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MIT student blogger Melis A. '08

UPOP Program and a look at Jay Dweck (‘77) by Melis A. '08

UPOP is a one-week seminar that teaches leadership and work-place dynamics to sophomores studying engineering and management. Through UPOP, I met Jay Dweck, MIT class of 1977, who is currently a CTO at Goldman Sachs and talked about his UROP experiences.

I participated in the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program (UPOP) this past week. Though the acronym sounds awfully like UROP, the goal of this program is to teach leadership and work-place dynamics to sophomores studying engineering and management. Basically, they realize that MIT students have the technical background and overall smarts required to do a great job at their internship, but *sometimes* they lack the interpersonal skills to really succeed. To remedy this situation, 240 students attend a one-week session where we work in small groups, along with a Teaching Assistant (TA) who is in industry/research, to complete a series of modules that each reinforces a different skill. That was a mouthful. We also get to network with professionals through networking lunches, conversations with TAs, and guest speakers, with the intention of finding a super summer internship!

One of our distinguished speakers was Jay Dweck, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Goldman Sachs and MIT Class of 1977. For those of you who have never heard of Goldman Sachs, it is one of the world largest and oldest investment banking companies. It employs 14,000 people and has $22.5 billion in sales. Basically, being the CTO of such a prominent company is very impressive and Mr. Dweck has the qualifications to back-up his position.

Mr. Dweck entered MIT with the goal of finishing in 2 years, in order to reduce the financial hardship on his family. As a result, he took 14 classes per term (*gasp* — most people take 4 or 5!) but also managed to find time to have a UROP, participate in the Chamber Music Society, and the Symphony Orchestra. First of all, I want to point out that when he was giving a brief overview of his years at MIT, he specifically mentioned his UROP, which I think is an amazing testimony to the importance of the program. Ok, moving on from that brief commercial interruption. In the end, he graduated with a quadruple major (this is no longer allowed — now the maximum is a double major): SB in Chemical Engineering, SB in Mathematics, CHE in Chemical Engineering, and SM in Chemical Engineering. He also lived in MacGregor and helped paint a giant eagle mural which is in one of the entries (would any MacGregorites care to clarify the entry number?)

Now to the meat of the story, get pumped! After he gave his talk, a mass of eager students formed around him. Amidst questions about trades and acquisition, I asked him to elaborate on his UROP experience (my roommate proceeded to whisper “Oh my God, Melis, I can’t believe you asked about his UROP!” Clearly I am very embarrassing to be around.) He immediately stated that it was a good program and that he saw it from two sides: as a UROPer when he was getting his bachelors and as a supervisor during his masters research. Mr. Dweck worked under the supervision of a PhD student for two years, working with clathrate hydrates. According to Wikipedia, a clathrate hydrate is a chemical substance consisting of a lattice of water trapping and containing a gas. Dweck tried to use clathrates to make the shipment of liquefied natural gas safer. Currently, it’s not possible to transport natural gas using pipelines, so it has to be purified and frozen to transform it into a liquefied state so it can be shipped in specialized tanks over long distances. By making a natural gas hydrate, the gas inside can be stored at a higher temperature, which would make its shipment safer and more economical. Ultimately, Dweck found out that his supervisor was not able to make a natural gas clathrate, but he still gained valuable experience using scientific instrumentation.

Moral of the story: even after becoming a big-shot in the financial world, you can still appreciate the UROP you had thirty years ago.

(Image source of natural gas hydrate, Goldman Sachs logo)

5 responses to “UPOP Program and a look at Jay Dweck (‘77)”

  1. John Shen says:

    hahaahahaa… medically brunette.

    quadruple major? that’s insane… 14 classes a term? he must be like an insane man.

    and i think it’s always good to review the basics of success in the business world, interpersonally. Fundamentals like networking and making good impressions – it’s not like us techers on the other coast get much practice in that either.

  2. ken says:

    Wow, talk about being insanely smart

  3. Sam says:

    My parents went to school with/were friends with Jay Dwek! I grew up hearing stories about his insane brilliance…

  4. Melis says:

    Woah! That’s awesome, Sam! Care to share any stories???

  5. Sam says:

    I showed my Dad your blog page; this is what he had to say:

    “He was my suitemate, you have heard me mention him in the past. Interestingly enough he was a great guy! There were always the rumors that he has to be an alien life form grin Nobody is that smart!”

    My parents have more than mentioned Jay Dwek…I grew up hearing stories about his brilliance.