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Round here we stay up very, very late by Mollie B. '06

Vignettes on my last day at lab, the Counting Crows, grad school, and pets.

Last day of lab
Friday was my last day at my UROP lab after three years of research.

I cried.

Thankfully, I didn’t cry until after I got outside and had said all my goodbyes and everything. You know how there’s no crying in baseball? Well, there’s no crying in science either. Unfortunately for me, I am a hopeless sap, so the best I can hope for is not crying in front of people.

On Thursday, my postdoc took me out to lunch near campus, and we talked about the past three years (after working together for such a long time, you have lots of stories), about graduate school, and about careers in science. He gave me a lot of good advice about picking a thesis lab, and about planning my career trajectory in general — and he gave me two books to read at the beach next week.

By my count, I spent about 3000 hours in the lab over the course of three summers, three IAPs, and six semesters. I went into lab during blizzards (winter 2005), heat waves (summer 2004), weekends (uh, pretty much every weekend since 2005), holidays (in 2004, July 4 was the first holiday I took off), mornings (7 AM every Wednesday this summer), nights (until 2 AM one Friday night in spring 2005), and a lot of times in between. I guess I’m a little bit of a workaholic. But it was totally worth it.

Why it rocks to go to MIT for college, reason #65932
Adam, my beautiful curly-haired rocket scientist better half, is applying to grad schools this year. He had been a little nervous about applying (aren’t we all?), especially because me picking Harvard for grad school effectively meant he’d have to get into MIT’s aero/astro master’s program.

Well, he was talking with his UROP supervisor last week, and his supervisor casually mentioned that he has a project that he’d really like Adam to take on for his master’s degree.

So basically, Adam’s going to get into MIT — if you have a professor who already wants you specifically in his lab when you apply, that’s grad school gold. He still has to take the GRE and write a statement of purpose and all that stuff, but it means he doesn’t really have to worry about getting in anymore. Hooray!

Concertgoing
Last night Adam and I ventured south to the Tweeter Center to see the Counting Crows and the Goo Goo Dolls. If you stranded me on a desert island and forced me to pick two bands to listen to for the rest of eternity, those are totally the two I’d pick, so I was ridiculously psyched to hear that a) they were touring together, and b) they were coming to Boston.

The concert was *amazing*. That’s really all I’m going to say, since this blog’s title is not “The Counting Crows are Life: The Rest is Just Chemistry and Physics”. But I totally rocked out and danced around doing awkward white girl dances and had a blast.

(And then, for the record, it took two hours for Adam and me to get back to the city, partially because of concert traffic and partially because large chunks of the Big Dig were closed for repairs, bottlenecking traffic trying to get into the city. If you’re coming out to Boston on a plane anytime soon, do yourself a favor and do not rent a car.)

Questions

1. Meg asked,

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?

Deciding whether to use AP credit or not is a decision that everybody approaches differently — some people just take the credit and run, and some prefer to start out in classes in which they have a stronger footing. For my part, I’d advise you to take the credit, but only as long as you feel comfortable with the background you have.

Biology at MIT doesn’t require any math classes past 18.02 (although a lot of people take 18.03), so it should be fine for you to skip 18.01 and 18.02 as long as you still remember how to integrate — you’ll need 18.02 knowledge for 5.60 (thermo and kinetics). Skipping 7.01x should be fine also — a lot of people do it — although I wouldn’t really be in favor of taking 7.03 as a freshman. You’d be better off taking chemistry as a first-term freshman than trying to jump into the biology core. (If you have any other questions, feel free to email!)

2. Sulinya asked,

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

It really depends on the student and how well his or her research is going — some people get a project that gives them immediate results, but other people hit snags along the way which delay their graduation. Since getting your PhD depends almost entirely on your research progress, some people graduate after four years, and some people graduate after seven or eight. The average in most of the programs is around five and a half years, but there’s a pretty big standard deviation!

3. Katie asked,

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

Well, the full story is here. The Q&D version is that I emailed a bunch of NIH PI’s expressing interest in their work, and one of them passed my name onto a postdoc who picked me to work with him. Melis also has some tips on getting one of those NIH internships here; you have to fill out an online application and get some letters of recommendation, too.

4. Sylvia asked,

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

Officially: Pets are only allowed in EC, Random, Bexley, and Senior House, and the only allowed pets are cats. Some parts/floors of those three dorms have cats, and some don’t; pet policies are collected here.

Unofficially: Even though pets aren’t allowed in dorms other than the ones named above, I know a lot of animals that live in non-pet dorms. Off the top of my head I can think of a turtle, two cats, two rabbits, a mouse, a tarantula, and a ferret — and that’s only among my friends.

So yes, the only pets allowed in MIT dorms are cats. ;)

2 responses to “Round here we stay up very, very late”

  1. AnotherMom says:

    Congratulations on your success at MIT. I watched the webcast of graduation and was so proud when you received your degrees.I can only imagine the pride that your parents felt. I just wanted to wish you all the best as you begin this next phase of your education at Harvard. You have been such a help through your blog in guiding both students and parents through this maze. It’s greatly appreciated. Have a good vacation and best wishes for graduate school .

  2. anonymous says:

    You’d recommend taking chemistry rather than bio first term in general? If so, please explain.