are, we are, we are..." The Engineer's drinking song is being proudly sung by a pack of ever so slightly inebriated beavers. Our Harry Potter friends are looking on in amazement as to what kind of Wizard's Institute of Technology could engender such devotion. The Cambridge-MIT exchange has successfully made this year's land-fall and both universities are trying to learn each other's secrets to success.

Although some of my fellow MIT students view our exchange as Cambridge trying to shake off its 700 year layer of dust and pick up some MIT-brand entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, my exploits in the Mathematics department have led me to a different perspective. It's not all cranky tradition on this side of the pond, and Cambridge has a few tricks of its own to share.

Structurally, Cambridge and MIT couldn't be more different. Learning is divided up into three independent branches, that I will argue provide a superior culture for learning. These three... read the post »

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May 4 2008

A Day in the Life (2)... [Mathematics]

Posted in: Academics & Research

[Justin '08]

Hi everyone. I went on the exchange for 06-07 (so I'm senior now heading off to math grad school next fall).

I really appreciate Kathy's post (A Day in the Life...), but I should also point out that the Exchange offers a wide range of experiences and can depend significantly on what subject you are studying. I went through Course 18, to study the second year Mathematical Tripos (Part IB):

http://www.maths.cam.ac.uk/undergrad/course/

It should first be said that I worked nearly as hard if not harder there at Cambridge in my junior year than during my time here at MIT. The learning style is definitely different at Cambridge and requires a great deal of individual motivation and tenacity to make it through the year successfully, i.e. earning first-degree class marks on the exams.

In particular, although the only evaluation for Cambridge occurs at the end of the year in the form of four 3-hour exams (the tripos), these exams require a great deal of preparation and are... read the post »

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May 1 2008

A Day in the Life… [Biochemistry]

Posted in: Academics & Research

[by Kathy '09]

Hi guys! I'm here to talk about "life as a biochemist, at MIT and Cambridge." I think the best way to illustrate the difference is to give you a portrayal of what a typical day is like in both places:

TYPICAL DAY AT MIT (SPRING 2007)

9am - 10am
Hit the snooze button 5 times. Hit the snooze button one more time after deciding to skip breakfast for those 10 extra precious minutes of sleep. Get ready for class in record time. Still arrive late (had to grab some coffee).

10am - 11am
First lecture is thermo & kinetics (5.60). This's actually a really interesting class (the lecturers are especially good Spring semester). Manage to stay awake because of content.

11am - noon
Next is biochem II (5.08). It's co-taught by the amazing Prof. Stubbe (who, in addition to being a brilliant scientist and an engaging lecturer, sprays dozing students with water from a squirt bottle, and has a dog named McEnzyme) and the amazing Prof. Ting (who is very hardcore, and also my previous... read the post »

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Apr 27 2008

Cream Tea with the MIT Club of Great Britain

Posted in: Academics & Research

The MIT Club of Great Britain invited us to cream tea recently. Here comes another confession of cultural ignorance, I did not know what cream tea was when I went to this event. But the president of the club kindly explained to us that while most of us probably thought that cream tea was an event where you drink tea with cream, it's actually eating scones with cream and jam, and drinking tea, of course.

For those of you who don't know, there are MIT clubs all over the world and they're basically for anyone who has any connection with MIT and want to stay in touch with other MIT people in the area. Clubs organize things like picnics, hikes, and trips to fun places. While this sounds like a lot of fun and something that everyone would want to do, I was told at the event that many clubs actually has very poor attendance. Busy beavers... The Great Britain club was pretty much nonexistent for a few years until the current president, Linda Morecroft, started it up again. Except the Hong... read the post »

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