Skip to content ↓
MIT student blogger Lydia K. '14, MEng '16

What’s my age again? by Lydia K. '14, MEng '16

Spring semester so far

The start of the semester was comically reminiscent of the first day of third grade, when after a few minutes of reading from a picture book on the floor I realized I was in the wrong classroom, and the right classroom had a preliminary spelling test.

The first biochemistry recitation had a suspiciously young, suspiciously energetic recitation instructor, suspiciously asking the class to introduce itself and not talking about protein structure. Two course 18 freshmen later my heart sank. I couldn’t possibly hope that biochemistry was that trendy now. The class turned to me.

“Hi, I’m Lydia. I’m a sophomore. I’m in courses 6-7 and 18. I’m not in 7.05 recitation, am I?”

I found out later that we didn’t have recitation that week, which I didn’t realize because I accidentally pre-registered for 7.06 instead of 7.05. Oops.

I retreated with my freshly free hour and a bagel, orange juice, and large coffee from Café Four to my favorite empty classroom on campus, a small room in Building Four within hearing distance of the piano practice rooms, with big desks and a huge window looking out over Killian Court, to read The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster, an apocalyptic sci-fi that seemed way too awesome to be homework but, amazingly, was. By the end of the story I had inched halfway around the table to escape the sun, and considered that I should probably spend more time outside and less time creeping away from natural light.

Random Hall turned 11 last Wednesday, on Leap Day. I’m turning 20 in less than two weeks, which terrifies me because my last eight purchases have been Legos, mechanical pencils, and glitter fairy stickers to put on my problem sets. I’m trying to figure out if I can be a grownup and still like comic books. Life feels a little like this right now (mouse over):

I’m trying to take on an easier but busy schedule this term, to raise my GPA and self-confidence, start a good pattern of sleeping and exercising and eating vegetables, and set the stage for a positive next two years at MIT.

18.06: Linear Algebra

Since I decided to be a math major I need to take this. Why not now? I like it so far. It feels like it’ll be very useful, whatever I end up doing with my life.

18.03: Differential Equations

I no-recorded differential equations spring semester freshman year. I’m impressed by how much my ability to work through both familiar and novel problems has improved over the past year at MIT. This class used to be hard; this time around it isn’t (fingers crossed).

I like my recitation instructor. He started the first recitation with a pep talk about responsibility and motivation. We should own our decision to take differential equations, he said, and own the material so we can use it to reach our greater goals. I wish someone had given me this pep talk a year ago, but I’m just as happy to hear it now.

6.006: Introduction to Algorithms

How to write good code, and then make it even better. About a tenth of Random Hall is currently taking or TA-ing 6.006. I love it. I learned more about programming from the first problem set than I ever expected to learn in two weeks. This class is a prerequisite for almost everything else I want to take. Hopefully it’s the first step to becoming a better programmer, so I can someday write efficient algorithms for genome analysis and help advance our understanding of who we are today and how we got here.

21L.448J, also known as 21W.739J: Darwin and Design

We read, think, talk, and write about evolution, religion, our relationship with machines, and the future of human (and/or robot) civilization. I love it. I can’t believe I’m getting credit for this.

7.05: General Biochemistry

I like the material so far. My parents both do research in biochemistry and molecular biology; it’s exciting to understand more about what they do every day. I’m happy that the problem sets are not graded, and that the grade breakpoints are set before the first exam. However, this is without a doubt my hardest class this term. The exams are open note. I’m terrified.

I also picked up two new jobs: in addition to my UROP and blogging I am now also a professional note taker and button pusher. I am a desk worker, which means I do problem sets on the first floor of my dorm, unlock the door for friends, and panic when facilities workers stop by (“Hi, I’m here about the leak.” “The water leak?” “The heat leak.” “The hot water leak?” “The heat leak.”) or the mail comes in. I am also a note taker in biochemistry, which is exactly what it sounds like.

And here we are. I’m starting the term off with five awesome classes, four hobby-jobs of varying intensity, and my first great expedition into existence as a two-decade-old. (And no spelling tests.)


33 responses to “What’s my age again?”

  1. Lauren says:

    I am turning 20 in a few months too! And I am the same way! My stuffed animals cover over half my twin-sized bed—and that’s just some of them. I made my dad take me to McDonald’s 5million times so I could collect all the Star Wars toys, I wear a pirate tricorn around the house, and I’m wearing footie pajamas right now! It’s okay to have a childlike spirit! All smart/creative people do! Look at Walt Disney, without it, he wouldn’t have been so successful! :D

  2. Lauren says:

    P.s. Now my mission is to get all the Star Wars pens from the cereal boxes!

  3. M yahya says:

    i`m a student of 7th semester with CGPA of 3.38,Bs(cs) and want to get admissin in MIT.Its also my dream to be there for advance studies.please tell me the procedure so that i may prepare for that.
    M yahya

  4. Bobby says:

    There is nothing wrong with legos.

  5. @Lauren: I have a giant stuffed turtle currently occupying half of my bed. The rest live on a table; I’m scared they’ll fall out the window if they live on my bed. I want footed pajamas!

    @Christel: Awww I’m sorry! An extra three days of vacation sounds nice, though. smile

    @Chris: A lot of people find open note exams intimidating, especially in my 7.05 class.

    @Qoma: I’m actually not at all a math major like Qiaochu. I’ll be taking computational biology, statistics, and probability in the math department, and calling it a “math” major. I will not be taking any of the real math that Qiaochu has taken. I’m much more a computational biologist. I’ll try to post more on math, though potentially not for another few weeks.

    I do *not* have an exam on my birthday, though I do have an exam two days later. I’m sorry you had to have multiple exams on your birthday. Hopefully you still had fun.

    @M yahya: You’ll want to apply to grad school. I have no idea how to do that because I haven’t done that before. You’ll probably be able to find the information you need here:

    @Bobby: I agree wholeheartedly. Unfortunately they’re expensive. :(

  6. Lauren says:

    Yay turtle! And Target has footie pjs in the childrens section, like in both boys and girls, and for some reason, the XL size fits me. I’m 5′ 4″…. never knew kids’ sizes ran THAT tall. But that’s good news for me!

  7. Christel says:

    This blog post was a big relief, I though I was the only one that was ever in the wrong classroom the first day of school :’) during my second year of highschool I sat down in a freshman classroom and when I found out that I was wrong I sneakishly went to the ‘bathroom’… Then I went and searched for my own class, turned out that I had three more days of vacation…. :/ I felt like such a loser…

  8. Chris Ong says:

    hahaha it’s great to know I’m not the only one who finds open note exams intimidating XD

  9. qoma says:

    Oh! Finally another maths major after Qiaochu Yuan.
    I clocked 2 decades yesterday with no fun, jumping from one test to the other, I also love being a kid since I am the last child and I suppose now, we have to start being GROWN UPs, but it sincerely suck to be.
    Please, more blog post on math will be nice.

  10. M yahya says:

    hahahah…….. sat! easy to…….. no need of tuitions.

  11. I don’t think I’d be interested in SAT tutoring after college, since it wouldn’t progress my career, make use of the things I learned at MIT, or pay very much. Thanks though. :p

  12. Nabhajit says:

    HAHA…..So Lydia….sounds like….you are not at all happy with ur turning 20 so quick……am i ryt???
    BY THE WAY…I got another good suggestion for u…y dont u make some money by giving some random tutions(to start with) for the SAT’s dreaded critical reading section??The CollegeBoard might even employ u after u end ur sweet relationship with MIT 2 yrs from now…………..

  13. Nabhajit says: ws jst a suggestion….luks lyk u got angry…..

  14. Nope, not angry. Not at all. It’s totally something I would have considered doing over the summer in high school, or during a gap year, and a friend of mine is actually doing that as a job while in college.

  15. Nope, that is not me. I haven’t canoed in Boston.

  16. Nabhajit says:

    @lydia:U r a CS or Mech. Eng. student?

  17. I am in computer science, along with a bit of math and a lot of biology. Officially I’m majoring in computer science and molecular biology (course 6-7) and math (18). Mechanical engineering (course 2), seems super fun, and if I have time I’ll probably take some course 2 classes, but sadly I am not course 2.

  18. Nabhajit says:

    @lyd…do u have English as a subject in any form?nd btw….snce u r in CS,u might make it to Facebook or ne odr tech giant afta graduating from MIT,wont u??

  19. Nabhajit says:

    oh…sorry for creating a possible identity crisis

  20. Yes! I’m actually minoring in writing, which means I’m taking at least one writing class every semester. I’d like to go to graduate school and then stay in academia, but if that doesn’t work out I might try to get hired by a company, maybe Facebook.

  21. Nabhajit says:

    @lydia…Please forgive my curiosity..but ,.are not u that girl who is seen canoeing in the latest video ”Jazzed About MIT”?…actually the description u have given about yourself in ur blog archive seems to match that girl’s..

  22. Nabhajit says:

    @Lydia…a very serious word…thanx first of all…the story The Machine Stops is really astounding…to say the least….But the thing I wanna ask is this…in the above article u hav written….u have mentioned about your consideration of more exposure 2 natural light..was this consideration an effect of the story itself?

  23. Yay! I’m glad you liked it. It’s a really good read. The consideration was as a result of the story. And the extent to which the Machine reminds me of Facebook. It’s amazing that it was written in 1909.

  24. Nabhajit says:

    U r ryt…Facebuk’s a growin threat…but have u watched The Matrix Trilogy films? I felt the story is almost a written ..rather literary expression of the Matrix films..isn’t it?

  25. Chris Ong says:

    @Lydia – You’re minoring in writing? That sounds awesome! I really like writing and I want to minor in either that or music. How are the writing classes at MIT?

  26. @Nabhajit: It is, in a way, though you have to remember that The Machine Stops was written first. :p I think at this point it’s not a new idea, and we would probably find dozens if not hundreds of manifestations of it in literature and movies if we looked. Maybe it wasn’t a new idea when Forster got to it, but he did a good job with it.

    @Chris: Yes! I am minoring in writing. I was initially majoring in writing, actually. The writing classes at MIT are awesome. They’re less intense than the math and science classes, and it seems to be easier to get a good grade in them. Less pressure, in other words, and maybe even a bit of stress relief.

    My professors have all been amazing. My science journalism professor last term used to write for the Washington Post, for example. He had personal experiences with the people involved in uncovering the Watergate scandal, and is one of the best writers I’ve encountered. Some of his work that he read out loud to us in class was just amazing. My memoirs professor last term was also pretty awesome–she’s an influential psychologist and has something like eight books published. I don’t know that much about my Darwin and Design professor yet, but I love his personality and the things he’s teaching us.

  27. Nabhajit says:

    @Lydia:Maybe.But u know..,at this present moment ,even that mindblowing story can’t relieve me now…coZ on .14th ..nxt week…the ”DECISIONS” are coming out..Christ knows what will happen…i have drained my BEST RESOURCES in2 the application…i hope MIT allows me 2 meet u in person this Fall..BtW-…. I find ur posts the best in relieving one fro m tension..So..why dont u make another 1?on some interesting article?

  28. Awwwh thank you. Unfortunately I have two exams on Friday, but this weekend I hope to write a few blog posts to put up next week. smile

  29. Ali says:

    I would give anything to have a course like 21L.448J, also known as 21W.739J: Darwin and Design! If I get into MIT, I would definitely take this.

  30. I’m glad! It’s a really fun course. You can find the readings for it here, if you’d like:

  31. Thanks. I have a MacBook Pro. I don’t know what greater detail there is to MacBook Pro information. I started programming in Java, so I like Java. I program in Python for class in Perl for work, so I like those, too. I tend to care a lot more about what I’m doing than the language I’m using, since languages are fairly easy to pick up. I’ve never heard of those programming competitions. I don’t think I have time for another extracurricular, at least not during the semester.

  32. Joe says:

    Nice, I’m addicted to python too.
    I started with java either;
    It’s amazing to see more girls into computer science, unfortunately it does’n happens often here in Brazil;
    Keep up, you seems to be an amazing code, keep the blog up with what are coding; Thanks

  33. Joe says:

    Hi, your blog is really interesting.. but here comes other useless questions..
    What’s the model of your macbook?
    Which programming languages do you enjoy ?
    Are you into any programming competition ? such as Topcoder, Codeforces or ACM/ICPC ?
    Thanks for you’r blog;