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Dormire et Laborare by Selam G. '18

Sleeping and Working at the Institvte

Dear Internet,

I’m pleased to announce that I’m publishing a paper this year in affiliation with MIT’s Course 8 (Physics) department! Though I am only a freshman, I have decided on a thesis which I will defend this spring. This blog post is part of my research proposal.

I have discovered a new application for Newton’s Law of Conservation of Energy, which is loosely stated as such:

“For every student sitting in a library hacking away at a problem set or studying, there exists an equal and opposite student dozing off or sleeping somewhere on campus.”

….All right, so I’m not actually publishing a paper. In all seriousness, in the past couple weeks second semester has really got going quick, and I now understand the true meaning of the word “hosed”. Here is a post exactly in line with my life during the last two weeks–working and sleeping at MIT. Below is a list of ten of the best spaces for both of these activities–seldom is a space used for only one.


Barker Library

In my experience overall, the Law of Conservation of Sleep (or the Work-Tiredness Theorem) holds true virtually anywhere on campus, but no place portrays this law as accurately as Barker. With its convenient location on the fifth floor directly above Lobby 10 and a 24-hour policy, tons of people go into and out of it on a daily basis. If I actually did want to publish a paper on the Conservation of Sleep, I would probably do my research there. A given glance around the room reveals people sleeping with their heads on desks, in the couches, and working in the study carrels or cubicles.

Once I saw someone sleeping underneath a large unfolded newspaper.

Another time I found someone asleep in the stairwell next to it.

If you count the people about to head-desk over their pset as “sleeping”, it’s an even better 1:1 ratio. It’s completely silent there, and the reading room echoes very loudly so you can feel an appropriate amount of shame for dropping your pen onto the table and disturbing the peace–the perfect place for a pset and a nap.


Hayden Library

Hayden Library also has a large sample size and would be an ideal research location for my “paper”, though it’s slightly further away from most of my classes. It is an especially nice place to work and feels very academic. It was also the first library I visited as a freshman. I remember walking outside at night and looking into the long, tall windows full of light and books in the summer evening–a very scenic location too!


The Green Lounge


The Green Lounge is also very conveniently located–right off the infinite. It’s not as nice for napping if you are a light sleeper, because the noise in the hallway can get loud. But there are definitely people who sleep in there. I have done so once.

The furniture is pretty cool because it is very green and also modular. The chairs are always arranged in circles to look pretty, but people pull out the individual chairs to corners and such. I find this lounge the most visually appealing.

Physics Reading Room


I recently discovered the gorgeous physics reading room one day when I wandered up to the third floor above the infinite. The reading room is really beautiful, with a quiet space no one besides Course 8 students tend to know about because most people do not randomly walk up or down two floors from the infinite. I studied for my 18.03 test there, and I find it a very serene environment. I also took a nap there, post-biology test. It is also very scholarly looking, and the light that shines through into the reading room makes it seem sacred. The reading room is also conveniently located right outside Peter Dourmashkin’s office, so while you’re doing your 8.01/8.02 (Freshman Physics) homework you can walk across the hall and bug your head lecturer!


CSAIL in Stata

A brief tangent–I have always loved to explore. MIT is great because you can go two floors up or down from your daily path and you will have suddenly landed in a whole area you don’t recognize. There are so many corners and curvatures and hideaways, places both silent and boisterous, solemn and cheerful, serious and absurd.

I discovered CSAIL in part because I was eating lunch in Stata one day and thought, “I wonder where this elevator goes”.

It was that day that I simultaneously discovered that if you’re ever in a place you think you’re not supposed to be in, so long as you seem purposeful you can pass as a grad student there. If you seem like you have absolutely no idea what’s going on at all ever, you can probably still pass as a grad student there–particularly if you’re in a math or physics department.

Upon walking into the CSAIL part of Stata, I quickly realized I probably wasn’t supposed to be there, but also that dang, they have such a nice space. It all looks so comfortable and geeky and there’s a spiral staircase right in the center, with a few different lounges all around. I could tell it would be a fantastic place to work or sleep, though I have only been there once.


The Cheney Room

So I have actually never been to the Cheney room, but it sounds like MIT’s equivalent of the Room of Requirement, and I’ve been trying to get card access for the last week. Self-identified ladies, this one is for you. The Margaret Cheney Room is a Women’s Community Room created in recognition that women have traditionally been denied a safe space–it has lockers, showers, a study room, a main area with a piano, kitchens, and much more. I have never actually been inside, only seen photos, but I’m extremely curious as to what lies behind the frosted glass. There used to even be beds or cots there, but then people would actually never go home, so they removed them.


Course Lounges

If you are sneaky enough and/or know the right people, course lounges can also be incredibly nice locations for studying and sleeping. I’ve recently come to notice that Course 8 is spoiled with really nice-looking facilities and spaces–the Course 8 lounge, which a friend recently showed me, is full of stereotypical blackboards-full-of-equations, and also has nice light coming in through the windows (in case you all haven’t noticed, I really appreciate good sunlight in a room). Many other course lounges I’ve walked past also boast nap-worthy couches and cram-worthy tables!


Walker Memorial


Walker Memorial is home to a plethora of student organizations, including the LGBTQA+ groups on campus, the BSU (Black Student Union), and a pub for graduate students (I never know why that’s there). The BSU Lounge is always warm in the winter time–ideal for napping! Though I personally have not been to the Rainbow Lounge, I hear it’s a good place to just relax and discuss modern issues with some wonderful LGBTQA+ students–I also hear that sometimes they have cookies. As an MIT student and as a college student, I’d like to get more invested in activism on and outside campus, so I wish I visited these two places more! All students are welcome to both of these places, of course.


Some of my friends’ favorites:

Tutorial Services Room–Bernard S. ‘18

Lewis Music Library–Isaiah B. ‘18


(Thanks to Mingshi Y. ‘18 for the latin translation of the title–much more elegant than google translate!)

(all photos are from MIT Libraries or The Tech or taken by me)