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MIT student blogger Derrick B. '08

Don’t Neglect Your Creative Side by Derrick B. '08

And I don't mean the side of you that thinks up math problems while you fall asleep.

First off, congratulations to the Class of 2012! From what I hear you guys are amazing. I can’t wait to meet you. And to those of you who weren’t offered admission, you’re just as amazing. I regret that we won’t be able to meet on MIT’s campus, but hopefully I’ll see you around in the real world. And now, with the congratulations out of the way, it’s time to get to the meat of this post.

MIT is the greatest place I know to study any sort of math and science. Walking through the new Center for Theoretical Physics , I’m struck by how much this place seems like an academic ivory tower. Nothing made that more apparent than standing in front of a chalkboard with three other students listening to the incredible Robert Jaffe explain the intricacies of quantum scattering from a one-dimensional coulomb potential. I can’t imagine that kind of one-on-one attention being too common. The low student-to-faculty ratio is definitely something you should take advantage of during your time here. Your opportunities are only limited by the amount of sleep you need (or in some cases, the amount of caffeine you can ingest before losing your sense of sanity).

While the opportunities in math and science are boundless, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that there is more to life than just differential equations and chemical reactions. Going to MIT helps to give you the tools you need to change the world. Let’s not forget that there actually is a world out there, a world that exists outside our little academic ivory tower. In my senior year I realized that I’ve perhaps dedicated too much time to purely technical pursuits. And I’ve begun to feel a certain yearning to do something completely different.

My sophomore year I took up writing. First writing about pure science in the class The Science Essay (which I highly recommend) and eventually progressing to full-fledged fiction. I still make time to write, even if its only a page a week. Right now I’m working on a piece combining fiction and science. It’s titled “Through the Double-Slit: Adventures in Quantumland”, and it’s about (you guessed it) quantum mechanics. The story is inspired by Alice in Wonderland, and the style by the book the Phantom Tollbooth, one of the seminal books of my childhood. I’m also learning to play the piano. I find that I’m particularly fond of the work of Erik Satie.

So what does this mean for you? Basically, don’t lock yourself in your room and run numerical simulations for your entire undergraduate career. Try something new. Find something you love, something completely different from your everyday life, and stick with it. Don’t neglect the side of yourself that would rather fingerpaint than do stochastic calculus. You’ll enjoy your time here more if you get a full experience, rather than one covering only the sorcery of mathematics.

And now, it is 11:30 PM and I have an entire quantum mechanics pset and a biodiesel cost analysis due in the next 48 hours, neither of which I have started (because I’ve been practicing piano). And I have a cheesecake to bake for my girlfriend’s birthday. Nothing like a well-rounded life to keep you busy.

11 responses to “Don’t Neglect Your Creative Side”

  1. Abhishek says:

    Hi Derrick gr8 advice……

  2. Abhishek says:

    hi guyz i created a search engine exclusively for searching MIT contents on web, try it out:—

  3. Ragheb '12 says:

    Great advice…
    I have been wondering how much non-scientific opportunities is there in MIT? Don’t get me wrong I LOVE SCIENCE, but I want to do other things in university, too.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Satie! I love Satie!

    I like the little “stage directions” he puts in some of his pieces.

  5. umm, I certainly plan to let my creative side prosper in my undergraduate years :D after all it is the best time for it to come out and develop.
    I am a basketball player and a filmmaker (the trailer of my latest film “In Fair Palestine: A Story of Romeo and Juliet” is on Youtube if anybody is interested:P) ,so I am wondering if there are chances to pursue filmmaking in MIT?
    I would also like to experiment new fields that may help me discover the hidden faces of me !

  6. Justin says:

    How good is the writing program at MIT? Is it strong, or just good for a “tech” school?
    Writing is something I love to do, be it fiction or poetry. I was going to ask that tonight (because I was expecting a call from the telethon and sadly did not get one), but I decided to ask it here.

  7. Anonymous says:

    could you teach me english????

  8. kavya says:

    I agree with Ragheb.
    I really want to “discover” new things I’m interested in and find something new that I’ll love; something not remotely related to math or science.
    Does MIT give enough opportunity for that?

  9. Discovering your creative side eh? I don’t think you need to take a class to do that, but good advice nonetheless.