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MIT student blogger Derrick B. '08

The Scratches On My Mind by Derrick B. '08

A brief introduction, so you'll know why I see MIT the way I do.

Yeah, I know. It’s a weird title for a first blog entry. But bear with me, because it’ll seem really appropriate once I explain it (Bonus points for anyone who can tell me where I got the phrase).

We all see the world with the same eyes. Mine work just like yours do. My sun is yellow just like yours is. However, we come to different conclusions because we approach the world with different experiences and preconceptions. Those differences are the scratches on our minds. They are what make us unique. This entry is about showing you the scratches on my mind, what makes me the person I am. So when you look through my mind and see MIT, you’ll know why I see it the way I do.

I was born in Yokosuka, Japan, but I don’t remember any of it. My earliest memory is from 1987. I’m 10 months old, looking at the display on the microwave, while my mother holds me and gives me a bottle. Fast forward to 1991, and I’m a little boy playing outside my parent’s house in North Carolina. My father teaches me about math and science early, and I get hooked. Sometime in 2000 I read about relativistic time dilation and fall in love with physics. In 2003 I’m a high school senior, the drum major of my marching band, the captain of the science team, and incredibly sure of myself.

I had no idea I’d be where I am now.

The next nine years of my life fall into place during the spring of my senior year. I’m accepted to MIT and decide to go. My parents don’t have the money to send me, so I join the Navy and convince the department of defense to pay for my education. I’m sworn in as a midshipman, participate in a week-long introduction to the Navy, and on August 28th I take my first steps on campus as an MIT student. This blog is about everything that has happened since.

So now that you know all about my pre-MIT life, maybe I should tell you about what I do here. I’m majoring in Chemical-Biological Engineering and Physics, which is actually a recent development. I mentioned that I fell in love with physics early in life, but I never considered majoring in it. I came to MIT with every intention of being a chemical engineer and working in the biotech industry. During my junior year, I realized that I missed physics (yes, I was a bit nostalgic for 8.01 and 8.02), so I took 8.03. I had a great time and thought “If you like it this much, why not major in it?” So I did.

I’m in Navy ROTC, which means the Navy pays my tuition and I become an officer after I graduate. It’s a pretty sweet deal, with the exception of getting up at 6 AM a couple times a week. I won’t try to recruit anyone, but if you’re curious feel free to ask me questions.

I’m also in MacG house government. I, along with my co-chair, represent the three floors of MacGregor I call home to HouseComm. Being in house government, at least in MacGregor, means going to weekly meetings that if not hilarious, are at least mildly amusing. And there’s food sometimes.

The National Society of Black Engineers gets a bit of my time too. Last year, MIT’s team FLOW won the NSBE academic championship (Go Beavers!) and all the team members got free Xbox 360’s. So don’t let anyone tell you being smart doesn’t pay off. And if someone does tell you that, do what I do: ignore them and go play Gears of War.

Ok, that’s about it for me. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you. But even more I look forward to you coming to MIT and having some experiences of your own.

26 responses to “The Scratches On My Mind”

  1. Nivedita says:

    Even I fell in love with physics after reading about relativistic time dilation and I want to major in physics.

  2. Pascale says:

    Congrats on being the writer of the 2000th post!

    I fell in love with physics when I was four and figured out how to make the film canisters explode with vinegar and baking soda. I wanted to calculate how far the cap would go, so I measured the amount of each component I put into the canister and tried to measure the maximum height. I’ve been crazy about it ever since….which is why my friends call me Pascale….its not my real name….

  3. Isshak says:

    Welcome to MITAdmissions ! And you’re the 2k post !!
    You know what ? You’re totally right : ignore them and go play Gears of Wars ! (and Halo 1, 2 and 3 !!). Er, do you mind talking a bit more about your major ? Is it more chem then physics, more physics then chem or more bio then the rest (etc…) ?

  4. Hunter '11 says:

    And post 2000 goes to a new blogger. I find this fitting =) Welcome to MIT Admissions!

    It’s funny how life goes, isn’t it? You just never know what you’ll be doing. Starting high school, I would never have imagined this – and I’m sure I don’t know what will happen four years from now, or even in the next year!

    Life And post 2000 goes to a new blogger. I find this fitting =) Welcome to MIT Admissions!

    It’s funny how life goes, isn’t it? You just never know what you’ll be doing. Starting high school, I would never have imagined this – and I’m sure I don’t know what will happen four years from now, or even in the next year!

    Life <3

  5. Hawkins says:

    Hmmm, you won’t hear me saying “go Navy” but I do welcome you to your new blogger status. Thanks for blogging! =)

  6. Paul '11 says:

    Hey Derrick! I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog and maybe seeing you around campus. smile

  7. nawal27 says:

    Yeah, could you elaborate more on your major because I really am considering it and was wondering if there was any physics involved because I love physics.I was a Drum Major too.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hawk, aren’t you *in* the Navy? wink

  9. abijain says:

    How difficult is it do a double major in engineering and in a pure science?

  10. Melis says:

    Hi Derrick. Great post! Welcome to the blogging community =)

  11. Isshak says:

    I’m not in MIT, but in general, a task is always as difficult as someone wants it to be. Usually, if you work hard (really hard), it shouldn’t be that difficult to double major ? And like I say, why major in one thing, when you can major in two things you like !

    “I’m majoring in Chemical-Biological Engineering and Physics,” I think we can fairly say physics are involved ^^. Besides, he goes on writing about his love (can I say OUR love?) of physics and how he decided to major in it.

  12. Nihar says:

    Welcome to the Admissions Blog!!
    And a nice thought!Scratches make us unique. No two individuals are alike, a message fully worth the 2K post!

    Yes. I think you CAN definitely use OUR love for physics. smile Im sure almost all MIT-ians/fans would agree.
    (P.S. dont forget Rainbow Six :Vegas n Ghost Recon 2 in that list! Im currently obsessed with them on my PSP!;)

  13. Star says:

    Hey Derrick, yay for being the first of the new bloggers to actually post something smile And the 2k post. I look forward to “getting to know you” through the blogs.

  14. EV says:

    Really an interesting story you’ve got there. I would love to participate in a Navy ROTC (or Air Force, but, hey, I’ve figured the Navy’s cooler), the only problem is, I’m an international. I know you’re probably not the right to ask, but I tried to get in touch with a recruiter – after he found out I wasn’t a US Citizen (yet..) he turned me down…

    Is it possible to sign some kind of a contract, and promise the USN that I will become a US Citizen ASAP (5 years, then I’ll soon have a master’s) if they let me participate in an ROTC? I’m planning on joining the USN anyway, because I’d love to fly ’em carrier ops.

    Go Navy. wink

  15. Derrick,

    Welcome to the neighborhood!
    P.S. Go Army…Beat Navy!

  16. david says:

    hello////// i went to a small college outside [[[[[[]]]] a number of years ago. i would say that a persons real education starts aftre you leave the protected college environmnt…. you learn alot when you strt work and follow an 8/to 5 weekday shedule. and you learn alot from co;workers…. [[[[[ a diiiferent set of skills is req… for this environ]]]]]]]]]]] anyway years latre im now learning mandaran chn and on a regular basis i go to hong kong….. but congrt for going to mit. take advantaje of this opportunity ciao

  17. Derrick '08 says:

    Hi everyone! Thanks for the warm welcome, I’m glad to be here.

    @Isshak and nawal
    My first major was ChemE, so most of my credits are in that department (and ChemE requires a lot of units). My physics degree is actually the flexible physics option with a concentration in Biophysics. Because my “flavor” of ChemE has a lot of bio courses that are required, I get a considerable amount of overlap between my physics and ChemE major. A percentage breakdown of my units, just to give you an idea, is Bio: 15%; ChemE: 35%; Physics: 25% (note that this breakdown doesn’t include GIRs that fall into any of those categories) You can look forward to a post about double majoring and other academic “tricks” sometime in the future.

    Double-majoring is hard anywhere, but it’s still possible to do. If you want to double in an engineering and a pure science, make sure your courses have some synergy. Out of MIT’s 209 students who added a second degree, 103 of them added a second degree in a pure science, to give you an idea. You can find more information like that at under the “Statistics and Surveys” section

    As far as I know, there is no way to join the operational Navy (enlisted or officer) without being a United States Citizen. In fact, I had some issues with that. I was born in Japan and held dual-citizenship when I applied for an NROTC scholarship. I had to renounce Japaneses citizenship before I could apply. Dual citizenship also caused issues with my security clearance. However, I will pass up your question to my NROTC advisor to see what he says.

  18. John says:

    Nice to have you blogging, you seem like a pretty cool guy.

  19. Anonymous says:

    does “scratches on my mind” have anything to do with artemis fowl?

  20. Isshak says:

    Hey! I love the books ! The best are three and four! If that’s where it comes from, you have great reading tastes !!

  21. Farhad says:

    Hey, I was wondering if anyone could tell me how hard is it to double major in Physics + Mathematics?

  22. Nawal27 says:

    Thanks for responding,

    I have another question. Is chem-bio engineering more like chemical engineering than biomedical engineering or bioengineering?

  23. Cassaundra says:

    I am not sure about artemis fowl but there is a book by Harold Isaacs that rings a bell to me. Great first entry!

  24. Derrick '08 says:

    Yes! I’m very impressed; I didn’t think anyone would figure that out. Harold R. Isaacs was a professor at MIT who studied East Asia, and wrote a book about people’s preconceptions of the area he studied. That book was called “The Scratches on Our Minds: American Views on China and India”

    My experience with 10B is that it’s more similar to regular chemical engineering than bioengineering. As a chemical engineer, I study fundamental, well-understood chemical systems that at worst need to be analyzed numerically. Bioengineers work with complex, nonlinear biological systems that aren’t as well understood. Though we may learn the same things (fluid mechanics, mass transfer, thermo, solution chemistry), I learn them from a chemical reaction perspective, and bioengineers learn them from a biological perspective.

  25. manish gill says:

    hey man,you’re really cool.
    i need some HELP.
    i’m living in india and am in the final year of my school.i don’t have any xtra activities to my credit,because of my school .it didn’t provided any opportunities,but i really want to be a part of MIT. can u give me some advice.

  26. parentnrotc says:

    how hard is it to get a nrotc scholarship at m.i.t thru tufts. how many start each fall.
    700math,600verb,gpa3.8,nhs,2xcapt sports, 10 varsity letters,football recruit tufts.