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MIT student blogger Mollie B. '06

I am a hapless klutz by Mollie B. '06

Stories about Nobel laureates.

First, I am excited to say that the class of 2009 is slowly straggling onto campus, and I could not be more psyched. Rush/orientation is my favorite time of year, and even though I’m not the Macgregor rush chair this year like I was last year, I am looking forward to helping out with rush activities and especially in-house rush (when Macgregor freshmen pick entries and upperclassmen pick freshmen).

Anyway. This afternoon, I needed a bucket of ice. Since my lab’s ice machine has been broken since, like, April, I had to hunt elsewhere (we’re moving to a new building in October, and Morgan doesn’t want to “waste” grant money on a new ice machine when we’re getting a spiffy new one at the new building. Whatever.) So I trudged upstairs to scrounge up some ice. After filling my bucket, I was walking by an open door when I saw… Professor Tonegawa, who won the Nobel Prize in 1987 for his discoveries regarding how the body generates its collection of antibodies.

Professor Tonegawa was reading a bulletin board, just like a normal person. I was so excited to have spotted him (I’m kind of a Nobel laureate fangirl) that I sort of ran into the wall and dropped my ice bucket. (Luckily it didn’t spill, so I managed to get out of the situation without looking like too much of an idiot.)

I’ve actually taken a class with Professor Tonegawa: I took 9.30 (Neural Plasticity) with him and several other prominent course 9 faculty my sophomore year.

(And then there was this time sophomore year, quoted from my personal journal:

Today at the Plastic Lunch, the periodic get-together of the Picower Center for Learning and Memory, my PI, Professor Sheng, presented the project my postdoc and I have been working on to the entire Picower Center. And since my postdoc is an MD/PhD and goes to the hospital on Thursdays, I was the sole representative of the project in attendance. So that was cool in the first place, to sit and listen to Professor Sheng talk about my project. And to get mentioned at the end.

But what was even cooler was having Professor Tonegawa, who is, as I cannot stop mentioning, a Nobelist, in the front row. And then, when he asked Professor Sheng a question to which Professor Sheng didn’t know the answer, Professor Sheng passed the question on to me. And I got to answer it in the middle of the lecture, just like a real scientist.

Guess who was one super-excited sophomore that day?)

Further in the category of “run-ins with Nobel laureates” — although this one is a little more literal — one of my first days working at the lab sophomore year, I was using the copier when I stepped back and ran into a nice-looking older man. After he had walked away, my postdoc whispered to me, “Do you know who that was? That was Phil Sharp!” Oops.

I also crane my neck every time I pass the third floor of building 6, because that’s where the physics department is, and I’m pretty sure you can’t spit near the physics department without hitting a Nobel laureate. Being a biologist, I don’t really think I’d recognize them by sight, but it’s still fun to crane my neck and see the little old men with white hair walking around — probably some of the most brilliant people on the face of the planet.

Answers! Get your answers!
1. Lorelai asked, “what should i do for getting into mit?i am from turkey and 15 , want to study undergraduate in mit. i am taking SAT this february – what should i do next?”
Looks like you’re right on schedule to me! Aside from taking standardized tests (SATI and SATII) and generally pursuing a challenging courseload and fun extracurricular slate, there’s not much you’d need to do until the year before you’d like to come to MIT. Just relax and enjoy your last few years of high school. :)
2. Fiona said, “Since I am a frosh, I only have 2 classes on my fall schedule right now, a HASS (21M.223, Folk Music of the British Isles and North America) and Mission 2009. And with only two classes, my schedule is already conflicted. What do you do when this happens? I don’t think I can just change recitations or lecture times, since I think both of these classes have only one section. Anyway, thanks in advance!”
Well, for some classes, you can just accept that you have a conflict (my friend Swapna once took 7.013 and some conflicting course 10 class at the same time — she just missed 7.013 lecture every Friday and had me take notes for her). It’s a little more difficult with HASSes, though, because many of them factor in attendance as part of the grade — if you miss an hour every Wednesday, for example, you might lose points. In this case, it looks like you might have to choose between the HASS and Mission 2009. BUT, there are a few things to keep in mind: 1) you don’t have to take a HASS-D your first term. The HASS people want you to, but you really don’t need to. 2) All of these HASS-Ds have open seats right now, so you could just go to one of them on the first day of class with an add form signed by your advisor (you can pick up add forms outside Student Services, 11-120). 3) Even if a HASS-D (or HASS) you’re interested in isn’t listed as having open seats, you can usually go on the first day with an add form and still get a spot — lots of people sign up for HASS-Ds they don’t end up taking, so there are almost always open seats.
3. Dan asked, “Mollie, have you EVER heard of anyone who goes to MIT who rides BMX?”
I forwarded this question to Adam, who is much cooler than I am, and he said he doesn’t know of anyone specifically, but that somebody must, and even if not, there are lots of Cambridge kids who do. (I apologize for not being cool.)

4 responses to “I am a hapless klutz”

  1. Jessie says:

    Phil Sharp is indeed a nice guy. He was my freshman advisor.

    I personally know someone (Liz ’08 from 3rd East, East Campus) who I’m pretty sure rides BMX, as she has a photo of someone, perhaps herself, leaping over a dirt hill on a BMX bike with the caption “This is what I like to do for fun”.

  2. Mitra says:

    Mollie, you have no idea how much I can relate to this phenomenon. My advisor’s office is in the same little cluster as Paul Samuelson’s — Nobel Prize, National Medal of Science, etc. The man is 90 years old and he still comes to the office!

  3. lorelai says:

    oh thank you molly:)i really want to enjoy but i want to get into mit as well so i cant relax! im just SO EXCITED!! and one more question as a reward:P my scores are good for foreign students and i wonder when i can apply. right after i get my scores? i have 2 more years in highschool:) and cant find anyone to answer this question.

    i need your answer:)) thanks, really.

  4. SHARIF says: