Skip to content ↓
mel avatar

chugging along by Mel N. '24

a week in my life

wednesday, november 15

i wake up from a weird dream. it’s five minutes before my alarm goes off. i haven’t woken up naturally in a while, so this is a nice change. i blink at the brightness of my room — my blinds do a terrible job at blocking the sunlight, but i don’t mind, most of the time. instead of reaching for my phone like i normally do, i stare up at the ceiling and think about the dream i just had, still a little disoriented. my cat jumps onto the bed and starts purring before nestling into my side.

i get up, wash my face, get dressed, and have some frozen grapes and chocolate for breakfast.

when i leave my apartment, it’s on the colder side. i pulled out my pink puffer jacket from the closet a couple days ago — an official sign of winter’s approach.

i arrive at my 6.UAR (superurop) recitation. we just recorded short talks for our projects last week, and this recitation is about how to turn those presentations into posters. since i attended the mit microbiome symposium last semester, i’ve got a working poster that i can recycle, but there’s a lot more data i’ve gathered since then, so i still have a lot to do.

after recitation, i walk over to hayden and seat myself at a couch next to the windows with the river view. someone’s left a pillow here, and i wonder if they had a good nap. i send a couple emails and take care of some other business before i gather my things for another recitation — human physiology this time.

it’s a smaller group today, probably because it’s a rough part of the semester, right before thanksgiving break. i really appreciate my TA, though. “i don’t want to make you feel obligated to participate just because we have fewer people,” she said.

she’s excellent at walking us through the content and making sure we really understand what’s going on. it’s a good pace for me, and my notes for this recitation are probably the neatest notes i have in any class this semester.

i grab lunch with chris from the chinese food truck by area four and we eat in building 46. i ask her to measure my pupillary distance so i can buy glasses online — i’m still wearing the same ones i got in 2020, and they’ve been through the wringer. the blue light coating is peeled and scratched, the nose pieces are weirdly aligned, and i can’t look down without having my glasses fall right off my face. people who try them on have told me they’re the most beat-up pair they’ve ever seen. i finally got around to placing an order on eyebuydirect, so we’ll see how they turn out. i got heart frames just for the hell of it because i’ve been wanting them for years, along with normal frames.

heart framesnormal frames

after that, i camp out at my lab for the next few hours to run an experiment. it’s a simpler one: i’m testing out our latest biosensor on our wild marine strain collection, and i already generated the supernatants of those strains over the summer. all i really have to do is set up some positive controls and put it in the plate reader.

i’ve got 45 minutes before blogger check-in, and i’m not quite sure where to go, so i wander over to the admissions office early and camp out there. when the time comes, i go over to the snack palace and chit chat with some of the other bloggers. it’s always nice seeing this little community on a regular (enough) basis.

but i have to leave early for an event, and afterwards, i take the T home because it’s cold and dark and i don’t feel like walking. the problem with early sunsets is that once i do get home, i lose all motivation to do any work whatsoever and i just lie in bed, exhausted.

i get myself up around 9 pm to shower. around 11:30 pm, i watch the 7.06 lecture i missed today so that i can speedrun the pset. i’m a little frustrated i didn’t start earlier in the night because it’s a lot closer to my bedtime than i’d like (i’m no longer able to pull all-nighters with my current stamina), but i have been trying to be nicer to myself for needing to take things at a slower pace sometimes. i’ve also got an exam for 7.20 tomorrow that i don’t feel super prepared for, but fortunately, it’s one of those tests that you can take at any point within a 24 hour window, so i’ve got some extra time to study.

i realize i forgot to take my vitamin C and D supplements today. or did i? i don’t remember, but i make a note to take them tomorrow.

i have a little existential crisis about whether my plans for next year are going to work out or not, and i do some frantic googling and hydranting.

i crash back into bed around 1:40.


thursday, november 16

i try to wake up at 7:30 again, but my body decides it wants to sleep till 8:30. (i forget my supplements again). i mosey about before heading to an appointment at 10:00, and i hang out around the admissions office for lunch (chipotle). i run into kayode while i’m there.

i’ve got to run to 7.003, my lab class, so i go up a floor and stick my leftovers in the iHQ fridge before making my way over to building 68.

it’s a shorter session today: we set up our plates for qPCR, and we’re starting a new chemical engineering module where we’re working with bacterial biosensors for arabinose. this time, our task is to design PCR primers to confirm proper incorporation of a gene we’re trying to insert.

pcr primers

analyzing our primers to see if they’re good

shea, our wonderful TA, gives us these costa rican chocolates, and since we can’t eat in the lab, we all go and do our in-lab questions right outside the lab, swapping chocolate flavors. (i have orange, and nanako has coffee, which is crazy because it seems like it’s literally just a coffee bean coated with chocolate).

lab class ends early but i still have to go to my actual lab to set up some overnight cultures and grab data from the experiment i did yesterday. it gives me results that make a little more sense than the experiment from last week (because i forgot to include a positive control for a comparison), and the data is beautiful in terms of cleanliness, but it’s not exactly what i hoped to find. i send my graphs to my supervisors and head out.

for 6.UAR this week, we’re giving short talks to each other about our projects and getting peer feedback. i go first because i feel like i’m on a roll from squishing all of my UROP tasks in 45 minutes. i swear, when i give presentations, something inside me just takes the wheel and i’m barely aware of what i’m saying. it’s like i’m possessed by a professional demon. i hardly remember it afterward. probably adrenaline.

it goes well, though, even though i flounder a bit at the end and go over time — i just need more practice. my group is friendly and thoughtful. the TAs give us water and superurop t-shirts. they’re a bright blue color with red text. i’m not sure i’ll wear it on a regular basis, but i won’t say no to a free shirt.

i’ve got to pick up meds from CVS, and i end up waiting 45 minutes because they’re not ready when i go. but the lady at the register was really nice, and they were insanely cheap. thank you, insurance.

i go home, put some rice in the rice cooker, take a shower, and eat leftover yellow curry from pepper sky’s for dinner. then i cram for my 7.20 exam and take it. it really wasn’t bad. i’m absolutely exhausted afterward, though.

i conk out around midnight.


friday, november 17

my alarm goes off at 7:30 but i actually get out of bed around 8:30, maybe carrying over from yesterday morning.

(i forget my supplements again. i fear it may be a lost cause.)

chris and i go to brookline lunch together. their baklava pancakes are a RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE. i get shakshuka this time, and it’s truly truly truly heavenly. worth every cent. i would spend the rest of my days eating here and supporting their business if i could.

shakshuka and omelette


we have 7.06 recitation together where we get to see yet another lovely TA. all of my TAs are so great this semester. i notice that at least three people in the recitation are wearing the mit biology sweatshirt (the front of which can partially be seen in the photo of shakshuka). i think it’s kind of funny. it is a good sweatshirt.

i’ve got a free hour before i meet zoe for lunch, so i go back to iHQ to grab my chipotle from yesterday and start writing this blog before heading out again.

it’s abnormally nice today — it feels like late summer, almost, and when i open the door i’m greeted with a huge gust of wind.

zoe and i meet up at the stud, on the second floor, next to where all the restaurants are. it’s been a while since we dedicated time to hang out, even though we see each other one to two times a week in 6.UAR, and i really value this opportunity to catch up and spill tea™. we met each other ages ago at isef in 2019. it’s been wonderful to watch each other grow and find ourselves and have more stable relationships with others around us.

i pick something up at new vassar, and make it back over to my lab. i’ve been spending a lot of time on my UROP this week, which i feel good about. we’re doing mass spectrometry to examine some of the molecules produced by our positive control strains, and today, we’re performing an extraction with ethyl acetate (an organic solvent). rachel walks me through the steps and i’m grateful for her patience.

i walk back and i’m so tired from standing up for three hours straight in the lab that the first thing i do is lie in bed for an hour, scrolling on my phone. it’s a well-needed recovery.

later, i get ingredients to make hot chocolate from scratch with rui, and we watch clouds of sils maria featuring kristen stewart. the movie did not meet our expectations from how it was advertised, which was frustrating, because it felt like it had a lot of potential!

i spend the rest of the night knitting and listening to music.


saturday, november 18

i sleep in which means i have a later start to the day. i don’t have too much academic work to do, so i spend the afternoon cleaning my room and the rest of the apartment — i’d been too swamped to do my weekly chores earlier.

i start a load of laundry expecting to be done with it by 4 pm today, but unfortunately and extremely infuriatingly, it seems that all of the dryers in our apartment are incapable of doing their jobs and i have to restart it three times before my clothes are finally dry. it’s not so bad since i live on the first floor and laundry is in the basement (unlike when i lived on florey in east campus and had to traverse five flights of stairs across parallels to do laundry), but the fact that each load is $2.50 makes it all feel exceedingly unfair.

still, i get a lot of other things done today: swiffering, cleaning up my desk and nightstand, wiping my mirror, and deepcleaning my fridge.

back when i was moving in, i noticed that the protective layer on my fridge seemed to be peeling off, and i pulled half of it off before i became preoccupied with other things (aka assembling furniture). today, i finally sit down and carefully peel the rest of it off. it leaves a gross residue, but rui lets me borrow her nail polish remover, which takes care of it. it’s nice and ✨shiny✨ now, and honestly, i think it’s done a lot for that part of my room.

shiny fridge

i should’ve taken a before picture because this doesn’t quite capture how SHINY and NICE it is now… i’m also going to decorate it more in the future, it looks pretty bare right now

chris comes over in the evening and we get pepper sky’s again for dinner. sometimes i wonder if the person i always see at the register recognizes my face by now because of how often i go.

we (rui, chris, and i) do some work in the living room as i play a video of a fireplace crackling and overlay the charlie brown christmas album over it. it’s an interesting combination. it sounds like carolers are desperately trying to get our attention outside but we’re just hunkered down by the fireplace ignoring them.

then we watch the first three episodes of the new scott pilgrim anime (!!!) which is EXCELLENT so far and i’m so excited to finish it.


sunday, november 19

i pick up breakfast from the donut villa diner in central around 10:30. great breakfast burrito 👍

(i remembered my vitamins today!)

then we migrate over to the 18th floor of the green building, where i work on my 6.UAR showcase poster. it’s not so bad since as i said earlier, i’ve made a poster for my research before, but incorporating my new data is a little tricky. i finish all in one sitting, in about three hours, and i knock out some smaller assignments for 7.003.

it’s 2:30 at this point, and the only assignment i have left for this week is a revision due on wednesday, so i take a break to text some of my friends back and check social media before i head back home.

i chill out for a bit, knitting and listening to sabrina carpenter’s new EP. i’m filled with a lot of holiday joy this year for some reason, which is funny because i’m not religious at all and christmas wasn’t a big deal in my family. but rui said maybe it’s because i’m happier now, which i think is the case. i just really like the idea of celebrating the end of the year with my friends and giving them gifts to show how much i love them.

after that, i finish my last chore from last week — cleaning the bathroom.

chris comes at 7 with ingredients for shrimp and spinach alfredo pasta. we decide to eyeball it, which turns out okay, but there’s a moment while we’re making the sauce where we’re like, “hmm, something doesn’t seem right here.” the parmesan adds a weird taste and makes it bubble a lot, but we save it by adding more heavy cream and crushed red pepper and by the time we sit down to eat, it’s pretty solid, all things considered.

then we go to target to pick up some ice cream and a couple cans of cat food for coffee, since i ran out yesterday and her new food doesn’t get delivered until tomorrow.

we try (and fail) to put up LEDs in my room — they’re too short and the tape keeps unsticking, so i decide to leave it for another time. we watch an episode of scott pilgrim instead.

i’m insanely sleepy at 11:30 with a bit of a headache and i knock right out.


monday, november 20

i wake up in the middle of the night at 4:50 AM and doze in and out of sleep until my alarm at 8:00. still, i’m feeling very well-rested. i feed my cat, do some dishes, eat a leftover flour sandwich for breakfast, and head out.

it’s my last science communication (scicomm) recitation for 7.003 today. a couple people present on how to edit our discussion sections and we talk about how to write titles and abstracts for our research papers. at the end, we’re given paper class evaluation forms (which is a first for me, since class evals are usually digital) and hand them in.

i sit in hayden to take care of some odds and ends before my UROP check-in at 11.

hayden view

my view from hayden

my meeting goes well, and at 12:00 i go to the 18th floor of the green building to microwave the rest of my breakfast burrito from yesterday for lunch.

i need a new backpack — the straps on my current one are hanging on for dear life and i estimate it’s got about a week or two left of use. i’ve been looking at backpack brands and on my way out from hayden i saw two people in front of me with a brand i’ve been eying, so i see this as a sign from the universe to finally place my order.

i’m glad that i’m getting around to replacing the things i need, namely glasses, shoes, and backpacks. i kept putting it off because they’re big investments, but i’m really looking forward to having them come in the mail.

we have a guest lecturer for 7.06 today, harvey lodish. a couple weeks ago, i actually went to a talk by nova pishesha who started cerberus with him and hidde plough, so this feels like a sequel in some sense. everyone in cambridge biotech seems to be connected.

i run to a quick mid-semester check-in with my advisor, and make my way across campus to get free zinneken’s at the stud as part of the UA food security team’s efforts to get student input about food security at MIT.

then i go to the other end of campus again to inoculate an overnight culture for my UROP since we’re performing another organic extraction on wednesday. i run into my supervisors, who are cleaning out the fridges in our lab to make room for more samples.

i can’t help but feel like i’m doing more zigzagging across campus than i’d like, but my last activity on campus for the day is to grab food at the weekly community dinners they organize in building W11. it’s shepherd’s pie and pasta today. very tasty.

i head back home. it’s cold out, and i immediately get under the covers when i come back to my room. chris shows up sometime later and we watch the rest of scott pilgrim takes off with ice cream. i’ll avoid spoilers as much as possible, but knives chau dyes a red streak at one point, which looks a lot like my current hairstyle.

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off' Spoilers: Creators Explain the Big Twists

knives is on the leftmost side. like other than the sidebang, that’s my hair (though mine’s a little longer!!)

(by the way, PLEASE watch scott pilgrim takes off, it makes me so happy and it has such amazing character development and animation)

i wind down at 11:30 just like yesterday, which has in general been a huge improvement from my typical 1-2 AM bedtimes.


tuesday, november 21

once again, i get up around 7:30 AM and get ready for class at 9:00. it is super cold today — it’s 24 degrees when i check the weather, and i bundle up with my pink puffer, a scarf, and gloves.

there’s this tweet by the men’s fashion guy that says, “i dont know who needs to hear this, but your identity is not your job. your identity is a sick ass jacket everyone recognizes you by,” and i really feel like i’m embodying that with my puffer. i’ve had people tell me they immediately know it’s me from a distance just from seeing it.

in 7.20, we’re starting the cardiovascular system after finishing up some content about muscles. there’s a bio thanksgiving lunch happening in 68, so i go there at 11:00, intending on doing some work in the scholar’s lounge, but there are people there, so i’m forced to go to the bio undergrad lounge instead, which is a lounge that makes me sad. it’s tiny, the only amenity is a water cooler, there are no windows… it gets the job done though, more or less.

the thanksgiving lunch is a banger: they have good food (no dry turkey) and fancy plates. “they’re bamboo,” the person serving me turkey tells me. “to be a little more eco-friendly.”

i run into estin at the event, my lab partner for 7.003, and we chat for a bit before we go to class. the thanksgiving lunch is being held where our class usually is, so we’ve been relocated to a classroom in stata.

lab today is short: our only task is to analyze our qPCR data from last thursday, and it’s looking really good!!!

FUS1 expression bar graph

exactly what we want to see (noticeably more FUS1 expression in the wild type yeast treated with alpha-factor, a mating pheromone, and barely anything in the other categories)!!

before heading home, i inoculate another overnight culture, and once i get back i see that the spring 2024 schedules have been released on websis.

i spend the next couple hours hydranting my spring schedule. i have a working plan for how i want next semester to go, but if things go wrong, i have room to drop things.

i make some sausage spinach pasta for dinner and it seems like my bedtime has been shifting earlier and earlier, because i pass right out at 10:30.


wednesday, november 22

my 7.20 recitation is held at 9:00 over zoom today to account for thanksgiving travel plans. it’s just me and three other people when i join the meeting, but we make it work, and my TA is wonderful as always.

i have therapy at 10:00 right after that, and i head to my lab at 11:00 to do my organic extraction. i always pass by the cambridge candy factory on my walk to campus — did you know that cambridge used to be a huge hub for candy-making? this is one of the last factories still standing, and in october around halloween, i’d pick up on the distinct scent of caramel apple pops (or something similar), sending me right back to 7th grade when caramel apple pops became a social currency for some reason. today it smells unmistakeably like chocolate.

candy factory

the candy factory! it looks pretty nondescript from the outside

my extraction takes way less time than i thought it would, probably because i’ve done it once before. they’re tucked away in the fridge for mass spectrometry this weekend, which is when we’ll see if we did it successfully or not.

i come back home and eat lunch and send some emails. after that, i’ve got nothing left to do for the week — thanksgiving break is here, and it’s time to relax and hang out with friends.


and to those who made it all the way down here: thank you for coming along with me on this little time capsule of my week! i hope my mundane day-to-day activities are of some interest. happy thanksgiving <3 eat good food