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MIT student blogger Mollie B. '06

Weathering the weather by Mollie B. '06

So much snow!

So it’s snowed something like 15 inches in Cambridge in the past 14 hours, and I’m feeling a little guilty. See, it’s the MIT biology interview weekend, and over the course of my travels to California schools this month, I met a few California kids who told me they were also interviewing at MIT this weekend. They were all really concerned about the weather, and I assured them that it had been warm all winter and had hardly snowed at all.

And now all these southern California kids are in Boston and it’s snowed 15 inches. Oops.

I’m trying to decide if I want to venture outside to go to the “happy hour” with grad students from 5-7, or just go to dinner with my student host from 7-9… or if I even want to leave at all. It’s snowing so hard right now that I can’t see across the river to Boston, which is about 1/4 mile away. And it’s pretty tempting to just stay inside and ride out the storm (and watch the Olympics with Adam — he knows, according to his own estimate, 70% of the skiiers on the US Olympic team, and he gossips about them to me).

D-Entry is having a “Bacon Fest 2k6” right now — every time we have a big snowstorm, Mark ’07 and Dave ’07 go to the store and buy many, many pounds of bacon (both piggy and turkey — and if we had any vegetarians, I’m sure they’d buy tofu bacon too), then cook it up and serve it to everybody with hot chocolate. I’m not exactly sure “why bacon” — but it was pretty tasty!

People have been playing out in the snow all day on Briggs Field, which is the main sports/pick-up games field on campus. Briggs happens to be right outside several of the dormitories, including Burton-Conner, Macgregor, New House, Next House, and Simmons Hall — meaning that it’s prime real estate for snowball fights, snowmen, snow angels, and writing giant messages with feet in the snow.

Ahh, nothing more fun than a real Boston nor’easter to liven up a winter weekend.

1. Jay asked, “Hey Mollie, can undergrads start UROPs by themselves, i.e. Plan a project, approach a Professor, get a lab and start work? I’ve always been very interested in making hydrogen powered supercars. And I was wondering if students at MIT could do their own projects instead of helping Professors”
Certainly it’s possible — my friend Carl ’07 won an Eloranta fellowship a few summers ago to develop a certain kind of airplane on his own. But most of the money which is available for research is through the UROP program, which requires that you find a faculty sponsor for your project — and most faculty are looking for people to help advance their projects in return for payment. The key is to look for professors who are doing research you yourself are interested in — my friend Ethan ’05, for example, did research on hydrogen-powered fuel cells for a faculty member, but he was given a lot of freedom regarding the direction of the project and was researching something both he and his advisor were excited about.

2. Mike asked, “I don’t want to sound materialistic or whatever, but can you get paid for a UROP? How much?”
First, money is important for college students, so don’t worry about being materialistic! Yes, you can do a UROP for payment (you can also do it for credit or as a volunteer). Campus minimum wage for UROPs is currently $9.00 per hour; if you get paid by your supervisor’s research funds rather than the UROP office (like Adam and I do), you can get paid more.

3. sr said, “Mollie, I’m going on an interview to a biology grad program soon and have some questions. Are your interviews intense, or is it more of a “you’re in unless you do something stupid…”? Do they tell you up front what is the acceptance rate for those who interview? Also, can you give tips on how to prepare – what are the specific points they are looking for?”
I wasn’t told up front what the post-interview acceptance percentages are (although I’ve heard from current grad students that interviews are usually intended to only weed out, in my friend’s colorful terminology, the “psycho kitten-eaters”). Interviewers are mostly checking to make sure that you’re as enthusiastic about biology in real life as you were on paper, and that you can converse intelligently about your research and other people’s research. Don’t worry about memorizing each interviewer’s research beforehand, but do be prepared to talk at length about your own previous research.

4. Dan commented, “Hmm I looked at one of those math professor’s research on his page and it didn’t seem very mathematical to me. But maybe he’s just not showing the math, and just showing descriptions that he’s mathematically analyzing on his own. Well, anyways…thanks! I love how you said the sample is skewed. Have you ever taken any statistics course?”
Yes, I have taken a statistics course, and I loved it — all course 9 majors are required to take 9.07, which is a statistics course. The reason I said my sample was skewed might be illuminating — most of the people I know who are math majors are doubling with something else (physics, computer science, etc), and their UROPs are in that other field. I’m sure single majors in math do research, but I’m not sure what that is since I can’t think of any single majors in math that I know.

A final treat:
I bring you this video of my boyfriend dancing (openable in Windows Media Player) on our way to Macgregor Convenience (the convenience store on the first floor of our dorm), which is pretty much the only place you can eat during a blizzard unless you feel like putting on snow pants and a heavy coat.

9 responses to “Weathering the weather”

  1. Lizzy says:

    Hi Mollie!

    So you said you had two professors e-mail you back…how did you turn down the one whose lab you didn’t join? (I know my question sounds silly, but I’m first afraid that if I try to get a position, no one will want me…and second, that if I get any positions, I’ll get more than one and I won’t know how to respond to the labs I don’t join.)

    Another question – are there UROPs at the other biomedical research places in Cambridge, such as Broad and Whitehead?

    And finally, how does your boyfriend know the skiiers? (*is jealous that he does*)

  2. Jay says:

    Thank you Mollie, you have been a great help.

  3. Wenhao Sun says:

    Oh … no psycho kitten-eaters hm? That’s too bad… :(

    Haha just kidding! I’m not a psycho.

    Seriously though, how cold is it really? I’ve heard people say it’s really really really cold, I’ve heard that it’s just cold enough to complain, and I’ve heard that it’s cool and breezy (but I heard that from a friend from Wisconsin, so… I’m going to take that with a grain of salt). I guess it’s a pretty opinionated response, so how about some numbers? Thanks!

    – Wenhao Sun

  4. Dan says:

    Sweet I’ll probably end up majoring in something else in addition to math, but definitely math! I’m taking a statistics course now at a community college, so I’m in statistical mode a lot. see yaa

  5. molls says:

    Now, now anonymous 2/13. Gratuitous snarkyness (wierd word looks even wierder in print) is out of line. And immature. And stupid.

    Thanks for your blog, Mollie.

  6. M says:

    Wenhao, I guess for numbers, you could go to sites like instead.

  7. Alex says:

    Hey Mollie, great site! Long time reader, first time poster =-) I’m curious about grad school @ Caltech (for bio like you). Can you share your impressions of the campus/program after your visit?

    It’d help a lot!

  8. Wenhao Sun says:

    Hahaha that’s a good point. Maybe I’ll just go for the opinion part then.