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!