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Friday morning potpourri in lab by Mollie B. '06

How MIT's campus makes me happy to be alive. Also stuff from Adam.

March 17, 2006

I have a couple of unrelated things to relate today, so I’ll put headings in bold and you can skip around as you see fit.

On reward as a motivation.
So by way of introduction, it is 9:50 AM on a Friday morning. I have no classes on Fridays (except for a 7.28 recitation to which I have never gone), so you might wonder why on earth I am awake and not curled up in my cozy bed. (I’m wondering that a little myself.) I am, somewhat involuntarily, in lab, finishing up a Western blot. I swear, my cells call the shots around this joint.

The sort of puzzling thing is that nothing that I’ve done this year really matters for my next steps — graduate schools don’t ask for mid-year reports or expect that you’ll keep your grades up after acceptance, so I could literally have gotten/get straight D’s all year and still happily gone off to graduate school in the fall. At this point, my project may or may not be done by the time I leave for grad school, so working really hard on it between now and the end of summer isn’t necessarily going to net me any publications. And yet I’m getting A-/B+’s in all my academic classes and working 20+ hours a week in lab.

It’s nice to know I don’t do it for the tangible rewards. :)

MIT’s campus and being happy to be alive.
Ali Yahya on CC was asking about the MIT campus, and it made me think of my favorite places on campus to sit and take deep breaths and enjoy being alive. (You have to have those places anywhere you are, or you’ll go crazy, I think.)

People are very concerned about the aesthetics of various college campuses, something I don’t necessarily understand — I mean, really, how superficial is that? I think what matters more is the number of places you can really enjoy, regardless of the overall look of campus as a whole. People really denigrate the MIT campus, which I think is a little odd since there are so many great things about campus that you’d overlook if you were obsessed with all the buildings being the same style or something.

Campus tends to feel very home-y and lived-in, maybe because it is somewhat small and there are main thoroughfares like the Infinite Corridor which most people travel during the course of a day. There are a lot of benches in most of the main hallways, and people sit and talk on them and drape themselves over them and sometimes nap on them. I think it’s a very friendly campus, and I enjoy running into people I know every time I walk through the halls.

My favorite places on campus
1. The 24-hour reading room in Hayden Library. There are cushy chairs and lots of quiet. I like to take naps there. The rest of Hayden (the major campus library) is also good for sitting and taking deep breaths and reading. Plus Hayden has a huge collection of science journals! What’s not to love?
2. Overlooking lobby 7 from the second or third floor. There’s this cute little bench where I like to sit, or sometimes I just like to lean over the balcony and watch people. Lobby 7 is very grand and open and dome-y, and I get a little swell of pride reading the inscription around the dome — “Established for Advancement and Development of Science its Application to Industry the Arts Agriculture and Commerce” — sort of makes me feel like a nice little stone in the giant edifice that is MIT science.
3. The new Brain and Cognitive Sciences building. I like to sit on my lab’s balcony overlooking the atrium and take in the blue sky through the skylight. (I did this yesterday for almost an hour, just sitting and enjoying the sun.)
4. The roof of the Student Center. (Not that I’ve ever, ahem, been there. Just using my imagination.) I’m sure the roof of the Green Building is even more spectacular.
5. Killian Court. Especially on sunny days, you can sit and look at the elegant columns and enjoy the sunshine and watch the river.
6. (Not on campus, but close enough to go on a lunch break) Boston Common. I like to take the T into the city if I have a long lunch and watch the ducks on the duck pond.

Adam.
Adam posted a comment on his entry last night (even though I told him not to). In case you didn’t see it, it said

Mollie told me that I’m supposed to answer all these comments/questions when I write my next entry. But, I’m too impatient.

Minh: Once I build my planes I fly them. Thats the fun part. But I seem to get into a build, fly, crash, repeat cycle. So I’m always building something new.

Rosen: Most of my airplanes are built from kits, but with heavy modification. The blade runner was a toy helicopter I picked up at the Discovery Channel store, then modified it (alot). The small blue plane was my own design, and uses electronics out of another cheap rc toy. I reorganized my public folder and put all my airplane movies here.

I will personally apologize for the quality of the airplane movies, since I am the one filming them and a) I am not a particularly good cameraperson and b) my camera is not a particularly good camera.

Minh asked Adam if MIT students really make enough to pay off the MIT self-help portion of financial aid (currently $5500 but possibly changing). It really depends on how much you work. If you are funded through the UROP office and work both terms of a year plus the summer, you make $6775 in a year. If you’re funded through your UROP supervisor, you can make significantly more — I cleared about $10000 last year. If you’re taking a private internship, you can make even more than that — Adam gets paid twice what I do to work at Draper. You can always take out loans to meet self-help, as Dinyar noted, but if you work during the school year and the summer, making $5500 in a year shouldn’t be a huge problem.

Laura expressed surprise that Adam was using Explorer for his webpage. I hadn’t noticed, and upon reading the comment I snarked at Adam. I’m enough of a computer snob to use Firefox religiously (although not enough of one to not use Windows XP)… Adam uses Firefox reluctantly, but swears that Dreamweaver works better with IE. *sigh*

I will let Adam write an entry about his research soon… although I don’t know how much he’ll be able to say — he is funded by the Department of Defense, after all!

RD decisions.
I want to wish everybody absolutely the best of luck. I’ll be in Maine with Adam skiing this weekend, but I fully expect to come back to everybody’s news through blog comments or through email.

7 responses to “Friday morning potpourri in lab”

  1. Laura says:

    Haha glad to know I brought the important issue to your attention. =)

    (no hard feelings, Adam…)

  2. Sam says:

    One thing I like about campus is that even if you don’t like all the architectural marvels (I’m looking at you, Simmons Hall), at least everything on campus is, well… different to look at.

  3. thekeri says:

    Firefox is my personal god.

    Well, one of them.

  4. me? says:

    Why haven’t you ever been to the 7.28 recessitation?

    Have fun in Maine. smile

  5. Lena says:

    how did you get the job in the lab and are the experiments you do designed by yourself or postdocs, professors, and grad students?

  6. Timur Sahin says:

    Eeeeeeeeeeeee!

    See you at CPW? smile

  7. Phil Kim says:

    western blots… used to be my life. haha. im starting again this mondayy – oh boy.

    can’t wait for cpw!