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MIT student blogger Anthony R. '09

An IAP in Texas, chapter two by Anthony R. '09

Week two of school away from school as I learn about and work on transportation stuff.

One week down!

One of you asked about what I’m doing down here — I’m splitting my time between Service Design/Performance and Technology Services, so basically, applying technology to the analysis and optimization of train routes and service. I’m working with some great people, and you know, eight hours in an office sort of fly by if you’re enjoying what you’re doing. So far, I’ve been gaining a wide overview of how BNSF runs their trains and the sorts of performance aspects one would be concerned with in the freight industry. It’s all new to me, coming from the passenger side of things. I suppose the best part is that it’s all making sense so far! :)

The headquarters “campus” is pretty big, and as you can see here, they’ve got several train cars parked at the main entrance — these are fully-functioning conference rooms used regularly for business purposes! There’s a network of roads connecting all of the various offices, but I’ve spent most of my time in the Operations and Technology buildings. The TOB (technology office building – yes they actually use this acronym…), located across the street from the rest, was formerly the factory where the TRS-80 was made. :-P On an unrelated note, they’ve got an old Xerox workstation and laser printer from the late ’70s in a glass display case in the cafeteria, from before the BN (Burlington Northern) and the ATSF (Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe) merged to form BNSF.

But most importantly, everyone’s been very friendly and generous, going out of their way to include me in their work activities or just to show me a specific project they’re especially keen on. Take today as an example: a director took an hour and a half out of his day to give me the grand tour of an expensive piece of model dispatching software. Or I’ll drop by the desk of a senior manager (the one who had me over to his house for dinner, after taking me to lunch, all on my first day) to ask about something I’m working on, and we’ll get into a half-hour discussion about some interesting business problem that I’ll then go investigate. I’m the only intern around right now (my boss says “he’s here this month while MIT is in hibernation”), but I don’t feel out of place one bit. :) The environment is great because a lot of the folks have railroad career backgrounds (as in, out in the field or in the yard, away from management), so they’ve always got that extra context to lend.

The hardest part about this work is getting up around 7AM! I haven’t had to do that on a regular basis for what, four years? We MIT kids are so spoiled with our first classes at 10, 11, or later. It’s midnight as I’m typing this, and I have a meeting at 8. Luckily, though, it’s typically pretty loose, and as long as I put in a full day, my exact arrival time needn’t be so strict. I think it’ll be a good summer – I’m already doing neat things!

8 responses to “An IAP in Texas, chapter two”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Hey there Anthony! No first post for me. Oh well. The blue skies look nice! And it’s probably not exactly cold there…
    Is it just your classes that are always that late? As far as I’ve heard, there are always some classes at 8AM at colleges. (Like my sister is certainly complaining that all HER Engineering classes are early) Is MIT even more awesome? Or is it just yours?

  2. Vishaque says:

    Hello Anthony, I remember you from the days when you showed photo of your shoe i your blog in order to identify/explain something on which the blog was.
    Anyway, I do hope that you are having really a fun time over there and creative too. But, I am sorry to ask you this, for what purpose you are there? I mean, its quite cool and fine for all those things that you have seen ot about to see, but what about doing? Seriously, off the routine; I actually mean.
    Nevertheless, your blog is quite fresh and gives a sense of practicality. My heartfelt thanks for that!!

  3. Vishaque says:

    Hello Anthony, thanks for the making things visible (to me, at least LOL). Nevermind. A fun question. What do you find, now, that needs immediate replacement; although its readily acceptable to know that kind of overview you may not have, nevertheless, just for fun. Wishing you a creative internship. And thanks again!!

  4. Anthony says:

    Hi Vishaque, thanks for your note. American internships are typically geared toward providing students or other non-career folk with real work experience in a field they’re still learning about. So as I’m learning various aspects of the business, I’m given work assignments to complete that reflect some application of the knowledge I’ve gained.

    The project I’m working on right now has to do with the internal representation of the rail network and ways to make it more efficient to maintain and update. And when I finish this and a couple of other things, I’ll move on to new projects with even higher expectations. I’ve got sort of an advantage over the typical intern in that I already have a lot of rail and transport knowledge, and a fair background in the field, though not in the same area. So you might say that the things I’m working on are a little bit higher-level than they might otherwise be – but the nice thing is that as an intern, the expectation to produce isn’t nearly as high as for a full-time employee. smile

  5. Anthony says:

    Hi Elizabeth – I’d say that nearly all of our classes at MIT are no earlier than 9AM, though there are certainly a few here and there that could be earlier (a friend told me that some Ocean Eng stuff can be pretty early, because the Navy guys who teach it are used to getting up at the crack of dawn – LOL). I’ve never had a class earlier than 10AM, though there’s one in my major that starts at 9:30 this term. (I’m not taking it yet, so my earliest class will again be at 10.)

    I’d even suggest that freshmen have the easiest time getting a good schedule, because the GIR classes freshmen typically take are large, with many recitation sections and lectures that happen in late morning or in the afternoon. When you get into a department and start taking classes in your major, those tend to be smaller, with less choice of times…

  6. Allison says:

    I’m a long time anonymous reader. I love your blog, reflective of your joyous attitude, spirit, and enthusiasm.

    I am a real Texas native — born & grew up in Houston, lived in Austin then Dallas for several years, am currently in Galveston. I went to Smith but spent considerable time at MIT with a then-boyfriend. It’s been many years since then, and your posts give me a glimpse of a place where I was happy. Ahh, nostalgia!

    We are so lucky to have you in Texas, now and in the summer! I am glad you are happily engrossed in your internship. Thanks again for your posts.

  7. theresa says:

    hi anthony – I’m just wondering does the dept. of urban studies & planning offer courses in just urban studies? as in, dealing with people in urban societies? my impression is that it would offer that and tech-related classes, and wouldn’t be just strictly tech.
    Have fun in texas smile

  8. Anthony says:

    Hi theresa,

    Yeah, DUSP has classes like that. There aren’t really any “tech” classes in DUSP besides perhaps a GIS lab… unless I’m misunderstanding you smile