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MIT student blogger Paul B. '11

Summer’s End by Paul B. '11

To everything there is a season.

Yesterday, I finished my UROP. I cleaned up my bench, double-checked all my saved strains of yeast, handed my notebook to my post-doc, had a quick exit interview with my professor – and that’s it. Done. A beautiful sense of finality, of completion – of fulfillment.

Today, I head back to South Bend – home, or one of them. I’ll spend some time with my family…relax, unwind – get ready for the hustle and bustle of fall 2008.

It’s been an amazing summer. I haven’t even had the chance to blog about all the incredible things I’ve had a chance to do and be a part of – mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! You might say I’ve been living life too thoroughly to blog it :) – though I hope to publish all those entries I’ve been meaning to finish over the next couple weeks, when things slow down a little. From the Red Sox to the Assasssin’s Guild, from my UROP experiences to the housing lottery, I hope you’ll all find something interesting about my summer exploits and endeavors. (And don’t worry, prospective 2013s – I have some application advice and stories for you, too.)

As I ponder my next words, outside my window I can see the sun breaking through the clouds over the Charles River. And I can’t help but think that it’s a beautiful day to bid goodbye to Boston.

I’ll be back soon enough.

29 responses to “Summer’s End”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I agree with you about the UROP thing. They’re so specific that it’s a pretty low probability that any readers would be as excited about it as the author.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I would love to hear about your UROP.

  3. RobotGrrl says:

    Wowza! Congrats ^_^
    UROPs are so cool… @[email protected]

  4. Jeremy '12 says:

    Can’t wait to hear about everything (even the application advice, weird huh?).

    Also… Eight days!!! ‘Nuff said.

  5. Omar says:

    Man my research is about to end too :( Only 4 more days. It’s so sad, yet exciting, since MIT starts 3 days later.

    I can’t wait to go jogging on the Charles ^_^ Oh, the little things in life.

  6. Chérine says:

    Yay! A new blog entry!

    I would love to hear about your UROP. Those are a big part of the reason why I want to go to MIT.


  7. Efolse '11 says:

    WHAT?! Angelika is, like, one of the most awesome professors EVAH! Why would you want to stop your UROP with her?! QQ Because she’s not Course 20?

  8. Ehsan ('15?) says:


    Good post Paul

  9. Anonymous says:

    Good writing, Paul!

  10. Piper says:

    Have a great vacation at home =).

  11. (And don’t worry, prospective 2013s – I have some application advice and stories for you, too.)


    finally a blog entry!!
    (btw, i don’t know about other people, but i always find people talking about UROP a tiny tiny bit boring, not that you did extensively, but just some opinion)


  12. Aditi says:

    “Today, I head back to South Bend – home, or one of them”

    That made me smile for some reason.
    Also, I’ll be on campus before you!

  13. Paul says:

    To everyone who asked/commented about my UROP – I do indeed plan on writing about my research experiences this summer. UROP is especially important to me because it’s one of the big reasons I chose MIT over any other school. Although I will talk about my research in some detail, I also want to emphasize that my UROP is really just one example of the vast array of opportunities the UROP Office provides…which is the really important message, I think.

    @Efolse: I absolutely loved working with Angelika (a fact which will probably become more clear when I write my post about this summer :D), but ultimately I realized that working in a lab that focuses more on bioengineering than pure biol
    ogy is probably a better course of action for me.

    Anyway, I’m back in South Bend now, which means – among other things – getting to sleep in my own bed! smile

  14. Omar says:

    Paul – Now that you’re back in South Bend you’re only 1.5 hours away from me. Just thought I’d point that out :p haha.

  15. Lauren says:

    Summer ending?!?! noooooooooo not yet. Still have two weeks to finish up work at JPL, practice like crazy for auditions, study for ASEs…. and work on a project…… Yeah, heh. I’m getting a little bit nervous about MIT starting. There’s so much to do!!

    But it’s all so exciting!

    But summer isn’t over yet!!

    It’s merely time to savor the last few weeks… and prepare for four years of awesomeness.

    Hope you enjoy your weeks at home grin

  16. esaite says:

    In all utter honesty, do you believe that you have enough academic support? Or that the work load and intensity aren’t too overwhelming? I’ve thought a lot about the idea of “drinking from a fire hose” and questioned whether that pertains to learning happily beyond one’s imagination or reflects a lack of support for students and insane grade deflation.

    I want to pursue engineering and english. I aspire to participate in EWB, theater, dance, newsaper, etc. I want to be challenged but not inundated. Did I mention I want to be pre-med? And so, you see, a low college GPA severely frightens me. And struggling to manage my studies worries me even more. I want to learn a great deal without the looming stress of failing regardless of how much effort I exert.

    Other top schools with excellent engineering and sciences don’t seem to boast “sleep, work, play: choose two” or anything along those lines. And from what I’ve read on the blogs, academic struggles and woo’s are ever so common. I believe that all of you are absolutely brilliant, passionate, and determined kids. And so, why do the classes often seem to frustrate and overwhelm? I recall one Snively entry not too long ago with this odd moving cartoon, typing away turns to violently smashing head on keyboard, that was kind of funny but disturbing nonetheless.

    So, please, tell me the truth.

  17. Jeremy '12 says:

    @esaite: While you’re waiting for Paul’s response, which I’m sure will be much more insightful, I might have a few useful things to say.

    First off, I have heard from many that there is significant help available. You just need to ask for it. Professors have open office hours where you can stop by and ask questions, and I believe there are other forms of help as well.

    Second: I myself, knowing that I will no longer be one of the brightest in the school (everyone’s smart and everyone can’t be in the top half, that’s life), am also nervous about the difficulty of the workload I will encounter at MIT. For this reason, I applied to Concourse(acceptance is by lottery, but usually everyone who wants in, gets in). Concourse is a program that incoming freshmen can apply to that involves professors teaching small classes of the 60 or so Concourse students for their freshmen year. Since you’re with the same 60 kids in most of your classes, it creates a good collaborative working environment, and makes learning easier. *Not to mention, concourse has its own tutors on hand if you ever need some one on one help.* I’ve also talked to the program coordinator and she says that she’s had a lot of successful premeds go through Concourse and get into top medical schools.

    Third: Even if you should decide that a program like Concourse is not for you, know that your first semester at MIT would still be “pass fail no record”, which gives you some leeway to test the water before you dive in, so to speak.

    I think all in all, things would work out if you set yourself up right. It’s not meant to be a cakewalk; it would make life too boring if everything was easy.

  18. Mariana says:

    my name is Mariana I am Brazilian and I am 14 years making 1 of the high school,
    I am going to prove MIT in 2011, and wanted to know if you have any hint that may help me earn a scholarship to study at MIT.

  19. Anonymous says:

    It’s “pass/no record.” “Fail” and “no record” should never be juxtaposed with that manner in the same sentence. smile

  20. esaite says:

    @ Jeremy & Nicole

    Thanks for the input! I have heard some horrible stories about MIT being too overwhelming, cutthroat, and ruthless when it comes to grades & academics. I feel that MIT is an excellent, eclectic school that I would be honored to be accepted into and to attend. I was so excited to recieve a MIT information letter and viewbook last winter; at that point, I was completely taken by this school! But it’s difficult to overlook the notoriously intense workload, a couple of blogs that I’ve read here and there, and those few horror stories. If I’m fortunate enough to be accepted, then I’d love to visit to see for myself.

    One question: What percentage of freshmen don’t pass introductory physics, chemistry, english and biology?

  21. Paul says:

    @esaite: Of grades received by MIT freshmen in Fall 2007, about 4% were D’s or F’s (which revert to “No Record” under the MIT grading system for freshmen). You can see a graph here.

    Also, thanks for your earlier question. Nicole’s and Jeremy’s responses were excellent, but hopefully you won’t mind hearing from me as well. :D I have quite a bit to say, as it happens, but you’ve actually inspired me to write an entire blog entry on the topic – so look out for that in the near future. smile

  22. esaite says:

    @ Paul
    Woah, I feel so special! Thanks for the stats and article. It’s actually quite low. !:] But, yeah, I would love to hear your opinion!

  23. Ahana says:


    Please do an entry on the App ’13, thanks!

  24. Ivan says:

    @ Paul

    I can´t wait to read your next blogs about UROP and pass/no record.

    Will you be writing about Assasssin’s Guild and the computer language that you learned? Did you use this language on your research or on the Guild?

    @ Anyone
    Is there a preference to admission, students who are just graduating from high school? If I have graduated from high school a year or more ago does that weigh badly on the Application?

    thanks in advance

  25. Nicole '10 says:

    @esaite – there’s plenty of academic support here if you seek it out, but I think MIT tends to attract the type of student who is used to going it alone and not asking for (or needing) help, which is why you hear a lot of crash-and-burn stories of freshman year; that being said, if you come in prepared and know what to expect and are ready to humble yourself and get help at the first sign of trouble, you’ll probably be fine.

    As for grade deflation, I can’t speak for any majors except my own (Course 6), but we actually have quite a bad case of grade *inflation* going on, at least in the lower-level classes. In course 7 and other pre-med majors, the inflation probably isn’t as bad, but plenty of MIT students do get into med school every year; and med school admissions officers are probably pretty familiar with MIT and our grading system.

    Lastly, the students that choose MIT come here expecting to be challenged, and maybe a little bit frustrated and overwhelmed (but hopefully not too much) – many of us weren’t challenged enough in high school and are looking for a place that will push us to our limits. It is possible (for some) to take easy classes or the bare minimum and skate by here without really overexerting yourself, but it’s not a very popular thing to do – that’s just not the MIT way.

  26. Nicole '10 says:

    also, a fun anecdote: When I was packing for my FPOP about two years ago (wow, I feel old!), I put a book (The Kite Runner) in my backpack and said to a friend, “wow, this may be the last book I read for fun in the next four years.” She looked at me like I was crazy, “what, you won’t have time to read in college?” “No, I don’t think so.” I expected to be working and/or doing activities 24/7, sort of like my junior year of high school.

    As it turns out, I have plenty of time to read and hang out with friends – much more than I did in high school, even though last year I took ~60 units each semester, sang in an a capella group, UROPed in the fall, LAed 6.004 in the spring, and until about halfway through the spring practiced Tae Kwon Do ~3 times a week (I did eventually quit that, but I’m looking for a new activity to replace it). I even started watching a little TV, which I *never* did in high school.

    So what happened? It’s simple, really – at MIT you’ll spend less more time actually in classes than you would in high school, and even though there’s plenty of homework, your time is your own – you can schedule your work around the rest of your life.

    As it turned out, I more or less did stop reading for fun – but it’s not because I don’t have time. I’ve just chosen to use that time for other things, like hanging out with my friends in the dorm or going to play IM soccer at 11pm the night before my 9.00 midterm (not that I recommend doing that, but it was pass/no record!)

  27. wow! it sounds like MIT is so much fun! i was worried about the class load possibly being too much as well, because while i am top in my high school, thats not saying much. thanks for the reassurances! please please please blog about your UROP…i am so excited about maybe possibly hopefully having that opportunity. and any and all application advice will be recieved with more than open arms… i promise!! =D

  28. Ivan says:

    @ Paul

    Thanks for answering my question so fast.
    I feel much more confident now. *_*

    Can´t wait to read and learn more about MIT.

  29. Paul says:

    @Ivan: Yes, I will be writing about the Guild, Python, and LaTeX in the next week or so. (I did use LaTeX somewhat for the Assassin’s Guild.)

    As for your other question – each applicant is evaluated in their own context. If there were compelling reasons for not applying until after high school, that’s no problem, especially if you spent your gap year doing interesting things. It would probably be worthwhile for you to talk about your gap year in your essays (perhaps the “is there anything else you would like to tell us?” optional essay). One of my best friends served in the Navy before entering MIT. Applying after high school does not put you at an automatic disadvantage.