I’m supergirl and I’m here to save the world by Mollie B. '06
My day, being thought of as superhuman, and answering several questions.
I’m so jet-lagged! And completely slap-happy! Yayyyy!
6:45 AM — Arrive in Boston. I actually sort of slept on the plane, since it wasn’t a very full flight and I had a whole row to myself.
7:15 AM — One of the girls I met at the UCLA weekend works at a pharmaceutical company in Boston (a lot of people take a year or two off between undergrad and grad school), and she offered to drive me back to the dorm, an offer which I gladly accepted (taxis from Logan to campus often cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $30, and I had already spent $30 at LAX last night on People and Freakonomics). She took a wrong turn out of the airport, leading us on a long detour through the city. Morning traffic sucks.
8:00 AM — I finally arrived back at the dorm. Pounced on Adam, expecting him to be glad to see me. He swatted me away and went back to sleep. I took a shower, because ugh I felt disgusting after being on a plane all night, then crashed in bed.
12:15 PM — I woke up, sort of got dressed (in my world, putting on track pants and a t-shirt != getting dressed), and headed into lab.
1:00 PM — I did a bunch of lab stuff, including staining some neurons with antibodies and preparing for an experiment I’m doing tomorrow.
3:15 PM — I went back home and sat on my duff.
6:00 PM — Step aerobics PE class.
7:00 PM — I cheered for the basketball game after cleaning myself up a little from PE. We won!
9:00 PM — I finally took the swim test! Yay, now I can graduate. In a random bit of coincidence, I ran into my friend Dave ’07, who was also taking the test (this was good, because I felt way less self-conscious about running around the Z-Center pool in my bikini with Dave there).
Now — Defrying, eating Chex Mix, and chatting on AIM with leftcoast mom. :)
The UCLA interview was good, and I really enjoyed talking with the faculty. They were all very enthusiastic about the research I’m doing, and pleasantly surprised that I’d been in the same lab since sophomore year. A lot of them knew my UROP supervisor and sent along their greetings. (Science is kind of a bizarrely small world.)
Some of the other applicants were really befuddled by the fact that I’d had time to complete two majors, work 15 hours a week in lab, be on the cheerleading squad, and work for the admissions office. One even told me that I must be Superwoman. Sort of interesting, I guess, because what I do is really not all that extraordinary in the context of MIT. There’s a culture of excellence here, and we all, directly or indirectly, encourage those around us to work harder and smarter and better. I guess it’s not that way everywhere, which I think is really sort of a shame. I think Dean of Student Life Benedict put it best in the Tech about a year ago:
“MIT is the kind of place you love to hate, but you really don’t hate it. What you hate about it is the enormous pressure that people put on you here and which you also put on yourself. What you love about it is the enormous pressure people put on you and you put on yourself and that you can accomplish and succeed and produce and learn… students are telling me they’re having a great experience here however you look at it. They’re exhausted, they don’t sleep enough, they don’t eat enough, they get frustrated and depressed, but at the end of the road, they have a fabulous experience.”
A few questions
1. Mike commented that it was odd that extracurriculars don’t matter to grad schools, and asked if that also applied to things like volunteer work. So generally speaking, grad schools are only interested in things you do that are related to your field — spending time on an extracurricular sort of means you didn’t spend that time in lab. But you’re welcome to submit that information elsewhere, for example in your personal statement or in the “additional information” section.
2. Seriously, I don’t know anything but biology grad school admissions. I promise.
3. Susan asked how to stand out from the masses in graduate school applications. Well, first, there really aren’t “masses” — admissions are done by graduate departments, so there’s never a truly huge number of people applying to one program. If you have a solid background, you’ll probably get an interview, at which point you must merely be poised, confident, and a good communicator. Things that will make you pretty much a shoo-in, even at top programs, include publishing in a top journal and working with a famous professor.
4. Leo asked what I thought about Caltech. I’ll let you know after I interview there in mid-February!
5. Shikhar asked if I knew of any research programs for high school students which allow participation by non-US citizens. To be honest, I don’t really know of any research programs, US citizens or no, since I never did research in high school. Also to be honest, I think programs are overrated — emailing professors can be a very efficient way to get into a lab.
6. In response to my entry on Adam’s and my suite, Anonymous asked “You’re allowed to live in the same room as a boyfriend? Do you need some kind of special permission for that? I always thought you had to be married.”
There are several responses to this question, the first of which is that, in the eyes of MIT Housing, Adam and I don’t live in the same room — I live in D223 and he lives in D222. The fact that there are two beds in one of the rooms is sort of irrelevant to Housing. Second, we obviously do live in a co-ed suite, which is pretty common at MIT, although there is single-sex housing for those who desire it; McCormick, where Ann lives, is all-female, and many dorms have all-female or all-male suites and whatnot. Many of my friends at other schools don’t have co-ed suites or bathrooms, but MIT doesn’t have any rules about that sort of thing, which I think is refreshing.
Third, each dorm has a Room Assignment Chair, who is a student. Therefore, even in dorms which have doubles, it is theoretically possible to room with a person of the opposite gender, so long as you can convince the RAC to let you do it. (This is another possible MIT urban legend — I’ve heard people talk about it, but I’ve never actually heard of it being done.) Fourth, there is married student housing at MIT, which undergraduates can and do live in, and MIT’s definition of a “spousal equivalent” is pretty generous — you don’t actually have to be married, you just have to have a joint checking account with your significant other.
Fifth, unlike most schools, there’s no real policy against cohabitation at MIT; I’ve known of many, many cases of couples basically living in one or the other of their dorm rooms while keeping the other room for “stuff”.
Hope that answers that question!