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MIT student blogger Paul B. '11

A Look Ahead by Paul B. '11

The fight's begun but not yet won.

I took my first final today: 8.022, Electricity & Magnetism with Theory. It wasn’t a bad class, all told. Circuits are pretty cool, and I liked the bits about relativity (too bad it wasn’t really on the final) – but there is a big difference between knowing something in theory and knowing how to apply it to an exam question. (Prefrosh, take note of this.) We’ll see how it all goes, but all in all I am very happy to be done with my physics requirements. =)

Enough about finals, though! As I said in the tagline, the fight’s begun but not yet won, and I’d rather blog about something a little happier than MIT final exams. And the happiest thing I can think of right now is what comes immediately after final exams…the summer!

Why am I so happy about the summer? Apart from the fact that I get to head back home for a week ago and see my family (Boston is amazing but a break is nice sometimes, and besides my mommy misses me), the summer means I get to do research! About a week ago, I officially confirmed what lab I’ll be in: I’ll be working in the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research! Oncology has been a major research interest of mine since I was in high school, so I was incredibly excited when MIT announced that they would be erecting a new building dedicated solely to cancer research. Possibly even more exciting than the building itself, though (not to mention the $100 million gift that made it possible!), is that the Koch Institute’s express mission is to bring together scientists and engineers, so that they can mutually benefit from each other’s ideas, insights, and skills.

As a bioengineer-in-training, nothing could thrill me more – and I’m incredibly excited to be a part (however small) of the new Institute.

To get into the specifics, I’ll be working with Professor of Biology Angelika Amon to investigate the effects of aneuploidy on tumorigenesis in yeast cells. To translate from Biology-ese, I’ll be researching how having an abnormal number of chromosomes affects the proliferation rate of yeast. Basically, we’re trying to guess what gene or genes cause cancer, which I personally think is Pretty Darn Cool.

Of course, I still don’t understand everything about the project – which is to be expected, considering I haven’t even started working yet. I’ll be working primarily with a post-doctoral fellow named Eduardo, who’s going to show me the ropes of the project – particularly in regards to working with yeast culture – and I’m sure he’ll explain the finer details as we go along.

As for what else is going to be on my plate this summer, I hope to pick up my first “real” programming language (it’s looking like Java or Python at this point) and get a jump start on some of my coursework for next semester. Apart from that, I’ll be living in my fraternity, which I’m really looking forward to (about 15 brothers, out of 41 total, are staying). Quite a few of my other friends are also staying on-campus in dorms or some of the fraternities, so I expect I’ll always be able to find something to keep me occupied.

What are your plans for the summer?

35 responses to “A Look Ahead”

  1. Kyle says:

    This summer I plan on going to the Young Scholars Program at FSU!

  2. Anonymous says:

    This summer I’m going to Houston, TX for a very awesome competition smile

  3. derrick says:

    this summer i’m graduating! cancer research sounds good though. i hope yeast cultures smell better than e. coli (i hear they smell like bread or beer instead of poop)

  4. Keri says:

    I don’t even notice the smell of E.coli anymore. But it’s okay, because my new project involves yeast cultures instead! Woo!

    So yeah, I’ll be here this summer.

  5. Aditi says:

    I didn’t know about the Koch Institute but now that I do I’m completely taken in.

    Have fun saving the world over the summer smile

  6. Meghan says:

    I’m interning at a biomedical engineering firm! They do genotyping. And bunny suits make everything better. yay. smile Oh, and at night I plan on picking up a job as a server somewhere.

  7. Judy '12 says:

    I’m going back to visit China (after 10 years)…

    and I’ll be in Sichuan helping with earthquake relief for a while

  8. Li '12 says:

    It looks like I’ll be heading to some sort of job this summer, nothing super-exciting :-(

    Your research opportunity sounds awesome! I can’t wait to do a UROP. I’m just curious though (I’m aware that this might sound like a really stupid question), when you refer to “the Koch Institute’s express mission”, what exactly differentiates scientists and engineers in a research setting?

  9. Yuzhi'12 says:

    I was lucky and got a internship from one of the MIT ECs at a semiconductor company in the Silicon Valley.
    I’ll be soldering and testing lots of boards, and I’ll learn about what most of their products/chips/boards do. I’ll also be studying from the EC’s MIT Circuit textbook!
    It’s going to be lots of fun. I can’t wait to graduate high school and start my internship.

  10. Jeremy '12 says:

    Work, work, and more work… but it’s all worth it for MIT!

  11. donaldzmom says:

    Hi Paul!*waves* Sounds like an interesting and productive summer. Seems like lots of MIT students stay in town and do research. I am glad that you realize that your Mommy misses you and are at least giving her a week. I am going to Italy and Greece next month, who cares that the dollar is at an all time low?

  12. Hawkins says:

    Awesome! Cancer research! That’s exciting, even though I loathe biology.

  13. working!
    oh yeah, and fun things too hahaa
    like putting my entire room in boxes to bring to MIT!

  14. Shannon '12 says:

    In a roundabout way, researching a cure to cancer. For realz. I’m super pumped.

    And on top of that, I actually get paid. Awesomeness? I think so.

  15. Karen '12 says:

    The bio geek in me just did a dance smile Blog lots!

    I will be working. All summer. Here’s to hoping that I make a dent in those college loans!

  16. Paul says:

    @Chris: Hah, really? That’s awesome, I should tell her I know you…

    @Shannon: Sounds a lot like my UROP! smile ( I guess I forgot to mention the payment part originally. :D)

    @Karen: Haha, will do!

    @Ivan: Those are all great questions. I’m going to answer them more in depth in a later entry, but basically, there are many ways to find UROPs: talking to professors, being on mailing lists for academic departments, checking the offical UROP website, etc. As for a programming language – yes, ideally I would like to use computational methods to help with my research. More on that later, though – sorry! Obviously, it’s something I’m very passionate and I just don’t have space here (or time, it is Finals Week after all) to answer that question to the extent I would like.

    @Li: That’s a very good question, actually. At MIT, you sort of get used to falling back on this “scientists are A, engineers are B” mentality – without actually asking yourself what A and B really are. Maybe more people should ask themselves that…because I do feel that scientists and engineers aren’t all that different. That being said, I’ve done research with both scientists and engineers, and each “camp” definitely has distinct ways of approaching the world. So while the real answer is probably more complex than this, I personally feel (and have observed) that engineers are more problem- and solution-oriented, whereas scientists are more question- and investigation-oriented. And, of course, the way scientists and engineers are trained is pretty different as well. This is a great topic for future thought – I’ll try to address it in more depth later after I’ve actually worked with other researchers at the Koch Institute! smile

    @donaldzmom: I love Italy and Greece – I went for a class trip in high school and fell in love. I hope you have fun (and take lots of pictures)! Regarding other MIT kids – yes, there are quite a few staying, but a good number are also leaving to do amazing things off-campus too! I hope to write a post soon that highlights some of the cool things MIT students do over their summer break.

  17. I’ll be… at the ‘Tvte! I can’t wait for Interphase ’08!
    Gawd, I sound like a cheerleader…

  18. Tanmay '12 says:

    @ Li and Paul: As an engineer I would want to build something that preferably works fine… keeping money and time in mind. A scientist usually wants that thing to work better, to suit his or her requirements. I think that’s the biggest difference between the two: ‘well’ and ‘better’.

    I agree with Paul on this…

  19. Anon says:

    Hmmm. Could you recommend anything for a rising high school junior who’s too young to get any decent lab research opportunities (around 14-15 years old)? She’s not interested in medicine, but engineering is more her thing, and she’s really motivated– any suggestions?

  20. Paul says:

    @Anon: As a rising junior, I participated in the Notre Dame “Introduction to Engineering Program (IEP),” which was excellent – that program is really what prompted me to look at engineering seriously, as a career. Technically the program is for rising seniors (so perhaps the girl you mention can do it next year?), but I was lucky enough to have an exception made. There’s also the Women’s Technology Program (WTP).

    In general, I think that academic summer programs are a great way to explore new ideas in an age-specific setting. MIT has a partial list of some great summer camps and programs, but there are many more not included on that list. Googling or talking to your high school guidance counselors can help you find some of them. I hope this helps.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I have a question for Paul (or any other current student)
    I know you guys have finals this week. I were to visit next week, would there still be a lot of students on campus?

  22. Snively says:

    In a word. . . no.

    They kick us out (that’s pretty blunt, how about, “move out date”) right after finals so unless people are staying over the summer the campus kinda drains.

  23. Dima '12 says:

    Wow Paul, sounds like an awesome summer plan, what a way to kick off your bioengineering career! Will you (and the other bloggers) be blogging over the summer? (You really should y’know. raspberry)

    Most of my summer will be spent doing volunteer work, most probably focusing on China, Darfur, and South-East Asia. There’s also the July FEE and the not-so-exciting task of figuring out the best way to get my stuff to Boston from over 6000 miles away.
    As for the engineer vs. scientist debate, I’ve always thought of engineers as being more goal-oriented…seeking the most practical method to achieve the best yield. Scientists on the other hand are more concerned with the authenticity and basis of a solution, and sometimes they don’t even bother going after the solution but instead they try to validate the question itself!

  24. Paul says:

    @Anon: Yeah, Snively pretty much got it right. Most people are happy to leave as soon as finals are over anyway…

    @Dima: Yes, I’ll definitely be blogging over the summer! I have a whole list of entries I want to write (including a few directed at the incoming Class of 2012 on classes, housing, etc.), and I’ll definitely blog more about my UROP experiences as well.

    I have no doubt the other bloggers will also be updating their blogs.

  25. kayla '12 says:

    interning (and getting paid) full time at the UT research labs. something to do with GPS. i hope i like it!

  26. Jess '12 says:

    I’ll be working very close by, at Biogen Idec. (You just go through the Mariott lobby from Kendall, walk a block, and voila!)

  27. Shari '12 says:

    I’m working this summer at Chili’s and then I plan to spend at least one day a week at Disneyland, to make up for all the times I won’t be able to go next year when I’m at MIT =)

  28. Anonymous says:

    What percentage of students do you think stay on campus over the summer?

  29. mohit says:

    well…this summer I’m gonna be participating in the International space settlement design contest….it’ll be a lot if fun… of luck saving the world….grin

  30. Oasis '11 says:

    Angelika Amon is my bio major adviser, haha. Such randomness.

    And yeahhhh – e. coli smells bad. =( (sadly – where’s those nice-smelling e. coli when you need them?)

  31. Ivan says:

    Hey Paul,
    That research sounds really cool.
    Since you said that you will be learning programming language in the summer as well, which is also pretty fun (Java isn’t that hard), do you think you will be able to use your programming knowledge to help in the research?
    How did you get into doing research? Does MIT have fliers for research or do the professors tell you about them?

    Have a great summer

  32. Paul says:

    @Anon: I don’t have enough information to make a really accurate guess…but I do know that about 50 people are staying in my dorm (out of ~340 residents) and about 15 people are staying in my fraternity (out of 40 brothers). So I’d guess somewhere around 25% might actually stay on campus. I’ll ask around though and see if I can get a more definitive number!

  33. Helen '15 says:

    Congratulations on the Oncology thing.

    I’m not even halfway through my school year, so the next 2 months will be full of assignments, tests and Semester 1 exams. Fun, right?