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MIT blogger Elizabeth C. '13

In Which I Get Schooled By My Professor by Elizabeth Choe '13

This video does not contain an improvised song, but it does contain Peter Reddien.

(I know you’re tempted to stop reading after the video, but keep going!)

You all remember Professor Reddien, right?

(Crash course: He co-taught my 7.03 (genetics) class this semester. This was his lecture on genetic silencing. And yes, in case you were wondering, I thought the lecture did happen to be a good time. We learned about how you get weird gene expression with varying degrees of histone packing and… actually, on second thought, I had a lot of good doodles from this lecture. I’ll table it for another post. Moral of the story: chromatin is a lot like me – if something’s messed up, it’s usually to blame.)

The real gem of this post is that Prof. Reddien allowed me to interview him the other day, and well – see for yourself:

Now, as awesome as that was (he used to read Feynman’s books!), I am so bummed that the best part of the conversation came after I turned my camera off.

See, a lot of you are probably in the process of figuring out where you want to go to college (I assume you readers are mostly prospective students, unless you’re my mom. Sorry mom, you already had your college days. No applying to MIT!), and some of you may already be here. All of you must know that being a student is pretty stressful. But Prof. Reddien mentioned something before I left – he said,

“You know, I think some students just feel like they have to do things, so they miss out on how fun learning is.”

Schooled by P. Reddien.

I’ll be the first to admit that this semester is probably the hardest one I’ve ever had… ever. I can’t exactly pinpoint anything in particular (aside from one certain frustrating class), but I felt really drained by the end and when people asked, “Hey, how are you?” my default response was, “Tired.” And when Prof. Reddien said those words to me, I thought to myself, “Crap. When did learning start sucking so much?” Albeit, I was in the middle of finals week, so I wasn’t as gung-ho about my classes, but still.

Long-time readers will remember Ben, the guy who started the MIT Blogs. I remember being a high-schooler and reading one of his posts where he said, “This is the time of your life where your only responsibility is to learn.” We may gripe about AP tests, problems sets, whatever, but when it comes down to it, we have a really, really sweet deal. Our only responsibility right now is to discover how things work, to read that one book that’ll change our lives (don’t lie, you know you loved Everything Is Illuminated), to learn how to play that piece that’ll make an audience stand on its feet. Talking to Prof. Reddien reminded me of this a lot. At MIT and at any college, you’ll get professors who maybe don’t care as much, maybe are caught up in their research, maybe just want to show off how smart they are. But you’ll also see people who genuinely love what they do. As I left the Whitehead Institute, I thought, I want that. Not to be a professor, not to be a researcher. No – I want to be able to wake up everyday and say, “Man it sucks to have to do this paperwork or to deal with this administration or to deal with blah blah but I am damn lucky to being doing what I love every single day.” Does that mean I might try to get an internship with Animal Planet? Does that mean I’ll finally perform my stand-up routine at an open-mic night? Who knows.

For those of you who were admitted on Friday – congrats! But more than we want you to be here, we want to you be confident in knowing that this’ll be the place that you’ll be able to pursue your passions. Many people have turned down MIT and ended up pretty chipper people (see Matt’s post).

For those of you who were deferred – relax. Spend your holiday break with your family and friends. Enjoy it (you deserve to!). A deferral is not a “polite rejection” – I was deferred, too. And now I’m a crazy blogger (other side note: I didn’t get accepted as a blogger my first application, either!) for the admissions office!

For those of you who weren’t accepted – a lot of things happen that we may not understand, but if you could only see how hard our admissions staff works, you would know how much they care about each applicant, about how much thought they put into deciding what’s best for each person. When they say “we look for a good fit,” they really mean “we try to determine how happy someone would be at MIT.” This school is not for everyone, and I’ll admit that there are days where I wonder what I’m doing at the Masochistic Institute of Technology. Don’t let this discourage you – be confident that now you’re just closer to finding a school that you’ll be really happy attending.

For all of you – whether you’re a senior in high school wanting to come here, an upperclassman at MIT wondering what to do with your life, a parent – remember to let everything you do be guided by asking yourself, “Am I working toward something I love?” For some people, MIT will help you achieve that. For others, perhaps not. Sure, we’ll have to face things that aren’t so fun (*cough*standardizedtesting*cough), but you don’t have to go to MIT. You don’t have to do your problem sets. You don’t have to go to college. But if you decide that it’s something you want and not just something you have to do – don’t forget that when learning/working hard starts to suck. And remember that for most of us lucky ones, we don’t have to worry about bills, about co-workers, about bosses – no matter what school we go to, we have the incredible privilege of getting to learn.

(And if you get lucky, it’s getting to learn from Peter Reddien!)

9 responses to “In Which I Get Schooled By My Professor”

  1. Anonymous says:

    ooh, he’s cute! :D and he likes Feynman! :DD Great post, Elizabeth — really relevant, too. I feel like a lot of people our age are sort of unconciously pressured into doing stuff for the sake of doing them, rather than because they want to, if that makes sense. Thanks for doing the interview!!

  2. Anirban Shaw says:

    i love the dog scratching part !!! hahaa!
    were u listening to professor reddien or just scratching away Henry….hahaa!!!

  3. Daniel says:

    I was just deferred last week, and my first thought was that if they didn’t want me early then why would they accept me later. It is good to know that deferred applicants still have a chance. I am going to pour my heart into the midyear report Waiting until March isn’t going to be fun though. I hope to be accepted then. Thanks for your blog entries, I have to admit that you are my favorite blogger so keep blogging frequently, and I will keep up the hope of being admitted come March. Happy Holidays.

  4. You went an entire semester thinking it’s pronounced “Ready-en”?!

  5. Nadia'15? says:

    That was awesome. Prof. Reddien seemed genuinely passionate about his work and it was truly inspiring. Thank you.

  6. Gaurav says:

    You got it there!! haha

    By the way,
    Merry Christmas!!!

  7. Sajid says:

    Wow! You possess a wonderful HANDWRITING !!


  8. Rebecca Z. says:

    Wow. This is what’s going to get me working through winter break! Thanks for keeping me focus and motivated even when I forget why I make my life harder than it could be… wouldn’t have it any other way. smile

  9. Hesham says:

    Wow. Nice piece of advice, Elizabeth.
    Thanks for the confidence boost!

    I’d say MIT’s admission office is, by far, the most human!!