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MIT student blogger Mollie B. '06

Re-introduction by Mollie B. '06

A summary, for those of you just tuning in.

I’ve been unbelievably hosed the past few days doing a combination of the following:
1. Analyzing data and writing as much as I can on the rough draft of my paper. This is my last week in the lab, and I’m trying to organize everything properly so that my postdoc can do a few final experiments and write the final draft of the paper. I’ve been moving numbers around in Excel so much that my hands hurt, and when I close my eyes I see pictures of neurons.
2. Starting to plan a really important party for next September/October. Details to follow later, when there are more details to give. (Oooh, cryptic.)

Since I went into lab at 7 AM both yesterday and today, I am very tired and want to crawl into bed. But I thought, since it’s the beginning of a new application season, that I’d rewrite an introduction to the blog to those of you just joining us. (I am NOT putting my full name in it like I did last time, thus enabling every internet stalker I have — and apparently I have a few — to effectively google me. If you’re googling my full name, could you please leave a comment saying hi or something? I am tired of having to rack my brain to think of people I know in various states.)

So for the basics. My name is Mollie, and I just graduated from MIT in June with degrees in brain and cognitive sciences and biology. My current research interest is protein-protein interactions in neurons, and I’ll be starting a PhD program in cell biology at Harvard in September. (Like any good MIT student, I still get a little bristly when people talk about Harvard. And then I remember that I go there now. It, uh, hasn’t exactly sunk in yet.)
While at MIT, I participated in the UROP program for three years; I currently have authorship on an abstract, authorship on a paper that’s in revision, and will have first authorship on a paper that is currently in about ten different files on my jump drive. (First authorship as an undergrad = very big deal.) I work in the lab of a pretty famous professor, who was also my academic advisor, and who wrote a ridiculously amazing letter of recommendation for my graduate school applications. I talk about my research in a bunch of different places on the blog. It’s been a pretty important part of my life for the past three years, both in terms of getting me into grad school (the boring part) and in terms of making me happy to be alive and able to get out of bed in the mornings. I love research, which is why I’m going to spend the rest of my life doing it; MIT is a pretty great place to be if you want to do something along those lines.

I lived for four years in MacGregor, a very tall, very 70s-esque dorm on the west side of campus. It’s a great place to live, and it fit my personality really well. My closest friends are the people in my entries (I lived in A for three years, then D for my senior year), and, rather critically, I met my boyfriend there. I was MacGregor’s rush chair in 2004, and one of my bit MIT soapboxes is that I believe very strongly in the dorm rush system — I was immediately happy and at home in my dorm because I was a good fit with the residents, and I hope that all future MIT students can feel the connection and community that I experienced as a result of open dorm choice. Dormitory choice is a critical piece of MIT’s culture.

Even though I was a band geek/choir [nasty epithet]/drama queen in high school, I came to MIT and joined the cheerleading squad. I didn’t have any experience, but I got pretty good (I’m stronger than I look!), and I actually became captain my junior year. I really enjoyed being on the squad for a bunch of reasons: the socialization and entertainment, the exercise (I weighed the same when I got to college as when I left), and for three two-hour chunks of time every week when I could run around and joke and not think about signaling pathways and dissociation constants.

I am not a super-genius. I wasn’t when I applied, I wasn’t when I got here, and I’m not now. I think MIT has made me into a harder worker and a better critical thinker, and frankly I’ll take those traits over being a super-genius any day. You don’t have to be absurdly brilliant to survive at MIT, but you do have to be willing to put in some honest labor. We subscribe to the New England work ethic around this joint. (Sidenote: One thing I do not understand, and am probably constituitively incapable of understanding, is people who choose other schools over MIT merely because they will have to work less hard elsewhere. It is beyond me that someone would choose not to challenge him/herself at such an opportunity-laden time as college. If you’re going to take the easy road now, you’re going to be taking the easy road for the rest of your life. Ugh.)

I have a beautiful curly-haired boyfriend named Adam, and he’s going to be a senior this year in aero/astro. (Yes, he’s younger than I am. He lied about his age the first night he kissed me. I was lured into this under false pretenses.) We’ve been together for about two and a half years now, and we just moved to an apartment on the west end of campus with an adorable bunny rabbit. Adam’s going to stay at MIT to get his masters, and then he will get a job and make mad loot, while I stay in grad school and make peanuts. He likes airplanes an absurd amount. He is a nationally-ranked freestyle skiier. He is also adorable. Don’t believe what you hear about MIT boys.

That’s about it, I think.

Questions!

1. A Regular Reader asked,

Incidentally, do you know of any MIT bio undergrads who applied to the grad MIT bio program? I hear this is the first year “inbreeding” was allowed, and was wondering if you knew what that admission percentage was?

Actually, I do — I mean, I applied, for one. :) Supposedly there were 9 of us who applied; I only know of four, including myself, and all four of us got in. So the admission percentage is at least 44%, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if all nine of us got in. I only know of one person who decided to go, though — most of us decided that it would be better for us to experience academic life in other places.

2. Lizzy asked,

Hmm…if you can’t keep blogging regularly for MIT, do you have a personal blog that you can use for we readers to be updated on your graduate school goings-on?

I’m in a bit of a debate on this one. I do have a personal blog, but I’m debating making it friends-only — there have been some disquieting stories recently about grad students getting in trouble for complaining about grad school on their personal blogs, and it makes me think I’d be better off tunneling underground in the blogosphere.

3. Drew asked,

How do we know what foreign language class to register for? I’ve been doing Spanish since middle schools, so presumably Spanish I might not be a good fit, but I don’t know exactly what level to take. I heard that lots of people just take a good guess and the teacher figures out their aptitude and, if necessary moves them to a different class. Is that true?

Yup, that’s how it happens. And every year, some kid who took 5 years of Spanish in high school has the bright idea to take Spanish I for an easy A, and the Spanish profs figure it out in about 5 minutes, and the kid is sent off to Spanish IV or whatever. The professors are pretty good at placement. :)

5 responses to “Re-introduction”

  1. meg says:

    i’m contemplating whether i should use my ap (and possible transfer) credits to get into more advanced classes first and second semester freshman year. if i decide to, i’d be starting out w/ diff eq for math and skipping the intro bio course to take a sophomore level bio course i think. do you think it’s a good idea to jump into harder courses right away or do you think it’s better to just start w/ the easier ones (like calc I and intro to bio) to get a feel for what mit classes are like? Also, what are the math requirements, beyond GIRs, for majoring in bio?

  2. Sulinya says:

    Hey Mollie, how long does it usually take to do a Ph.D. program? Like how long is your Harvard one?

  3. Katie '10 says:

    How did you get the 6-week internship you did the summer after your freshman year?

  4. Katie '10 says:

    How did you get the 6-week internship you did the summer after your freshman year?

  5. Sylvia says:

    Hi. I read that pets are allowed in the dorms. Which pets exactly are allowed and how common do you see others with them? Thank you xD