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MIT student blogger Jess K. '10

Orgo Birthday by Jess K. '10

Happy birthday, Ting Ting!

I know, I know, it’s been like eight years since I wrote anything. I promise I haven’t fallen off the earth! Coming off of pass/no record, though, is taking a little bit of adjustment. Speaking of adjustment..

This semester I applied for and joined ESG (Experimental Study Group), a freshman learning community that offers all of the core classes in smaller classes. It’s a pretty big shift coming from the typical freshman classes of 200+, or however many people can fit into 10-250 at once without setting off any fire alarms (I heard that last semester, on the first day of 3.091, people were literally sitting in the aisles of this lecture hall that sat 450), but it’s definitely an awesome community to be a part of and a different approach to the GIRs.

Typically, freshman classes have huge lectures with everyone in the class, and then every other day, have an hour recitation with about 15-25 other freshmen and their TAs. Classes in ESG, however, have about 5-15 students in them – 15 being the very most. These classes are offered exactly the same as the regular material learned in typical freshman classes – called “mainstream” classes – but in a more intimate setting.

How intimate? Questions I ask in ESG classes on a daily basis? Probably around 5, in an hour of class. This includes questions such as “where did that negative charge come from”; “I don’t understand that; can you explain it again?”; and “wait, WHAT?!” Questions I asked in mainstream classes in an entire semester? 0. You get a lot more comfortable talking to your professor when it’s you, them, and a few other students who were probably wondering the same thing you were. (This includes “wait, WHAT?!”)

So you’re taking the same class, studying the same material. All your classes, however, are more similar to the recitation format, just slightly smaller. In mainstream, your TAs hold office hours where you can talk to them and ask questions, but in ESG it’s even easier to talk to your TAs and ask them questions because participation is inherent to the ESG learning community.

If you’re not sure that you want to submit entirely to ESG, you don’t have to. It’s a good way to get to know a small group of people, but if you’d still like to take interact with the rest of your freshman class, you can. I’m only taking half of my classes in ESG; my other two are regular mainstream classes. Some ESG classes, like 5.12 (Organic Chemistry), even have sort of a half-ESG option in that you attend mainstream lecture (which again, you wouldn’t want to miss, because Dr. Berkwoski is hilarious), but attend a recitation in ESG. I have a mainstream TA, but I also attend the office hours (extra study sessions) held by the ESG TAs, because it’s much easier to freely freak out about how much you don’t understand what’s going on. (And because I really enjoy 5.12. Nerd much?)

But the best part of ESG? Besides the small classes, and having a place to chill on campus 24/7? Free food. At every turn. Remember orientation? Yeah, it’s kinda like that. My biology professor’s Kitchen Chemistry seminar offers baked goods every other day; my TAs bring ice cream and order us Thai food for late-night study sessions, and one of the ESG administrators makes a pasta dinner every Wednesday night. And, of course, there are Friday lunches (with speakers such as representatives from OpenCourseWare).

Tonight was special, though, because it was Ting Ting’s (one of our 5.12 TAs) birthday! We celebrated ESG style by interrupting our study session to eat chiral cake. (Yes, we know that the substituents aren’t arranged in alphabetical priority. We only wanted it to spell out her name!)

Besides all the fun we have cooking together (and eating together.. hellooo, freshman 15), ESG is first and foremost a learning community – one you should possibly look into when you get your registration packets! (Especially because MIT is a very “wait, WHAT?!?!?” kind of place. I just wanted to write that again.)

24 responses to “Orgo Birthday”

  1. Ashesh says:

    One of my past experiences has taught me well how right MIT is about that pass/no record thingie…

    This place has been built for students indeed. And with a system as perfect as this, MIT is bound to produce the best students in the world… No doubt about that… wink
    I’ve suffered, so I know…

  2. Jess says:

    Anonymous 1 – All the core classes that are necessary for MIT students to graduate are offered in ESG (this includes subjects in math, chemistry, biology and physics). Most are offered in harder versions (as in, 8.01 and 8.012 are both offered), and higher levels (as in, 18.01, 18.02, and 18.03). Some introductory classes for majors are offered too, such as 6.001. There are even humanities courses available, as well as a variety of seminars, which you don’t have to be a member of ESG or a freshman to sign up for. You can see the spring course listing here:

    Anonymous 2 – we realized that, we were just trying to spell her name smile

  3. ardhendu says:

    hi jess,
    i read your entry and found it superb. i want to take admission at mit in undergraduate program (computer science) can you send an email regarding
    it.ihave completed my high school in this month and have not registered for any program as i was unaware of it. can you guide me in getting admission here either in 2007 or 2008

  4. ardhendu says:

    hi jess
    i read your entry and found it superb. it is like pyramids superficially known but perfect.

  5. Anonymous says:

    We want a post from Matt!!!!!!!!!!!! where are you Matt???

  6. Yes Matt — Where Is MATT ???? MadMatt are you sleeping ?

    It’s 6am (wake up ………..)
    I have some cornflakes (will share…………)
    ……. please come — they miss ya ………

    I just got a mail from YODA — she wants an interview with ya…. will ya be free this Saturday???


    The madman who inspired you to take the name Madmatt smile

  7. AnotherJkim says:


  8. AnotherJkim says:

    Yay, thx for the post, trigonal pyramids w00h. It’s good to know that MIT has plenty of resources to prevent their students from failing and starving as well smile

  9. Jess says:

    Actually, it’s tetrahedral smile

  10. Pradeep says:

    Hi Jess,
    what i understand from ESG is, sophonore students who are interested in having a look at various specialisations are allowed to participate in lectures of all programs(physics, biology, economics, etc.). Am i right??

    BTW, what is your Major??

  11. Anonymous says:

    Optical isomerism… always heaps of fun!

  12. Elizabeth says:

    I agree! Where is Matt? He hasn’t posted since the 6th!

  13. Monica says:

    cool, i like the idea of being able to “freely freakout” in a class.

  14. Anonymous says:

    About how many different ESG classes are there for each subject and can you chose which one you want to be on? (just trying to see how flexible the schedule can be)

  15. Karen says:

    How strange is it that I know a Ting-Ting? Doesn’t seem like a very common name. Then again, I am in Taiwan…

    I think ESG would be great for a math class (in my case, anyway). The “Wait, what?!” moments seem a lot more common there.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I love MIT faculty… the admissions/financial aid personnel are some of the friendliest people I have had the pleasure of speaking to!

  17. Jkim1789 says:

    oops hehe.. reading blogs past midnight make me imagine lone pairs in place of atoms.. or it could be my chemistry is rusty being swamped with gaussian surfaces and magnetic flux

  18. Anonymous says:

    Hey Jess

    Why is ‘G’given least priority in comparison to I or T. If your alphabetic priorities are correct, then the one on the left is R and the one on the right is S. Anyways, HAPPY BDAY

  19. Yossarian says:

    Wow, guys, stop spamming/hijacking JKim’s comment board…seriously.


    Hey Victoria! mmm I have not heard of ESG before. Thanks for taking the time to tell us about it. ^.^

  20. BTW… ESG is not the only such small froshie core class community!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  21. Jess, thanks for writing about your ESG experiences! It’s such a great program (as are the other freshman learning communities!) and not enough people know about it. I’ve been trying to tell people about it since my son participated last year, but people are like, “wait, WHAT?!?!?” So, thanks! wink

  22. luckygrl says:

    Thanks for your entry!

    BTW, Do you know if it would be possible to major in mechanical eng(biomedical engineering) and double major with management science, and do premed in four years with an optimum/decent gpa for medical school?

  23. xinyi says:

    your entries are the best!!! =D

    I have that “cosine secant tangent sine 3 point 14159” shirt in the last pic. I’m a singaporean so when I popped by MIT last year I thought that was cute. HAHA. you rock jkim! And MIT life rocks more. sob. what’s a 16 year old to do.

  24. Some ESGer says:

    You should really post some pictures of the ESG lounge, in all its hammocked and lovesacked glory