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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

An old man’s thought of school by Sam M. '07

Whitman. X-men. Youth. Zymurgy.

DID YOU KNOW? The famous Pioneer Zephyr trains of the 1940’s were named because a railway president wanted his trains to be considered the “last word” in transportation. He had originally told his coworkers to literally look up the last word in the dictionary, but decided that “zymurgy” was not a good name for a train.

Yo, I’m in grad school. How’s that going? Well, not too bad. In a way, I can’t seem to ever get away from MIT. Half the books I use in my graduate classes were written by my MIT professors. During the first week of my product design and development class last semester, we were assigned a reading about all-around drug delivery rock star and MIT professor Bob Langer. The professor asked if anybody in the class knew who Bob Langer was. Half the hands in the room shot up, and a bunch of awestruck students breathlessly explained, “OH, he came to my school once to give a lecture, and I could totally tell that everything in this article is totally true, like when he was talking about polymer synthesis, I could really hear his attitudes toward technology licensing and start-up companies.” I was going to say, “Yeah, I know 5 people who work in Langer Lab, and I’ve worked with the MIT Technology Licensing Office.” But I didn’t say anything, because I try not to be a total jerk all the time.

I mean, not all the time. Today I was looking at an old blog entry that I had started four months ago, and I discovered that I actually typed this:

So, yo, let me say this unequivocally. Even if you graduate MIT with 72,000 credits in four years and publish 100 papers in Nature, start-up a biofuels company, write a cello concerto that is performed by MITSO, and obtain an Erdos number of 2, all of this in 4 years at MIT, if you ever ask yourself, “Do I have time for a girlfriend?” then YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG.

Man, what a total jerk. That rather harsh quotation comes from a blog entry entitled “Don’t let it control you!”, which I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to write for the past six months. That title, in turn, comes from Professor X’s final line in X3, one of my favorite movie moments of all time. I was considering keeping the title when composing this new blog entry, but I decided that Walt Whitman would be an acceptable substitute.

Because let’s get this straight. I am an old man now. There are undergrads working in my lab, and I introduce myself to them, and they say, “Oh, you’re not an undergrad, right? Because you look so much older.” When I was studying reaction kinetics on my plane ride back to the bay area, the flight attendant stopped while delivering my second cup of black coffee to remark, “Are you a grad student? I could never understand any of that math stuff!” (that’s okay, I’m bad at writing and being nice to people that I don’t know). I don’t even get carded when I buy alcohol anymore. I mean, I’m guessing that I wouldn’t.

Granted, most of it probably has to do with the sweet beard that I’ve grown. A bunch of the ChemE’s decided to grow beards as part of a male bonding ritual before prelim exams in January. I just liked mine, so I decided to keep it for this month. Except for getting food caught in it, it’s been working out pretty well. You knew I couldn’t get through my last ever entry on MITblogs without posting a picture of myself, didn’t you?

But what makes this old man think of school today? Well, I’ve been systematically trying to remove myself from most of my MIT mailing lists. I took myself off my old floor’s mailing list the other day after discussion veered away from Apple Bake domination and onto discussions of which Star Wars movies they were going to watch on a given night. Which, I mean, is fun, but not really that important to my life anymore. Whereas apple pies baked 4,000 miles from me are totally fascinating in my inbox. Anyway, I actually managed to finally remove myself from the MIT Hillel list, somehow. I’m working on getting off of MTG. But I keep myself on the MITblog e-mail list, just because we’re awesome. So today I woke up to the following e-mail on the MITblog list, from one of its younger contributors:

Turns out that the aforementioned early showing of 21 is at noon…since I’m not quite willing to skip class just to see a movie, even one about MIT, I will neither be going nor blogging. If by some black magic one of you guys also has the opportunity to see it, I retract my dibs…but I really would like to blog about it when it comes out for real on March 28 (during Spring Break).

Sorry for the extra emails. ^_^


Apparently MIT is sponsoring a sneak preview of 21, the Bringing Down the House movie adaption, this week. As an old man, thinking of school, I was concerned that one of MIT’s rising young stars was “not quite willing to skip class just to see a movie, even one about MIT.” So I wrote back and linked to some entries that provided examples of me skipping school to do awesome things. The response? Apparently the blogger has a HASS paper due at 3 PM that day, and is therefore understandably nervous about going to see a movie at noon. The e-mail concluded, probably half-jokingly, “You’re a bad influence, Sam Maurer.

I was eating a salad comprised of spinach, walnuts, grapes, peas, and goat cheese in a balsamic vinaigrette, which is clearly what have must inspired the following burst of eloquence from me.

Hokay, so HASS papers are important. But unless you’re planning to still be writing the essay at noon on the day it’s due (which, I mean, I probably would be), seriously, go to the movie. Plan to go, and then if your paper doesn’t work out on time, then skip the movie.

I’m a good influence. I didn’t realize until my senior year that it was okay to skip classes for reasons other than total exhaustion. The sooner you figure this out, the happier your MIT experience will be. I mean, within reason. Don’t skip all your 2.007 labs to go tanning on the esplanade, but if the choice is between awesome movie preview or ozonolysis, don’t pick ozonolysis.

I was actually going to write my last MITblog entry on this topic, but I got bored. You can still see the draft; it’s called “Don’t let it control you!”


And I read it back over, and I realized that this was exactly what I’d been trying to say for the past six months. I thought “Don’t let it control you!” would be a good message to conclude my MITblogging career forever. But, you know, you’ve got to be original. And plus, that entry was getting too convoluted with passive/aggressive attacks at other blogs I’d been reading, not neglecting your girlfriend, how I was a pudgy awkward kid in high school, and a symbolic 6.003 add/drop form that I hung on the inside of the door of my dorm room. I feel like this one has worked out a lot better. It’s a little bit friendlier, and I feel like it just generally is more cohesive and has more organic unity. Which, for me, is saying a lot.

So if I’m gonna gather my youthful memories and blooms, as Walt Whitman suggests, and if I’m going to leave you with one message to summarize the most important thing I learned during my four years at MIT, it’s going to be this:

Don’t pick ozonolysis. Don’t ever pick ozonolysis.

32 responses to “An old man’s thought of school”

  1. :D says:

    Whoa…It’s Sam!

  2. Steph says:

    I really enjoyed that post.

    How are you enjoying Berkeley? I’ve been checking out the College of Chemistry (It’s my second choice for transfer). What’s your overall opinion of the College of Chemistry?

  3. Solstice says:

    “My last ever entry on MITblogs.”

    Sam, please don’t make this your last entry ever. Keep us informed of what you’re doing.

    By the way, you didn’t say where you’re going to grad school.

  4. Clara '10 says:

    Sam, you’re making me cry. No more Spam blog entries ever?
    That being said, I’m still reading through your three years of prolific blogging, and am continually amazed by how wonderfully you convey the magic and the pain of life at MIT and Conner 2. For all you pre-frosh who like to keep up with the latest entries, I’m telling you: Sam is amazing, and his stories about MIT life are the best ever posted to MITblogs. So next time you’re impatiently begging one of the current students for a new entry, read a few of Sam’s. Most will make you laugh out loud. Or cry.
    The beard is awesome.

  5. Anonymous says:

    So when/where is this sneak preview?

  6. Please continue to write blog entries from time to time, Sam! Who else will tell us how to get a cookbook signed by Ina, or that chemistry is a woman who likes red things while physics is a crazy woman? It’s important for students to know what life is like after MIT. And it’s important for the rest of us to have something really fun to read at least once in a while.

  7. Harrison says:

    Way to rock the Brass Rat in the pic. MIT 4 lyfe, yo.

  8. MIT Parent says:

    Sam, it’s great to see a post from you! Without meaning offense to anyone else, I must say that you are the best blogger ever. I really miss your posts.

  9. lulu says:

    lol no offense taken MIT Parent, Sam’s my favorite too

  10. anon says:

    Loved the message. Thanks Sam. But really, we should skip classes to do amazing stuff? Says you who’s now at Berkeley! Could we get a little more info. about the “dark side,” please? What sort of GPA (from MIT) does it take to get to Berkeley? Do freshman first semester grades “really” count? Will grading-on-the-curve condemn a huge chunk of the class to an academic dead-end at graduation — students who might have gone on to glory at some supposedly “lesser” institution?
    I like the idea of going to awesome movie previews and having some sort of “relationship” at MIT, and I even like the prospect of learning about ozonolysis (what that?) — but doing all three… at what cost?

  11. Jess says:

    come back to us, brillsmatron.

  12. Mollie says:

    If I grow a sweet beard, do you think people will stop mistaking me for an undergrad too? Because I need to find something to solve this problem. I’m a G2 and married, for godssake!

  13. Anonymous says:

    And another era ends. *sadness*

  14. Chris B.'12 says:

    OMG,It’s SAM!!! Your archived blogs are some of the funniest things ever. Will you ever be back? No? NO!!!!!!

  15. Tanmay says:

    72000, 100, 2: those are inspiring numbers…

    The ozonolysis thing is a bit hard for me to gulp right now, still, roger that. smile

    The 233rd fantastic entry of yours!

  16. SAM… NO!!!! We will miss you. I don’t know if you know this but there is a chatroom of EA ’12ers and literally half of them are a bunch of girls who went on for like an hour about how hot you are and how much they love you. Do you really want to disappoint them?

    seriously .. look at maurer .. I’m not making this up

    Anyway .. I will miss your wisdom, even though I only caught the tail end of it. You should blog for Berkley Grad school or something. We will all miss you

    ~Donald Guy

  17. Noelle says:

    Last entry? Awwwwww…


  18. Libin Daniel says:

    Hey, we would love to hear from the Old Man(No Offenses)..Come on Man, we would like to hear a lot from you….Ozonolysis, ya…will never pick it if given a chance.
    Awesome Post..really connotes the life and its essence. Thanks a ton, Sam.
    How is the Grad School, UCB?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Sam, you’re the most amazing blogger ever and I’m so sad that this was your last entry.

  20. Quentin '10 says:

    How can you mention Zephyr without mentioning MIT’s pioneering instant messaging system, Zephyr? MIT invented instant messaging!

    –Quentin ’10

  21. E. Rosser says:

    Great blog, and great advice. Skipping class for life is totally understandable– thanks for imparting the wisdom that took you 4 years to compile! Good luck in grad school– you’re awesome!

  22. Anonymous says:

    I’m just wondering, Sam – are you getting a Master’s or a PhD?

  23. Shruthi says:

    SAM!!! Come on, it cant be the last post? No!!!

  24. That is an amazing beard…I wish my facial hair could be that awesome.

    Also, I second Clara ’10: if you haven’t already, go and read Sam’s archive. And then read all of the other archived posts. It’ll take you a bit, but it’s worth it.

  25. asm says:

    SAM HAS RETURNED! …even if temporarily, but still, it made me happy. =D

    I still read your archive from time to time, and third Matt and Clara’s recommendation, because Sam is awesome, put simply. I still laugh at all those music references in the titles (and “as the Zoroastrian poet Farrokh Bulsara once said, ‘I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like'” still cracks me up).

    I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but how do the Berkeley undergrads seem compared to your old MIT classmates? I’ve been always curious as to how different the cultures are…but then again, Berekely is so huge that it might not even have a really definable “culture”…

    And no, I don’t think I would pick ozonolysis in the first place… wink

  26. R says:

    I love Sam’s blogs

  27. Hawkins says:

    The beard is amazing. I think I’m going to frame this entry and put it in my room, in case I’m ever making an important decision. smile

    Where will you be blogging from now on, Samwise the Brave? You can’t just stop…

  28. Lainers says:

    Don’t attach the word ‘ever’ unless you mean it!

    And I really, really hope you don’t mean it. Six months out is not far enough for a last perspective.

    Thanks for the sentiments, though.

  29. Sam says:

    As you might know, I’m notoriously bad at responding to comments in an expeditious fashion, so let me make sure I get to all of these in before too long.

    Steph — As a grad student, I only know like two undergrads in the college of chemistry, but they seem pretty cool. Definitely as much history went down here as at MIT. Holy crap, Seaborg discovered plutonium in a building that I visit every day. Although MIT should, of course, be your first choice, I have nothing but positive comments about Berkeley’s program.

    Solstice — Yeah, sorry, this is really, really, my last MITblogs entry. As much as I like blogging, this is MITblogs, and it’s time to pass the torch to some other awesome people who actually attend MIT.

    Clara ’10 — Oh, your comment made me start to get a little sniffly too. Thanks!

    Anonymous — Sources tell me it’s actually NEXT Thursday? Look out for it on the MIT events calendar, linked off the homepage.

    Matt PSU ’11 — Awse. I’m glad the archives are getting a workout. The new layout of the site has made blog readership at least 10x what it was when I used to blog, so it’s awesome to hear that someone still reads our old stuff. Other than me, with insomnia.

    asm — People smoke here, which is BIZARRE. Nobody smokes at MIT. Other than that? Berkeley undergrads… there’s a lot more of them. And I was in the bottom 20% of the semiconductor processing class I took last term, so they must be pretty smart. The conversations I have with my fellow grad students aren’t quite as nerdy as at MIT, but they’re definitely good people. But I have gone to bars with people who were yelling, “Yeah, and then he’s like THE NUSSELT NUMBER FOR MASS TRANSFER?! You mean the SHERWOOD NUMBER?”

    Harrison — No duh. Sometimes I am late for class in the morning, but I can’t leave my apartment without the rat. I am destined to die by accidentally choking on it. Mark my words.

    MIT Parent — Aw, thanks! Feel free to offend anyone you want in your praise of me; as Genghis Khan once said, “It is not enough that I shall succeed. All others must fail.”

    lulu — Aw, thanks! I never would have guessed, for realio.

    Jess — No, I have to go back to my home planet now. Sorry.

    Mollie — You go to that school up the river, right? Just stop putting on makeup and start wearing torn-up, bleach-stained sweats to class. No more problems. But I do think you’d look pretty sweet with a beard.

    Chris B. ’12 — Ha, your comment is really funny when I imagine you as

    Tanmay — 233? For real? No way. Holy schnikes, you’re right. I have chronicled way too much of my life on the internet.

    DonaldGuy ’12 — Oh man, you sure know how to feed a guy’s raging egomania, don’t you? Let’s just say I’ve searched that blog for my name way too many names. Oh dear.

    Chris B. ’12 — And one guy? What’s his number?

    Libin Daniel — Like I said, UCB is fantastic! Nice weather, too, although I am worried it will make me weak. As much as I would like to blog more, there is no wisdom I can possibly impart to you outside of this entry. I am just not that wise, nor will I ever be.

    Anonymous — Aw, thanks!

    Quentin ’10 — I don’t know! You’re right. I loved zephyr. The few times I used it. Being able to use the command line for anything always makes me feel so smart.

    Anonymous — PhD. I’ll be here for 5-6 years. Who needs all that money, anyway?

    Shruthi — Okay, seriously people, I haven’t blogged in 6 months, and I wrote like 10 blog entries last year. I hope it’s not too big of a loss!

    Another MIT Parent — Did I say that chemistry is a woman who likes red things? Seriously? That sounds really cool. But I totally forgot writing that. When did I say that? God, I’m such a genius.

    anon — First term is still P/NR, right? In that case, NO, YOUR FRESHMAN YEAR GRADES DO NOT MATTER. Seriously, go explore Boston your freshman year. It could be the last chance you have before Unified, 2.007, or project lab. I can’t think of one person from MIT who reached an “academic dead-end” at graduation. I know a few people who got rejected from, say, one of the grad schools they applied to, but they still ended up going to Stanford or something. Med school is different; you’re gonna have to work a little harder for the grades you need to get there (from what I hear, this is true for any school). Still, there’s no way you’re going to hit a “dead-end” even with med school apps. And for heaven’s sake, forget ozonolysis! Don’t ever pick ozonolysis.

    E. Rosser — Aw, thanks! It really sucks that it took me four years to gather this knowledge. Seriously, apply it earlier.

    Hawkins — Really, you could just frame the picture, with the last seven words posted at the top, LOLcats-style. Oh my God, I’m such a shameless narcissist. I’m going to start selling that on the internet.

    R — Aw, thanks. I love you, too

    Lainers — Seriously, never again. I mean it as much as Kelly Clarkson does in that music video where she drowns in the bathtub. True, I might grow older and wiser–might–over the next few years, but I think that this isn’t the right venue for it. Maybe someday I’ll find another one.

    Ah, closure. I just want to thank everyone who’s read, commented, and fixed my numerous spelling mistakes over the years. Seriously, MITblogging started for me three years as a joke and an exercise in egomania, and it really blossomed into kind of a journey of self-discovery. Writing about myself, my life, my school pride, for an audience of hundreds of people really helped me grow into the person that I am today. I can barely even fathom living without a blog anymore. Super thanks to the admissions office for giving me this unbelievably sweet opportunity, and ultra thanks to readers like you.

    My one regret is never blogging about the Mapparium.

    Seacrest out.