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MIT student blogger Mollie B. '06

No more school, no more books by Mollie B. '06

Professors are people, too. Importantly, they're people who give free food.

Well, today was my last day of class as an undergrad. Technically the last day of class is tomorrow, but I only have 7.28 (molecular biology) tomorrow, and Professor Bell announced that there would be no new material, just a test review led by the TAs. I don’t believe in test reviews (I think I’ve attended a grand total of one since the end of my freshman year), so I’m not going tomorrow. Which means that 7.27 (human disease) and 9.24 (diseases of the nervous system) classes today were the last MIT classes I’ll ever attend.

I am trying really hard to scrounge up some sad, much as I’m sure a lot of you high school seniors are. On one hand, I’ve had a super four years here and I love MIT to death. On the other hand, no school until September for this kid! (I have a feeling part of my inability to dig up some tears is due to the fact that I’ll be living on the MIT campus next year and hanging out with a lot of my friends. So what is there to be sad for?)

Today at the end of 7.27 lecture, one of the students asked Professor Housman to talk a little about his career and the things he’s discovered. He was extraordinarily modest — this morning he was all “oh, I’ve been fortunate to work on a few diseases and discover some stuff”, but as a cursory Google Scholar search proves, he’s been involved in fundamental discoveries on just about any disease you can shake a stick at — Huntington’s disease, AML, schizophrenia, myotonic dystrophy, bipolar disorder, fragile X, thalessemia, Wilms’ tumor, cardiovascular disease, neurofibromatosis type I, melanoma, breast cancer… if we know something about the molecular basis of a disease, odds are that Professor Housman’s had his hand in it.

And the cool thing is that this distinguished researcher a really enthusiastic lecturer, and he usually gets a rating of 6 (out of 7) on the undergraduate subject evaluations. (And of course, we had no idea that he was so distinguished. You get a little numb to professors being famous after a while — I mean, pretty much all of them are famous. Whoop de doo.) But at the end of his extraordinarily modest speech about his accomplishments, he said that he considers his most important job to be educating us to be scientists and doctors. And I think he was even a little misty-eyed as he said it.


It’s definitely the time of year for end-of-the-term dinners, and I’ve been to two in the past week or so. Last Monday, Dr. Byrne, who teaches 9.24, invited the class to dinner at his home, Gray House, with him and his wife. You know, his wife, the MIT president. We got to run all around the house and meet their dog, then eat a very pleasant and delicious dinner with President Hockfield and Dr. Byrne.

Dr. Byrne isn’t actually an MIT faculty member — he’s a neurologist at Mass General Hospital — but I’ve learned so much in the class because he’s brought in lots of experts from the medical school to guest-lecture about all the nervous system diseases. (He also seems to have taken a rather enthusiastic interest in mentoring the course 9 premeds. So if you’re premed, take the classes Dr. Byrne teaches! He will hook you up for med school.)

Not entirely related, but a picture of President Hockfield and Dr. Byrne with the cheerleading squad is here. Just in case you wanted to see.

I went to a second end-of-term dinner last night at the home of John Durant, Adam’s STS.014 (Science Communication) lecturer. Even though I was not actually in the class, I went along because Adam is rude and/or Professor Durant is very gracious. We went out to his lovely home in Belmont and ate a very nice meal (complete with fresh pie!) that he actually cooked himself.

Now, I didn’t know anything about Professor Durant before I went. But I made an off-hand comment about Stephen Jay Gould, one of my biology idols, after dinner… and it turns out that Professor Durant knew him personally. And he knows Richard Dawkins, too. And he knew them well enough that he actually arranged a debate between the two of them several years ago. I almost died of happiness, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Just three final exams between me and dancing at graduation with a diploma in each hand!

4 responses to “No more school, no more books”

  1. Christina says:

    Hmm, what do you have against test reviews?

    I want to take Dr. Byrne’s class!! :-D

    When I recently met Leon Lederman, I asked him if he knew Richard Feynman (whose book I bought after reading it on your list!) and he knew him personally and told us a few things about him. One of the things he said was, “Feynman always made you feel as thought you were wonderfully special and smart. You could ask him the DUMBEST question, and he would twist it in such a way to make it the MOST INTELLIGENT question in the world.”

    Mind you, Leon Lederman won the nobel prize in physics and something just tells me his questions weren’t so dumb. :-D

    I’m pretty psyched about telling future generations about how I was *THE* Mollie B’s favorite off-the-waitlistee ’10.

  2. Anonymous says:

    wow Congratulations Mollie.. May I ask some question? When we register for classes do we only have to talk to the advisor to confirm our choices and that’s all? What happens if a certain subject doesn’t have an expected number of students? Does that classroom closes?

    I ask you this because I have some friends who study in my country’s universities and it seems a common practice to close subject classes if there are not enough students, leaving them with the problem to look for free places in other classes and posibly rearrenging their class schedules. I just hope that MIT is serious in this issue and organized.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s me Mollie, the anonymous from the above post. Does our advisor complete our registration by computer or do we have to go to different places to register for each subjects according to the department subjects?

  4. faye says:

    Hey, congrats on finishing your undergrad.

    Quick question – is it better to have a laptop or a desktop? Any advantages/disadvantages to either, aside from the obvious mobility of the laptop?