Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Update soon!

Sorry I haven't updated in a while. I promise I'll update soon! Check back at the end of the weekend.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


I’m taking four classes this term, plus an advising seminar. At MIT, everything is referred to by number. We love numbers at MIT. All the buildings are numbered, all the courses are numbered, and we use the numbers all the time. For example, many of my lectures are in 10-250. This means building 10, 2nd floor, room 250. Each course has a number (5 is chemistry, 8 is physics, 18 is mathematics etc.) I’m thinking about majoring in course 10, which is chemical engineering. Many people (about 23%) major in course 6 (electrical engineering and computer science).

So far I have had a steady workload, but I still have some free time. I actually don’t mind the work too much. I’ve noticed that having a positive attitude really helps things. It depend upon the class how long each problem set (pset) takes me. I spend most of my nights doing homework, but I’ve been able to take almost a day off on the weekend (not last weekend however, as I had a paper and a test to study for). I’ve been able to go to bed around 12 and wake up at 8 (my earliest class it at 9, and sometimes I don’t have class until 12 or 1!). So getting sleep is not a problem if you pace yourself. Waiting until the last minute to do things is definitely NOT a good idea. If you come to MIT, prepare to work your butt off. So far though, it’s really not that bad. I’m enjoying myself even with the work. The first semester at MIT is pass/no record, so all you have to do is pass all your classes and you’re fine! It’s a great help in adjusting to MIT and college life in general.

At MIT there are a certain number of core requirements you must complete to graduate. These include:

-2 semesters of calculus (18.01/18.02 or 18.012/18.022 or another variation)
-2 semesters of physics (8.01/8.02 or 8.012/8.022)
-1 semester of biology (7.012, 7.013, or 7.014)
-1 semester of chemistry (5.111, 5.112, or 3.091)
-8 Humanities classes

For each class, if the number is a 1 after the main course number, it is the first level. (After taking 8.01 physics I will take 8.02 physics). In general, introductory classes with a higher number than 1 after them mean that they are more challenging. For example, I have a few friends in 8.012, which is pretty much the same curriculum as 8.01 physics, but they give you harder problems. Same for 18.012/18.022. Annelise is taking 18.023, which is the same as my class but with practical applications, supposedly it is a little easier, but that is open to debate.

Chemistry 5.112:

I’m taking 5.112 (five-eleven-two) which is the advanced introductory chemistry class. The psets for this class are easier than the ones for my other classes (partly because some of it is review, and partly because I seem to have a knack for chemistry). I think this pset only takes about 3-4 hours for me to do. I have one pset per week. The teacher for 5.112 is really enthusiastic and she’s easy to understand. It’s nice because they give you the lecture notes before the lecture, so you can just add to them and actually pay attention to the professor. I have three lectures per week and two recitations per week with a graduate student. So far I have found the TA to be helpful in the recitation.

Physics 8.01:

For physics I’m taking 8.01 (eight-o-one). This is the basic physics class for mechanics (8.02 is electricity and magnetism). I really like physics so far. The physics problems are challenging on the psets, but they are not impossible. I have fun doing the homework because the problems do more with things in real life. We have one pset per week and also problems online twice per week (they are in a program called Mastering Physics). My AP Physics B class was great preparation for 8.01, since most of it is review. Our classroom is really cool because there are screens all over the walls so that the professor can be viewed any way you are seating (there are many round tables throughout the room). We do many experiments with the help of software, and we also have challenging problems to work on in class every Friday.

Multivariable Calculus 18.02

Since I received a 5 on the AP Calculus BC test, I placed out of 18.01 and I am taking 18.02 (eighteen-o-two). This is my hardest class at the moment since everything is new to me. I’ve found that reading the textbook before going to lecture greatly helps me absorb the material (this is good advice for any high school or college class in general). The last two psets probably took me around 10 hours each (for the most recent pset, I spent an entire night trying to solve the last problem by myself…..I should have asked someone for help. I got it eventually though). 18.02 is interesting and I am glad I am challenging myself by taking it. Many people opted to take 18.01A which is an accelerated course that leads into 18.02A. They cover the same material, but they review some single variable calculus and finish the class during the January independent activities period (IAP).

The Ancient World: Greece 21H.301

You have to take about 8 HASS classes (humanities arts and social sciences) in order to graduate at MIT. This equals one per semester. I’m taking a Greek History class. I always loved Greek myths as a child, and so this class is fun for me. We are reading ancient texts such as Herodotus and Thucydides and the Iliad. Both Herodotus and Thucydides are actually quite easy to read, and they are very interesting. The HASS classes are supposed to be easier than your other classes, and I’ve found that the reading does not take me very long (I’d say at most three hours per week). I have to write four seven-page papers though, which I’m not looking forward to. I love reading, but I don’t generally like analytical writing about literature.

The Magic of Magnets Advising Seminar

At MIT there are many types of advising:
-Traditional advising. This is regular advising, you have an adult assigned to you and you meet with them every so often
-Residential Based Advising (RBA). Certain dorms have RBA. This is similar to regular advising there is more of a community atmosphere, so it is more social.
-Advising seminars. You are assigned an advisor and you meet as a group each week to discuss a certain topic. In this way you get to meet more people and you get to learn something.

I really like my advising seminar. My advisor is very enthusiastic and funny. He wrote the book we’re reading: The Magic of Magnets. I would suggest that anyone interested in learning more about science should read it. Even if you do not have a strong science background, it is easy to understand. You will learn so many things, like how a VCR and TV work, how we get electricity, and a myriad of other things you probably did not know about magnets (they don’t just sit on your fridge, we depend on them for many things in our everyday lives!). Each week we have a short reading and writing assignment, so it doesn’t take much time. I have met some cool people and I am also learning a lot of really neat science, so I’m glad I decided to do the seminar.

I think that’s it for classes, at least for now.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Simmons: My Crazy Dorm

Simmons is called the “Giant Sponge” and the “Silver Waffle.” Why? See for yourself:

If you think the architecture on the outside is crazy, wait until I post pics from the inside.

I love Simmons. It is one of the farthest dorms from classes (about a ten-fifteen minute walk), but it is so worth it. It is located across the field from where all the other dorms, so we are sort of by ourselves. We have the most free food out of all the other dorms, we are the newest dorm, and the people are really cool. Although some people say that since Simmons is new, it doesn’t yet have a personality, I disagree. We have our own quirkiness and social atmosphere. There is a large variety of people: we have jocks, studiers, partiers, East Campus-like people, and of course, all of us are nerdy is some form. Our pride in Simmons unites us. Simmons isn’t a party dorm, but we do have social events, which I will describe later. In general I would say we are all relatively laid back: we work hard, but we also have fun. My Graduate Resident Tutor (GRT) is really sweet. She keeps giving us study breaks! Amanda (the girl from my school) is also in Simmons, which totally rocks.

Simmons is on the west side of campus. There is also the east side of campus. East and West both have stereotypes associated with them. East Campus pulls all the pranks and is considered the stereotypical nerdy student residential area whereas west campus people are more “normal.” And I would like to emphasize that normal is relative at MIT. To make it more confusing there is a dorm called “East Campus” on east campus or “EC” as we like to call it. When people refer to East Campus they are normally referring to the dorm.

I really like my roommate, Annelise. We are so perfect for each other it is scary. We have the exact same computer, the same lamp, and some other objects that I can’t remember, we also like to go to bed early and get up early, we both get headaches if we don’t get enough sleep, and we are both moderately neat, the list keeps going….etc. Annelise is really into anime and chemistry. She plans on being a Course 5 (Chemistry) major. Although she is from a small town in Minnesota, Annelise does not have a Minnesotan accent. We have been getting along really well so far. My two other good friends are Amanda (a different Amanda than from my school) and Kaitlyn who live in the temporary room we had during orientation. Amanda is from Philadelphia and Kaitlyn is from Maine.

Our room rocks! Since we are on the 6th floor we have a great view of the football field and the Boston skyline. We have 18 windows in our room! Crazy isn’t it? That’s Simmons for ya, tons and tons of windows. We also have our own bathroom that is right outside of our door. This means we have to clean it, but it’s not like people really clean public bathrooms, right? So it will be way cleaner than most bathrooms! I actually enjoy cleaning, since it is a break from studying and it looks (and smells) nice when you are done. We have lots of colorful thing in our room, and even better, everything matches! My bed is red/orange/green and Annelise’s is purple and blue. We have a very bright carpet by our beds that ties all of these colors together. I must say that our decorating skills are brilliant! :-). Annelise brought posters, so we also have a wall covered with various pictures.

Annelise's bed/wall. Our closets.

My lovely desk and bed.

Our many windows, and the view from our room. The other dorms are across from us.

Our front door and pantry/fridge area

Simmons has its own dining hall. We have to pay for every item we eat, but everyone who lives here gets a discount, so it’s not too bad. On the first floor, there is also a little cafĂ©. There’s no breakfast or lunch in the dorm, so I’ve been eating power bars and milk for breakfast and I make my own sandwich for lunch (there are places to eat on campus but I enjoy being in my dorm room). Simmons is unique because it has a “Lounge” system. Throughout each floor there are lounges spread about. These are used as study areas, but some have kitchenettes and TVs. Certain lounges have a group associated with them. For example, I signed up for the “Schrodinger’s cat lounge”. Here’s their description: “We're the superposition of study and lounge, work and play, pain and pleasure. Bring us your impossible problem sets and we'll feed you. Who knows, maybe you'll even get salsa lessons from or serenaded by some of our members.” (And if you want to learn more about what a Schrodinger’s cat is, go here: http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/0,,sid9_gci341236,00.html)
The lounges are essentially like clubs. Each lounge gets $30 per person, so we get to go out and do fun things! We haven’t done anything yet but I’m sure we will soon.

Another cool thing about Simmons is that ANYONE that lives in Simmons can attend the government meetings. It is similar to a town meeting, where everyone gathers together to discuss issues in the dorm. We discuss anything from giving out money from the house funds for DVDs, brooms, hiking trips, etc. No other dorm has this unique government.

The day we moved into our final room assignments, Simmons had a mini “Mystery Hunt.” During Independent Activities Period (IAP we get the whole month of January off!) there is a week long series of puzzles that people stay up for days trying to solve. The people who solve the most get to organize the next year’s Mystery Hunt. We stayed up past twelve trying to solve some very tough puzzles. One of them Annelise solved because it was a beefed up word search with anime characters! After solving these puzzles, we had to use the answers to solve an even larger one. Our team did very well—we got second! This is what MIT is all about: problem solving. Once I come out of this place I will be able to look at an “impossible” problem and solve it.

More about classes will come later, so stay tuned.