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In Which I Sound Like an Old Man by Chris S. '11

I'm really not that old...according to CVS cashiers, I apparently look 17 =p

Hey guys, happy 2011!

It’s been awhile.

As I write this, I’m in San Francisco (hiding from the bitter Boston cold…hehe), after a long semester spent Western Blotting at midnight*, sleeping till noon, and hauling my garment bag around to medical school interviews. (I actually got that bag on mega-sale, so it cost like $15 =p…by the way I’m such good friends with that bag now, having carried it with me to so many places this past semester – and also, I’ve mastered the art of changing out of a suit in a toilet cubicle without letting anything touch the floor ;) )


* This video is TOTALLY NOT an exaggeration after your Western Blot has already failed for 21 times (…I succeeded on the 22nd try)

I guess I don’t have much to say in this entry other than to give a brief update of how my life has been…so don’t expect too many MIT-related things in here. =p

This coming semester will be my FINAL semester at MIT. FINAL FINAL FINAL. LA FIN. EL FIN. THE END.

MIT seemed like a dream. It seemed like yesterday when I was still sitting in 8.01, worrying about understanding how gyroscopes work (which I still don’t – actually, but shhh, no one says you can’t graduate if you don’t know how they work ;) ) – and now I’m sitting here, with medical school acceptances in hand, ready to begin the next chapter of my life.

It has been a time of epic failures – but also epic successes. Just last semester, I got my first ever A+ in MIT – A PLUS!!! Obviously, I was exhilarated when I discovered the grade on my webSIS (online grade system), but it was also a potent reminder of all the 2 AM nights in lab this past semester (and having to walk back to the dorm in the freezing cold) – and how scared I was at beginning this class for the last year or so (I got the A+ in 7.18 – also known as Project Lab at MIT – where bio majors do a research project for the semester right before graduation…the class is weighted at 30 credit units (a standard class is 12 units), so what grade you get in the class also makes a huge difference in your GPA).

There it is, 300 hours of hard work in the lab during the semester, converted into two simple characters in a webpage online. Funny how sometimes the things that you are most scared of turn out to be your biggest accomplishments.

In San Francisco, I’ve been hanging out with a bunch of MIT ’10s, seeing how life for them is one year out of the Institvte. Some are in grad school, others are working in industry – but the common thread is that everyone still fondly remembers MIT and are proud of the fact that they survived the grind and got their share of the “MIT experience.”

Here, I’m sitting on the cusp of graduating, with friends around me left and right applying for jobs – applying for graduate school – attending interviews – getting ready for life after MIT.

When we were freshman or sophomores, it seems like our time at MIT would never quite ever end. After all, there were just too many course to take, so many new things to try, so many new friends to make. MIT is like a giant summer camp, filled with teenagers amped on Monsters and Red Bulls (literally true), burning up their energy and their youth for the things they were passionate about.

Now, as a senior, it seems that this party is finally winding down. Not for the ones that just joined it, but for us on our way out.

Here, you’ll see the acronym IHTFP thrown around a lot – depending on how many nights one hasn’t slept, it can either stand for I Hate The Friggin Place, or I Have Truly Found Paradise. It’s this kind of ambivalence that has always characterized our relationship with the Institvte, but is only coming into sharp focus now, when we are so close to graduating.

I can’t count how many nights I’ve trudged back to New House in the wee hours of the morning, exiting a self-imposed exile away from my dorm room so I can properly study for a final exam – how many nights I’ve wolfed down free platters of food and cold pizza that I found in the Student Center, having gone to too many back-to-back student group meetings to grab a proper dinner. And I know so many people share the same story – what makes MIT so awesome is the energy and the excitement that is always buzzing around the campus – in the classrooms, in the laboratories, even in the dormitories.

In a recent medical school interview that I attended, my interviewer glanced through my file, and then remarked – “oh, so you’re a student at MIT.”

“Yes,” I responded.

“So tell me, how is it?”

The first word that slipped out of my mouth, without even thinking about it, was “intense.”

But it’s so much more than the intensity here – if you’re accepted, you’re in for the rollercoaster ride of your life – but it’s also about the people you meet along the way, the faculty that you’ll have the honor of sharing coffee hour with, and the opportunities that you’ll stumble into here. Just three summers ago, I stood stupidly in front of a lab bench, pipetting water from one beaker into another, learning the basics (and you really can’t get more basic than this) of molecular research. Now, I’m drafting up research plans, running simultaneous trials and experiments side by side, and coming in and out of the laboratory at all hours of the day and night (my postdoc jokingly remarked that I work harder than the grad students =p)

I’ve quoted this quote earlier in one of my blog entries – I love the quote, because now I truly understand it.

“MIT is a very good place; I’m not trying to put it down. I was just in love with it. It has developed for itself a spirit, so that every member of the whole place thinks that it’s the most wonderful place in the world–it’s the center, somehow, of scientific and technological development in the United States, if not the world. It’s like a New Yorker’s view of New York: they forget the rest of the country. And while you don’t get a good sense of proportion there, you do get an excellent sense of being with it and in it, and having motivation and desire to keep on–that you’re specially chosen, and lucky to be there.

-Richard P. Feynman, Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1965.

My acceptance letter to MIT did not arrive by owl post, but little did I know (in fact, I had NO IDEA – haha so naive back then) when I put that black checkmark there, what I will be signing myself away to for the next four years.

It feels slightly surreal that sometime between May 1 and May 15 I will be doing the same again (albeit no longer by hard-copy mail, since it appears that no one does that anymore) for the next 4 years of my life.

Thanks MIT for all the memories – both the good and the bad* – let’s make this final semester awesome.

* I will never ever forget the humiliation you gave me on 7.06 Exam 2, when several students walked out early with several pages of the test completely blank because it. was. that. hard. (the average was 37/100, I got a score in the teens – yes, out of 100)

I won’t really forgive you for the ton of B+’s (which are counted the same as B’s and B-‘s, since we don’t have +’s and -‘s in the external transcript) on my internal transcript either ;)

19 responses to “In Which I Sound Like an Old Man”

  1. Haha, that video has been spreading like wildfire on Facebook. IMHO though, there’re no bad projects, only learning processes. After all, research is said to be made up of 95% failures. We just have to cultivate our patience and troubleshoot where the problems are. Just my two cents of opinion. =P

    Last but not least, congratulations on your med school acceptances!! Guess we’ll be calling you Dr. Su in a few years’ time.

  2. Kim says:

    Chris,

    I spend hours reading all your posts because they’re so fun and delightful to read. The advice and insight you posted on your blog is amazing, well-written, and only serves to make me fall deeper in love with MIT (even though I’m just a sophomore in high school). Thanks so much!

  3. TT says:

    Hello,
    Chris,

    It is really an insightful post. I feel the tone of nostalgia in your words. Have an awesome life at the medical school!

  4. Observer says:

    Hey Chris,
    I hope you enjoy your last semester at MIT. You always posted magnificent posts about MIT and I really enjoyed reading them. I wish you all the best.
    Observer(’15 hopefully)

  5. Nan says:

    Wow! Good luck with Everything, Chris! I love reading your blogs, and I hope that you’ll still be posting even after you graduate…? :D

  6. oasis '11 says:

    ^ Oops, I’ve been away from the blogs long enough to forget about the grammar nazis out there >___^ Oops, I’ve been away from the blogs long enough to forget about the grammar nazis out there >___<

  7. Bhaskar says:

    Really an awesome post.Had my SAT yesterday.A bit nervous.Don’t know why..Hmm..Keep updating……..

  8. SR '15 says:

    haha the video is funny 很给力!

    congrats on your A+ and med school acceptance! (:

  9. Ava says:

    I love this post and your reflection on you past years at MIT. I hope you enjoy your last semester and good luck with everything! :D

  10. Ava says:

    your reflection of your years at MIT *

    sorry for the typo!

  11. Vivek says:

    “the art of changing out of a suit in a toilet cubicle without letting anything touch the floor” – You deserve recognition for this line alone. It’s an important accomplishment (probably more important than that A+ wink )

    You also raise one of the real tragedies of the applicant pool – “if you’re accepted”. I wouldn’t mind giving my left-arm (because I’m right-handed) to get in. Thing is, this applies for most people who think they’re competitive enough to get in.

    Best of luck for the next 4 years.

  12. Drew says:

    Ah, thank you for kinda reminding me something important: that there’s life. Right now is pretty cool, but there’s tomorrow and the day after, and after and after, so I should enjoy my schooling experience. All the best in med school!

  13. To add on to my previous comment, there was this paragraph from a recent NYT article:
    “You have to develop a tolerance for the setbacks that come with learning. Mistakes are just a message to try again but in a different way, and failures are a one-room schoolhouse for the adventurous. I tell my shocked gardening students that I’ve killed more plants than all of them put together. But knowing what to do sometimes comes from learning what not to do.”
    It probably applies to lab work as well.

    Nevertheless, that was a fun video, smashing the misconception that scientists are stereotypical nerds, and offering some much-appreciated stress relief to grad students.

  14. Brittany says:

    Thanks for posting this!
    This gave me way more perspective on the school than anything I have looked at on this website because it was authentic and real.
    I do not know where I will end up or even if this school will accept me but somehow I feel better about it all.

    Congratulations for getting this far!!! I am about to graduate (from high school) myself!!!

    By the way, what did you major in specifically?

  15. Justin says:

    CHRIS! smile make sure to have fun with the last semester!

  16. Norah says:

    The blog is awesome. It’s very insightful indeed. Congratulations on your A+ and your acceptance.

    I can totally relate to what you mentioned regarding ambivalent feelings. I still can’t make up my mind about my own school. Am I sad for leaving it behind or ecstatic to begin a new chapter?

  17. Norah says:

    The blog is awesome. It’s very insightful indeed. Congratulations on your A+ and your acceptance.

    I can totally relate to what you mentioned regarding ambivalent feelings. I still can’t make up my mind about my own school. Am I sad for leaving it behind or ecstatic to begin a new chapter?

  18. Kalvin O. says:

    This is awesome..hey one question: Are thinking on becoming an EC for MIT when you graduate,lol.