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GEL-ing by Maggie L. '12

Gordon Engineering Leadership program, that is

I am not your typical MIT student. In high school, I never built a robot, never coded on my TI-89, never watched Star Wars. I did not get a 223,462,346,400 on my SAT. I did not take all 27 levels of the AP Physics test (I also apparently don’t know how many AP Physics tests there are).

How did I wind up at MIT, you ask? One fateful Saturday morning while attending a community service event at my high school, I broke into the campus life center, gently harassed a staff member to let me use his computer, and screamed like I’ve never screamed before when I saw my admission letter. That day, this theater geek/runner/newspaper junkie became a MIT student.

Truth is, I’m still a theater geek/runner/newspaper junkie. Along with my major in Chemical-Biological Engineering (Course XB, for those of you up to speed on the course numbers), I’m pursuing a Theater Arts minor because there’s no combination more perfect than spike tape and mass balances, right?

I’m also on the Varsity Cross Country and Track teams here at the ‘tute, in which I get to hang out with some of the most awesome people I know. Two years ago, I would’ve laughed at you if you told me I’d be a varsity athlete in college. Now, I run the steeplechase. Finally, when night falls, I transform into Associate News Editor for MIT’s newspaper, The Tech. Some people will try to tell you engineers write numbers, not words. In this blog, I’ll prove them wrong.

Actually, people will tell you a lot about engineers. A variety of one- liners tell me “real engineers give you the feeling you’re having a conversation with a dial tone or busy signal,” “real engineers consider themselves well dressed if their socks match,” and “real engineers know the second law of thermodynamics-but not their own shirt size.” Well, I know my shirt size, and breaking the engineering mold is one thing I hope to accomplish in my next MIT adventure: the Gordon-MIT Engineering
Leadership (GEL) Program.

Over the course of one or two years, GEL takes engineering students at MIT and challenges them to think as engineering leaders. Through weekly engineering leadership labs, projects, and classes, students selected for GEL learn how to best tackle working in a group and take leadership roles in engineering projects.

GEL speaks to the variety of engineers on campus. In GEL, chemical engineers collaborate with electrical engineers, mechanical engineers rub elbows with aero-astro engineers. GELs work with industry mentors, participate in Internship Plus experiences, and get exposed to experiences that expose us to a world of engineering beyond the Institute’s “Ivory Tower.”

While I just got accepted to GEL, I’ve learned one thing so far: there’s no “typical” engineer at MIT. In fact, “typical” doesn’t describe anyone here, and in GEL I’m going to learn how to bring these atypical students together. Best of all, you get to share in my experiences along the way.

23 responses to “GEL-ing”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey there, are you a new blogger?

  2. Armin says:

    Welcome to blogs,
    Are you a freshman admit, or you entered as a researcher? What’s that GEL by the way?

    Analyzing your entry:
    First you said that you were weaving baskets under water and then you got into somewhere called MIT. Okay, and people there do something useful other than getting astonishing grades. Can you tell us how come you were so lucky to get in? = What is GEL…

  3. genius ('18) says:

    Wonderful post! So many amazing programs at MIT…

  4. mag says:

    Anonymous #1: Why, yes, this is my FIRST!!! blog smile
    Anonymous #2: Yes! and I’m excited to be here!

    Armin: I’m a member of the Class of 2012. “GEL” stands for the Gordon Engineering Leadership program, for which there is now a guest blogger (me!), so that’s why “(GEL)” appears by my name instead of ’12. I don’t know if I can really answer your next question. Does anyone really know why they got in? I still don’t, but what I do know is I’m the kind of person who doesn’t just want to solve problems through engineering; I want to present solutions through leadership and writing, two things which the GEL program is letting me accomplish. If I had to sum up this program in a sentence, I’d say it’s an interactive, collaborative community of engineers who, through additional classes and leadership laboratories, develop leadership skills in their junior and/or senior year(s). I hope that clarifies some things!

  5. Armin says:

    I see mag, so did you transfer to MIT to spend your junior and senior year?
    Can’t be kinda exchange program coz you’re gonna graduate from MIT, me right?

    They got in coz there’s a match between MIT seats and size of applicant’s …. forget it, just kidding.

    me, I’m kind of person who his sock doesn’t match the other.
    I got your point about leadership; what is writing doing here?

  6. genius ('18) says:

    “Solving problems through engineering” is great, but if you can’t present those solutions through “leadership and writing”, then the solutions are of no use. That’s why GEL is such a good program. The writing is in there so you can present solutions. You can’t present solutions without writing your results and explanations down. Am I right mag? Hope this answers your question Armin!

  7. mag says:

    Armin: I am not a transfer student, and GEL is not an exchange program.

    I like writing. I didn’t realize this until I got to MIT, where I’ve taken advantage of multiple writing opportunities, such as this blog.

    genius(’18), you got it! When I was in high school, the general mindset was “find the answer, write it down, move on.” That worked back then, but it doesn’t provide an opportunity for growth/learning.

  8. Katie says:

    Maggie, this is wonderful!! So glad to see you’re doing well at MIT! You go girl

    Maggie, this is wonderful!! So glad to see you’re doing well at MIT! You go girl

    <3 Troubie SIster Katie K.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Armin seems to be very curious! Please don’t get me wrong. I think I am too, sometimes.

  10. Daphne'14 says:

    Welcome to the blog. Good to have someone new!

  11. We’re so pleased to have Maggie as part of the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program, and we hope everyone enjoys her blog entries! For more information about GEL, check out http://web.mit.edu/gordonelp

  12. Amethyst says:

    I think from your description of yourself that you might be somewhat literary, so I am going to make a suggestion of a book you might like. It’s called “The Existential Pleasures of Engineering”, and a lot of it deals with the perils of negotiating the anti-technology movement (it was written some years ago, but still relevant), but another large part deals with the idea of the need for engineers to enter fields as leaders, etc. Pretty good read smile You go girl! But–

    GASP!! NO STAR WARS??! HOW DO YOU LIVE???

    PS ReCaptcha: sidelined wakakuyu
    Weirdest one ever. Japanese?

  13. Kia '14 says:

    I just checked GEL website. It’s awesome. Thanks mag.

  14. Sandra A says:

    Yayy Maggie. Congs. You win way too much at life, girl. I only learnt (and yes, I refuse to spell/use learned) about GEL the night before the applications were due =( But senior year, hopefully. I am glad someone I know got in so I can bother them with lotsa qns raspberry

  15. mag says:

    Thanks, all! Yeah, Amethyst, I always meant to watch Star Wars, but there are so many! I saw a Family Guy episode on it, does that count?

  16. genius ('18) says:

    Where did star wars come in?

  17. Ana L says:

    OMG HI MAGGIE HI

  18. HI Maggie!
    You do seem to be like me in a lot of ways(Or am I like you?)! I’m surprised. Reading your blog entry given me some hope! Well, Welcome to blogging..I’m sure I’ll enjoy your posts!

  19. Hey, congrats on being in the new program! We’re super-psyched for next year. To all you folks wanting to know more, visit: http://mit.edu/gordonelp Thanks!

  20. Hi! As a recent graduate of GEL, I can say it totally changed my life and how I viewed the world and my place in it as an engineer. It’s an amazing experience! I’m excited for you and everyone else in your class smile Congrats!

  21. Cody '14 says:

    Maggie, question completely unrelated to your post, but did you consider majoring in Course 20 before you decided on 10B? If so, what made you choose 10B over 20?

  22. mag says:

    Hey Cody, I did think about 20 for a little bit, but I wanted to incorporate chem somehow. I’m better at chemistry, but I like biology more, and I couldn’t decide between the two, so I thought 10B was a nice combination. I’m also very indecisive, so with experience in engineering, bio, and chem, I felt that I could go in a lot of different career directions. When it comes time for you to make that decision, I recommend going to the “choosing a major” fairs in the spring. That’s really what sold 10B for me.