Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. I'm at home relaxing right now. It was a bit strange to be home, but after a few days it feels normal. I've been away since the end of August, so it's been a long time. I'm having fun with my family and will be going back to MIT in the middle of January (but I'm leaving for Houston to visit family there for a week before heading back).


“Beta Inside” (I built a processor!)

The longest lab in 6.004 is building a simple processor. The diagram below shows the essential circuitry. It’s pretty cool that I made something that works and can add, subtract, multiply, and much more! Even better, I finished it a few days before it was due, on schedule!


Parent’s weekend was in October, and my mom and dad came to visit me. They took me and Gus to see the musical Wicked, which was showing in Boston. If you haven’t seen it GO SEE IT NOW! Seriously, it is that good. It’s amazing. My favorite musical used to be Phantom of the Opera, which I’ve seen multiple times, but I think Wicked has replaced it. I don’t want to say too much about the story, because I think it was better going in knowing nothing except that it is about “how the wicked witch of the west became wicked” which is what anyone will tell you. I’ll just say I was astounded at the depth of the storyline. There’s stuff here for kids and adults. There’s a dark undertone, not like the Phantom of the Opera, but it’s a serious musical. Wicked is also hilarious, beautiful, moving, and just amazing in general. The music is outstanding. I keep listening to it while walking to class and I can’t get tired of it. I would suggest seeing the musical before getting the soundtrack; however, as you will appreciate it more (especially since you will know the storyline). There is nothing like seeing a musical in a theatre. The soundtrack reminds you of the experience. The actors were just brilliant. The girl who played Glenda was perfect, her facial expressions and movements were so intricate and so detailed. The actress playing Alphaba was equally amazing. Everyone was just great. We were very close to the front row, so we could see all of them closely. I just don’t know how to explain how much I love Wicked, except to say it is one of those experiences that stays with you for a long time afterward. After the show, I bought a poster which is now in my room. Every time I look at it I smile :-).

Finally an Update: Classes for Fall 2007

Sorry it has been such a long time since I have updated. I’ve been busy, but not THAT busy.

Here are the classes I took this last term:

3.155J/6.152J Micro/Nano Processing Technology [Schmidt, O'Handley]

This was one of my favorite classes. The workload is not excessive, and the material is interesting. I know I want to go into the electronics industry, so this class is perfect for me. It combines many different disciplines (we have people from many majors in this class). I’ve heard this is the most expensive class per student at all of MIT. This is because our labs are in the fab at MIT, and we get to make microelectronics and nano-devices such as MOS capacitors, cantilevers, and microfluidic devices. I have a wafer in my room that I made! Seeing really expensive equipment in action and being able to take home the end product is quite cool. The lectures are hard to pay attention to (I’ve never been a fan of powerpoint), but the lecturers do a pretty good job of giving you the pertinent details.

6.004 Computation Structures [Ward]

I have enjoyed this class. There are no psets, but there are labs and quizzes (8 labs and 5 quizzes) throughout the term, so you still have something to do each week. This is a great class to take along with 3.155J because at the beginning of the class we studied semiconductors, but from and electronic standpoint. This class is not overly difficult, though I must say that it is very easy to lose points on the quizzes. I’ve gotten 100% on all the labs so far though. This class uses a point system. There are 210 points total and you need 170 to get an A, so it’s rather neat since you know exactly how well you need to do to get a certain grade. I’ve learned a lot about how computers work at the basic level, in fact, we even “built” (virtually) a processor!

10.302 Transport Processes [Dalzell, Smith]

What can I say? This is a Course 10 class, and I generally find them very difficult, frustrating, and not all too likeable. This one is not much different. The good thing about this class is that the material is much easier to grasp, since everything we talk about can be related to the physical world. For example, the entire class is about exchanging heat and mass, so I can tell you why windows are often double-paned instead of one thick slab (so...technically I knew that before I took the class but now I can model it mathematically!). So, it’s very different from 10.213 (thermo and kinetics for cheme majors) in that aspect. I like it better than other Course 10 classes I’ve had. The lectures are not all that helpful, but our book is very useful (thank goodness, since the last few textbooks I’ve had for classes have been worthless).

Writing Longer Fiction [Haldeman]

This class is taught by the Hugo award winning author Joe Haldeman. I’ve generally enjoyed it, Haldeman is interesting to listen to. I’m not sure how much I’ve actually learned in this class, some random tidbits about writing and publishing. I like how we have to read a short book every week (at least for the beginning of term), because it forced me to read, which is something that always seems to be on my to-do list but is never completed. I enjoy creative writing, so the writing assignments are fun for me. I don’t always agree with Haldeman’s opinions (he’s a very tough grader, if he likes it you’re fine, if he doesn’t…well…sucks for you :-). For this class the major assignment is to write a synopsis for a novel and a few sample chapters (essentially 30 pages). So it’s a lot of work, but fun. Just pray he likes your story…and don't write ANYTHING relating to magic (meaning essentially anything that involves special powers).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Funny tidbit of the day

Who knew flushing a shirt down the toilet could turn off the internet? I certainly would never have guessed such a strange result. Apparently the kids over in Burton-Conner had some problems the other day with their plumbing...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Star Simpson and "Fake Bomb"

Since this is all over the news I thought I should comment. Star Simpson, a sophomore that lives at East Campus, went to the airport with an electronic name tag she made for herself . The device had LEDs on a circuit board that were in the shape of a star (her name is "Star"). State troopers thought she had a bomb and she was arrested at gunpoint. I want to make sure people knew that Star had no intention of causing such a ruckus. She made the name tag for MIT's career fair last Thursday. The playdoh in her hands was from the career fair.

I'm not trying to make an excuse for her or what happened. Star should have been smarter about wearing such a device to an airport, especially since there have been so many terrorist scares recently. It was clueless for her to do such a thing. To her, it was probably just a cool thing she made and wanted to wear it around and get some use out it, not realizing that it looked so suspicious. The MIT administration has commented on this incident, and I am disappointed with their report. Sure, they want to look good after this incident, but they could have easily clarified that Simpson was not carrying a "fake bomb" and that she didn't mean for this to happen. They still could have been stern in their comments about how she was clearly not thinking about her actions. It makes a big difference to the MIT community. This isn't something where she was like "Hey! I want to wear this so people will get freaked out and it will be totally hilarious." In that type of situation I would expect MIT to practically disown such a student. This was NOT such a case. I don't believe Simpson or MIT has handled this very well with the media. Hopefully it will all get sorted out soon. The MIT administration needs to recognize that some of the people here are extremely book smart, but not street smart. I think it's something that needs to be addressed and can be corrected.

Monday, September 17, 2007

New Layout

I just updated the layout for the blog. I hope everyone likes the new banner. I'm still not completely happy with it but over the next few weeks I'll do something more professional. At least it looks more MITish with the great dome on there. I will probably change it a bit more to see what looks the nicest.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Intel Internship (Summer 2007)

My internship at Intel was a great learning experience. I stayed in my family’s apartment during the weekdays and then drove back down to our house in Monterey on the weekends. My group had four other people in it. I worked in the Lithography/Etch department, but we did not have much to do with that. We were environmental processing engineers, so we dealt with things coming out of the fab (another way of putting it would be “waste” :-). I worked on three projects while I was there. The first was working on a bioreactor pilot to process wastes from the fab. I tested new feed solvents for denitrification for that. Unfortunately I was not able to continue this project because there were some complications with upper management. I also developed a model for ultra pure water in the fab using Visual Basic for Applications. Additionally, I completed fab emissions testing using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. I even got to visit the Intel facility in Hillsboro, Oregon twice. I felt special going on business trips and being an intern :-). I flew in Intel's jet (don't get excited, it is just a regular airplane...but they do have electrical outlets to charge your computer) which was pretty cool. We stayed there for a few days to do some work on the bioreactor pilot. Oregon is beautiful and extremely green. The Intel facility there is much larger than Santa Clara's because they actually make chips there.

I was very fortunate to work in a great group. I had lots of fun with my team members. They even took me out to lunch a few times! I also attended SEMICON west 2007, where companies that have anything do whatsoever with making semiconductors come and present their wares. There were cool robots that handled wafers. Nikon even had microscopes to analyze wafers. There were so many companies that had niche products just for semiconductor manufacturing. My group was very supportive of me and they always made sure I had something to do. Some of my other friends were not so lucky in that respect.

By the way, Intel pays their interns a lot of money for the summer, especially considering it is an internship. If your college is far away, they even give you relocation money to help pay for costs. Interns also get a share in the bonuses! It’s a really good deal.

My favorite part of the summer was hanging out with interns and other young employees. I mostly hung out with a group of about four other employees and their boyfriends/girlfriends. We went ice-skating one night (why I’ve been ice-skating in the middle of the summer in California but not in Boston in the winter I can’t tell you). I also got one of my intern friends hooked on the show, Firefly. There was an intern picnic that was also fun. I played football with the guys. I’m not the best at catching and throwing but I can do some pretty good defense…at least in touch football. We even visited the aquarium in Monterey one weekend, which I have seen dozens of times, but it’s still fun to visit every once in a while. My experience this summer would not have been the same without these awesome people! I am so glad the interns at Intel were more active than at Agilent. I had no problems getting together with people at all, unlike last summer. There were events going on almost every night!

If you want to see a hilarious video about Intel (you can even see the building I worked in!) click on the link below. Conan O Brien visited Intel and made fun of it. (And yes, there really is a plaque in the ground to tell you where to take a picture :-).

I really enjoyed working at Intel. Since Intel is a large company, it has its own problems, but working there for the summer was great. They were more organized than Agilent and the interns did many more activities. I also liked the combination of chemical engineering and electronics. I know now that I want to go more into an electronics area with my cheme degree. I highly recommend Intel for summer internships. It is possible that you might get a bad group and not accomplish much during the summer (this happened to one of my friends), but if you have a great group it's a good experience.

After my three-month internship was over, my family and I went to Maui for vacation. I had a nice, relaxing time before heading back to MIT.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Room for Junior Year in Simmons Hall

I'm all moved into my new room, so I thought I'd post some pictures. I have a single this year in Simmons Hall. Look at some of my first posts of each year if you want to see pictures of doubles in Simmons for my first and second years. My room faces Boston, so at night I see the pretty skyline :-). My single is pretty typical of Simmons' rooms. (In general, MIT dorm rooms are large). I actually have a small single. Next year as a senior I will be able to get a larger one if I choose to move to another room. In Simmons, freshmen and sophomores normally have doubles (maybe a few sophomores can get singles). Juniors and seniors normally get singles.

Monday, September 03, 2007

MIT FAQ from Smoots: Student Life at MIT

I have a website called Smoots: Student Life at MIT that has a lot of valuable information about MIT. Unfortunately, not many people come across it on the internet. I thought I would put some of that information on this blog, since it is directly connected to Google and it gets more hits. Here are some of the questions that are answered on the website:

Go to to visit the Smoots: Student Life at MIT to see more!


Everyone I have talked to says that MIT is difficult, but not impossible; if you stick with it and work hard, you can do well. Before accepting my admission at MIT, I asked some upperclassmen their thoughts on MIT. So, the answers to this FAQ were written by students that actually go to MIT. Please keep in mind that before making any type of decision to attend MIT, you should definitely visit to get an idea about how you would feel there. Just because these students enjoyed or disliked something does not mean you will. Use this FAQ as one resource, not your only resource, to get information about MIT.

For the more sensitive and student-dependent questions, I had multiple students write up answers (go to Student Opinionsto read them all). There is a brief "highlight" section below that summarizes how most students answered each question. For the rest that involve opinions, I tried my best to represent the majority of students' feelings.

Frequently Asked Questions


· There is a rumor that most MIT students are depressed (the whole suicide rate being high), what are your comments on that?

If you let the work get to you and are not organized, you will probably become very stressed. This could lead to depression if you do not get help. In general though, MIT students are enthusiastic people who love their school and are happy with their lives. MIT's suicide rate is NOT above average. Every college has suicides, but since MIT is a big-name school and is known for having a tough workload, when something like that happens here there is a lot more media coverage, and then the rumors start.

· So, how many nerds are there really?

Everyone here is smart and we have lots of nerdy jokes, but most people are quite "normal." You will find few people who talk in a high voice and have a problem socializing.

· How much sleep do you get on average (can you get 8 hours of sleep)?

If you are organized, you can get 8 hours. Most people get about 5-7 hours.

· How much time do you spend doing homework?

20-40 hours a week depending upon how efficient you are and what classes you are taking. Expect to spend quite a bit more time on homework than in high school.

· Do you have time to do anything else except study? If yes, what do you spend your free time doing?

Yes you do have time to do other things. People participate in clubs, research, sports, go out to parties, explore Boston, and do tons of other activities. There are so many things to do in college and at MIT, it would be a shame if people studied all the time.

· Are the classes totally impossible, or can you actually do well in them?

If you put in the effort you can do well. The average GPA at MIT is about 4.1/5.0, which is a B average (from this it is evident that most students are doing quite well here, and are far from failing all their classes).

· What is your overall experience with professors (do you think they are good teachers?)

There are good professors and bad professors just like any school. Most people have good experiences with them. TAs and professors hold office hours and will help you if you get stuck on a problem or do not understand something from lecture.

· Have you participated in UROP? What was the experience like?

Most people tend to enjoy their UROPs and learn a lot. It is a great way to gain work experience and explore possible majors. You get to work with graduate students and/or a professor and do REAL research! It is very easy to obtain a UROP, just go and bug a professor or go to the UROP office to look at available ones.

· What are the worst things about MIT?

  • The workload
  • Cold weather
  • Some people dislike the campus

· What are the best things about MIT?

  • The people are friendly and enthusiastic
  • Students have a lot of freedom and can make their own decisions. If you want to do something or get something changed, you probably can.
  • You can essentially choose what dorm you want to live in (each has its own personality)
  • Very easy to get involved with research (paid or for credit)
  • Community atmosphere (not cutthroat, people work together and go out and do things together)
  • IAP (you get January off to do whatever you want, including vacation and/or taking fun classes)
  • There are so many opportunities to excel and do your own thing; you won't ever be bored!
  • Boston is an awesome city
  • Once you come out of this place, you will have an outstanding education and have great problem solving skills so that everything else will seem easy
  • You will be challenged like never before
  • The first semester is pass/no record (i.e. there are no grades!)
  • MIT is recognized internationally and nationally as one of the best engineering schools in the world

· Why should you go to MIT? Is it the right place for everyone?

If you want a challenge, are willing to put in many hours of studying, are enthusiastic about learning new things, and want to have a well-rounded education, MIT is for you. If you want to be at the top of the class and can't handle people getting better grades than you, you may want to think carefully about attending. Do not come here if you want to party all the time and do not want to put in the effort!



· What type of AP credit does MIT accept?

This varies on the subject. Visit this website:

· What are the dorms like?

MIT is unique compared to other colleges in that each of its dorms has a different personality. Each dorm building has different architecture, furniture, and stereotypes associated with it. MIT has an all-girls dorm, an oddly shaped "waffle building", a dorm where explosions are considered the norm, a "party" dorm, and more. So in short, there are a lot of varieties. I am not going to go into the stereotypes of each dorm and how I feel about them, because each dorm fits different personalities, and a dorm that I don't like is "home sweet home" for another person. When you come to MIT that is the time to visit the dorms and find out which one is the best for you. There is a general list about which dorm has singles, doubles, quads, smoking, cafeterias, etc at this website: Freshmen have plenty of time to explore the dormitories during summer and orientation before they have to put down their preferences.

· What is the surest way to get accepted to MIT?

Okay, first things first. There is no sure way to get accepted to any college. You can do things that make it extremely likely, but nothing is ever sure. I know someone who was an Intel Science Talent Search Finalist (there are only 40 in the entire country), had done well at other science competitions, and he did not get into Harvard or Stanford. During my senior year in high school, we had people accepted to Columbia, Brown, Stanford, MIT, and UC Berkeley, but not to Pomona. The college admission process at all schools has some randomness associated with it (there HAS to be since there are a ton of students applying that have similar GPAs, activities, and SAT scores). People always ask, "If I have these grades, this SAT score, and have done these activities, will I get in?" Don't ask me. Don't ask other students. They won't know! So many students and their parents get obsessed with test scores and such, and truthfully, it's not a good idea! Just because you scored higher on the SATs than someone else doesn't mean you should have gotten accepted and they should not have.

An example: at one of the science competitions I participated in, I won an award. A couple of random parents stopped to congratulate me and asked where I was going to college. I told them and then they said their son (who had also won something) really wanted to go to MIT, but he was not accepted and was going to another engineering school. They then proceeded to ask my SAT scores! I told them, and I could tell by the look on their faces that their son had scored higher. I had been judged just by my SAT scores. They didn't even ask me what other activities I did and other science competitions I had competed in. Right then and there, they had already decided that I should not have gotten into MIT and their son should have. Don't be like this!

Look at it this way. The highly competitive colleges admit only about 10%-20% of their applicants. If EVERYONE has pretty good test scores, grades, etc. then it is very hard to choose who should be admitted. Sure, there will be students that are obviously more qualified than others, but there are so many applicants that look the same, getting in is also based on luck and chance. Do not be discouraged if you were not admitted to the college of your dreams! It doesn't mean anything! All it means is that there are a limited amount of spots at the school and it's hard to get in.

Keep in mind that applying to more colleges does mean you are more likely to get into at least one of them, (but don't apply to a ton, otherwise you will not have a life senior year!).

I will say that the MIT admissions office does seem to have a very good admissions procedure. Even better, they are very friendly and actually treat you like a person.

What's my advice? Besides doing your best in school and doing well on the SATs (you do NOT need to get a perfect score!), do other activities that make you stand out. If you are good at something, then prove it! Participate in competitions and make yourself unique. Participate in writing competitions, science competitions, music competitions, publish your writing, start a non-profit that really does make a difference, etc. This will boost your resume, you'll make a lot of great friends, and you'll learn a lot. But don't do it just for your resume, that's just stupid because you won't enjoy it as much. Do something you enjoy and show that you excel in it.

By making your activities unique, taking high school seriously, and a little luck, you have a good chance at getting into your top school. But if you don't, it isn't the end of the world. I know a lot of bright people who went to state schools and less competitive colleges and are at the top of the "food chain" at their jobs.

· How does the advising system work?

There are three major advising systems at MIT:

  • Traditional Advising: You have an advisor and meet with him/her periodically. This is just like most other advising systems.
  • Advising Seminar: This is like an easy class that doesn't involve much work. You have an advisor, and you meet with him/her and the rest of the advisees once a week to learn about a specific topic. You also meet with them individually a few times a semester.
  • Residence Based Advising (RBA): Your advisor is based in your dormitory and there is a very community-based atmosphere.

For more information, look under "Exploration" and "Advising" on this website:

· What is a UROP?

UROP stands for "Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program." It is a great way to gain research experience with a graduate student/professor. There are many UROPs available to undergraduates, even as freshmen. It is very easy to obtain a UROP. UROPs are one of many things unique to MIT (there are similar programs at other colleges but most of them hardly come close). You can look online or around campus for advertised UROPs, or go and bug a professor whose research interests you. Most of the time students end up doing REAL research, not just washing beakers. You can do a UROP for pay or for credit. Many students stay at MIT during the summer and do research. For more information go here:

· How good is the English/Humanities department at MIT?

This obviously depends a lot upon the class you take, but in general, most students enjoy their humanities classes and get a lot out of them. The MIT administrators emphasize having engineers with a well-rounded background, so 8 humanities classes are required to graduate (that's one per semester!). The humanities classes at MIT are generally less demanding than the science and engineering classes, but most professors do not grade easily. You probably don't want to major in English at MIT (it is not a liberal arts school), but at the same time, the humanities are not left out here. In particular, MIT is ranked very highly in Economics, Political Science, Linguistics, and Management. The Music department is also outstanding (I'm taking an introductory course this term, and it is great so far). Tons of people double major or minor in music. Our English department is not bad either.

· Do people date at MIT? What is the social scene like there?

I have a boyfriend, my roommate has a boyfriend, a few of my other friends have boyfriends/girlfriends. So yes, people definitely date here. Contrary to MIT's stereotype, there are also parties here. The Greek scene is quite huge at MIT, there's always a party at one of the fraternities. The dorms also throw parties and such. People go out to dinner, walk around Boston, go out to movies, etc. We don't stay in our rooms all day and study!

· Is the food good at MIT?

This depends upon where you eat of course, but in general, MIT food is not bad. The first few weeks you'll think there's a lot of variety in some of the cafeterias, but then after about a month you realize it just appears that there is a lot of variety. The food does get old after a while. However, I've had friends from other colleges visit me and talk about how great our food is. I think our food is pretty good compared to most colleges, but it's not like your mom's home cooking. In terms of places to eat around campus: at the student center there is a Dunkin' Donuts, a Mexican food place, a small grocery store that sells sandwiches, an Indian, and Japanese food place. In my dorm we have a cafeteria that has a salad bar, stir fry, sandwich bar, grill, "home-style" food, and another counter that serves more unusual food items. There are also cafes spread throughout the main academic buildings and food trucks that serve lots of things around MIT.

· How much drug/alcohol usage is there at MIT?

MIT is a college with lots of different types of people, so yes, students drink alcohol here and do drugs. BUT most students are very respectful and will not impose upon you if you do not want to participate. Most people are very good about doing these types of things in more enclosed areas so it's not even noticeable. I rarely ever see people doing drugs. At parties the alcohol is more obvious, but most students are responsible enough to know when they've had enough. If you want to avoid people who do these types of things, it's very easy. There are a ton of people who do not drink or do drugs. Since the workload at MIT is heavy, people are also limited in their usage of alcohol and other substances. Drinking and drugs are not something you need to really worry about at MIT. I would say people "party" less here than at most other colleges.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Gus is in Paris doing an internship at Schlumberger. I visited him over the 4th of July weekend and we had lots of fun. Instead of describing everything we did, I'll just post some pics. I took over 200 pictures, but I don't really want to upload ALL of them. The pics below are of the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Notre Dame, another church I don't remember the name of, The pompidou pop art museum (and not, it’s not under construction :-), and the Louvre.

I will do a huge update about MIT and my summer very shortly. Sorry it's been such a long time since my last post! I hope everyone's summer is going well.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

It's Summer!

I’m done with all my exams and papers, which is such a relief. I will write up a summary of how I felt about my classes soon. I’m back at home in California, and I have started my internship at Intel. This summer looks to be a very productive one with my internship and then figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my time at MIT. Right now I’m just enjoying the sunny day and doing some random chores, along with some much needed relaxing. Gus is already in France, and he will be starting his internship with Schlumberger within the next few days. I hope everyone is enjoying the summer.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


I have two finals this semester, one tomorrow and one on Tuesday. Then I'm done!!! Check back in a few days for an update on the last few weeks of school. Right now I'm studying like crazy.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Room for next year!

Yesterday was Simmon's rooming lottery. Each dorm has a different method for picking rooms, and Simmons uses a lottery, with rising seniors picking first, then juniors, then sophomores. Now that we are rising juniors, we will all get singles! I was pick #88, and there were about 200 students total. I was in the upper middle of the junior class. My friends and I were very lucky since we were able to take over the 10C tower. My new room will be the one next to Gus' current room. It is 134 square feet, which is actually a relatively small single, but it will be plenty of room for me. Kaitlyn will take Gus's room, Gus will be living across from me, and Amanda will be a few doors down the hall. We also have two of our freshman friends in a double on the same floor (the room Kaitlyn and Amanda currently live in). It should be fun next year. It is quite strange because there are still tons of singles and doubles left. My current room with Annelise was not taken. I think this is partly because some people chose to just live in doubles to be closer to friends, and also because there are about 30 people fewer in the lottery than last year.

For pictures of a typical Simmons dorm room, go to the blog entries: "Simmons: My Crazy Dorm" (October 2005) and "My Room" (September 2006). Early next semester I will also post pictures of my new single room, so look out for those.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Ring Delivery

We got our Brass Rats!!! I keep looking at mine, smiling to myself. There was a reception in the State room of this really nice building in Boston. We had fun, even though it was on a Thursday night and we had psets to do.

Below is a snippet of a Tech article from this link:\

I think it expresses how MIT students feel sometimes.

“It seems that with each year here, undergraduates become more and more entrenched in this spiral of self-pity and disgust at their lives. But really there are a few milestones within those four years that seem to keep us sane and above water. One is graduation and finally being done with this place. The other is getting your brass rat.

The brass rat is a symbol of what you have accomplished so far, what you have to look forward to, and what you will accomplish when you leave campus. When you are a freshman, you look with envy to the upperclassmen’s fingers wrapped in shiny yellow. You know that you’ve got a long road ahead to finishing your turn in the Institute, but there’s a concrete item and experience to look forward to, to keep you plugging away at your work day in and day out.”

Very well said. See pics below of our beautiful and clunky rings!


The weekend of April 13th was Campus Preview Weekend (CPW) for MIT. Many of = the admitted students come and visit the campus to see if they like MIT or not. CPW is a very huge deal here, and everyone puts a lot of time into planning activities so that there are a ton of different things to go to. Parents of the prospective freshman also come, so there are special activities for them, too (they need to be kept preoccupied so that their kids have some freedom :-). My CPW was one of the best weekends of my life, and I hope the kids this year thought so, too.

My roommate, Annelise, planned all the Simmons’ activities this year, along with another of our friends, Erin. We tried to have as many different types of activities as possible so that everyone would feel like they could fit in.

I had a prefrosh stay with me named Tiffany. She was from Fremont, California, and was into anime and music and many other things. She was undecided about MIT at first, but I received an email from her a few days ago about accepting MIT’s offer, which is great!

On Thursday night, we had a movie marathon, with Office Space and Euro-Trip, both quite hilarious (and very college-oriented) movies. I stayed up pretty late for that, since I did not have anything due the next day.

Friday we had an Arcade night, along with an Italian dinner. Unfortunately, I missed the dinner, but I had a good reason! There was an Intel Science Talent Search reunion dinner, so I saw some old friends and met the winners of this year’s competition. It’s amazing how we still have bonds from just being a week together.

Saturday was a very busy day, as there was chocolate baking, dorm tours, a brunch, and then at night there was a Mexican dinner with salsa dancing, and then board games! We decided to play board games while frat parties were going on, since so many people go to them. For people who did not feel like going to frat parties, they could at least come to Simmons and join us.

The pics above are the mexican dinner/salsa dance setup. The bottom one is me at Phi Sig's graffiti party, where Gus put high lighter on m y nose (don't worry, i got revenge!).

So you can see how busy ONE dorm was for CPW, can you even imagine how many things there are to do if each dorm, each frat/sorority, and most student groups and other people put on activities? There were pages and pages of things for people to do while here, and everyone does it with enthusiasm.

One of the largest compliments we get is how much fun MIT’s CPW is compared to other colleges. I didn’t go to any others, and I thought they were similar, but I guess MIT’s is one of the best. People really do get excited about the weekend, even if there is tons of school work to do, and tons of planning, but that doesn’t deter people from making an awesome CPW every single year. The weekend was fun, but very tiring for us. I hope everyone had fun!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Update is coming

Lots of things have been going on, and this next week is busy too, so I will update next weekend. Look forward to details on CPW, ring delivery (we got our brass rats!), tests, spring weekend, and more.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech

Pray for the students and their families fromVirginia Tech. At least thirty students were shot during classes today by a man who then killed himself.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

New Friends!

Being in Simmons is somewhat difficult at times because there are not many course 10 majors in my year. I go to office hours a lot to get help, and two weeks ago I finally found a nice study group! I somehow wound up at Bexley after 10.301 office hours, and a bunch of people from my classes who I have seen but did not really know, were all studying there. It is much more fun to work with people, something I had somewhat forgotten, so I enjoyed working with them on the pset. Now I have a great group of friends in my major and we all help each other out.

A little while before spring break I also played board games somepeople. We played Risk, Settlers of Catan, and Robo Rally, all which are very addictive and fun. We stayed up late playing games and just laughing and talking. I want to do something like that more often.

There have also been quite a few parties up on Gus’ floor, so I’ve gone to some of them and that has also been fun.

A day at a time

There are some weeks that you just have to go through one day at a time, trying to survive until the next day. Last week was one of them.

We had a horrible 10.213 pset that hardly anyone finished. My group and I went to office hours every night, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and still could not finish. The pset was due on Thursday. Most of our psets are not like this at all, and are very manageable. We had spent over ten hours on it by Wednesday night, but I still had to finish my 10.301 pset and I had a test I needed to study for (5.310, which seemed to go well, by-the-way), so I stopped doing the pset around 12:00 am. Most of us still had one whole problem left (out of three), and a few parts from other questions. Let’s just say we are not very fond of the professor right now for that class. He is teaching the second half of the course, and it’s all completely theory now and it makes no sense to anyone. Our book is not helpful, so I went to the library to get a better one. The library didn’t have the one I wanted, but hopefully I found a good substitute. We’ll see how studying goes tomorrow with it.

So, last week was not very fun. The good thing is that this weekend is CPW, which I will write about soon, so the next entry should be much more positive :-).

Annoyances and Bad Things about MIT

It is slowly getting warmer in Boston. We didn’t really have a bad winter, but it has been in the lower forties and thirties lately, sometimes even higher, which means that spring is coming soon! I’m glad, since the last few months have been frustrating at times. Although I wish I had more people visiting my blog, like the official MIT bloggers, there are some pros about not being associated with MIT. For example, I have much more leeway to talk about the cons of MIT.

I did ok on my first batch of tests. As I said earlier, hardly anyone finished the 10.301 test, and I ended up doing above average on it (the average was 37), so that was good. I got a 96 on my first 5.310 lab, so hopefully that trend will continue. So far 5.310 is getting easier, we don’t always stay the full four hours in order to finish everything, which is extremely nice. 8 hours of lab per week is a lot of time. My first 10.213 test was not good at all, the average was 47 (but the prof was aiming for an average of 65—oops), and I scored below average. I was extremely frustrated because I know the information well, but coupled with some stupid errors and really harsh grading (hardly any partial credit, which I am not happy about) meant my score was not very good. I’m going to try and get the test re-graded, and hopefully I’ll be able to get some points back. My HASS class is going fine, I keep improving after each story so hopefully I’ll be able to get a good grade in that class.

I’ve been getting frustrated with homework grading lately (for both 10.301 and 10.213). I don’t feel like the graders are giving very much partial credit. There were some parts to certain questions that I got zero credit for, and I know that some of the stuff I wrote down was correct. How much sense does it make to give someone the same grade as a person who did not even attempt the problem, especially if not all of it is wrong? Homework is not a huge part of the overall grade in my classes, but every little bit helps. In the meantime, I’ll keep doing the best I can on the psets, and if this grading trend continues, I may go speak to the professor! It is not a good feeling when you spend hours on a pset and then come to find you get no credit for some of it.

What are some other things I’m not happy about? This semester I am not having as much fun in my classes. I still enjoy 10.301, and 5.310 is ok, but I am not a huge fan of 10.213. The professor is a solid lecturer, nothing special, but she does explain things pretty well. My qualm does not have much to do with her. I’m just frustrated because the way the material is presented, it is not very practical. I want REAL problems, not a bunch of partial derivatives and calculations. Some of the stuff they give us is just plain busy work. The frustrating part though is that many classes at MIT are like this. I’ve seen it in other classes too. Some stuff is just too theoretical. Theory is all good and fine, and sometimes I find it quite interesting, but when I’m learning something like thermodynamics I want something more applicable. Don’t get me wrong, I think learning the theory behind something is very important, but do they have to present it in such a boring and mathematical way? I was very happy when one class, our prof pulled out a fire extinguisher and told us about expanding gases, and she also did a very good lecturer about refrigeration, so why can’t more lectures be that way? It’s so much easier to understand the information when you can relate it to something in real life. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen just at MIT, it happened in high school and I know it happens at other colleges. I just think it is something that could be improved in general. Even though 10.301 can also be abstract and difficult, I find the problems are interesting, sort of like 8.022.

So I think that some of my classes could definitely be less theoretical and more practical. Overall though, I still really like MIT and I know I’m getting an amazing education and will be able to solve tough problems.

Anyways…that’s my rant.

Published At Long Last

My research paper has finally been published in the Journal of Chemical Education! It's in the May issue, and is available online now. My paper was accepted in the winter of 2005, so publishing takes a while. I started the process in the fall of my senior year of high school. The first time I submitted it, the paper was rejected, but then I edited it and sent it in again the next fall.

Go to the JChemEd website to check it out!

I don't think you can read the paper without a subscription, so if you want to read it, go here and you can download the pdf under the "Downloads" section:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Chocolate pancakes

This is very random, but on Monday there was a study break and they had chocolate fondue. And pancakes and french toast. Eating pancakes and french toast with chocolate and syrup is heavenly. You should try it.

I'll do more updates later about how my life is going at MIT. This is a busy week, with two psets, a paper, a test, and my prefrosh for CPW comes tomorrow too!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring Semester 2007 Classes

Here are the classes I am taking this semester. I'm taking 48 units. I’m really starting to get into my major!

10.213 Chemical and Biological Engineering Thermodynamics [K. K. Gleason]

This class expands on 5.60 (Thermodynamics and Kinetics) from last term. It seems very similar to 5.60 in that a lot of the stuff is not presented in a very exciting fashion. The professor is very friendly and nice, and when she lectures I understand her, but that doesn’t make the 1.5 hour lecture twice a week easy to pay attention to. A lot of this stuff is just so mathematical that it seems they have forgotten the practical aspect of it. We’ll see what the class is like as the semester goes on. I have my first 10.213 exam tomorrow!

10.301 Fluid Mechanics [P. S. Virk, W. M. Deen]

This class is very interesting so far. Although a lot of it is just “plugging and chugging” numbers, each equation has a very definite practical application (such as pipe flow or drag on a plane). Professor Virk is very amusing and his hand outs for each lecture are extremely helpful. Professor Deen just started lecturing last week, so I’m not sure what to think of him yet. This is one of my favorite classes this semester. The information we are learning is different than other things I’ve studied, so maybe that is why I enjoy it. I just had my first test in this class last Thursday, and it was extremely long (although the questions were not that difficult) and hardly anyone finished. I felt like I understood the information well though, so we’ll see what happens with that.

5.310 Laboratory Chemistry [J. L. Schrenk, M. D. Gheorghiu]

This is just your basic chemistry lab course. Some of the labs have not been very exciting, but now that I’m getting used to everything in the lab the 4 hour lab periods are not so bad. Other than lab reports, the class does not take a lot of time. We have a lab report due about once every month, and they are around ten pages. I actually like writing up the lab report, possibly because my previous science research gave me experience with the research process. There are two lecture exams in this class and we have one small quiz for each lab. And then we have the lab reports. I turned in my lab report last week, but we haven’t gotten anything back in this class yet, so I have no idea how I’m doing, which is somewhat frustrating. The TAs seem to be slow graders, but at least they are helpful in the lab itself.

21W.757 Fiction Workshop [J. Diaz]

I love creative writing, so this class is fun for me. It involves more work than most of the other HASS classes I have taken. We are averaging about one story (about 7 pages) every other week, and we have reading assignments and must critique other people’s stories each week. My professor is extremely eccentric and funny, which makes the class a joy to be in. After a long day I feel like I just want to go home and sleep, but I find that this class keeps me awake and alert. I think my writing will improve a lot this semester, since he is a tough grader. I highly recommend taking one of Professor Diaz’s courses if you enjoy creative writing.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Big Winter Update (Finally)

Now it’s finally time for my update on what happened during winter break! I went home after finals and enjoyed spending time with my family. We had uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents at my house for the holidays, so it was crazy but lots of fun. I saw a few friends while I was back home, but I mostly relaxed. I got a Nintendo Wii for Christmas, and I’ve been playing the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Gus is actually way ahead of me in the game now, which is amusing considering I had a lot of break to play it and he did not. I even got my grandparents to play Wii Sports, and I think they had fun too!

MIT gives you all of January off, so you get 1.5 months of vacation. This January period is called “Independent Activities Period” (IAP). During IAP, you can take classes (for credit or not), and it is just a great time to hang out with your friends with no stress. To see some of the offerings for IAP, check out this website:

During IAP, I searched for internships, hung out with my friends, attended a few seminars, did a short class, and just relaxed and had fun in general. I have summarized a few of the things I did below:

-Mystery Hunt! The annual mystery hunt is a big tradition at MIT. It is a huge puzzle competition and lots of people take part in it. The team who wins gets to organize the next mystery hunt. Some of the puzzles are really hard, and others are easy. It doesn’t matter if you are bad at puzzles or not, because some of them just require you to know something really random, like the name of a song, or a movie, or something. Many people stay up really late working on puzzles each day (it’s a weekend with hardly any sleep). The Simmons “Lego my Ego” team (remember that Simmons looks like a huge waffle) did pretty well this year, we didn’t win anything, but we were far from being last. Below is a picture of the white board used to display answers people had gotten.

-Seminars: I went to a few lectures about searching for internships. I also went to one on science writing. They had four actual writers (who were all related to MIT in some way) in the industry come out and talk about their jobs, so that was cool.

-Storytelling and Games in the Digital Age: This was a week long class that involved a lot of effort, but was also a lot of fun! Sony puts on this workshop for students and we got to design a video game (and when I say “design” I mean we come up with ideas and present them, we don’t actually create a videogame). We had to come up with an already existing franchise and make a game out of it, and then we did a presentation at the end. My group designed a game from the Twilight Zone, and it was in the adventure/horror genre. We stayed up a pretty late a few nights trying to finish everything. Our presentation went well the last day, although we didn’t win the competition. The team who won had a Beatles game that was very creative. I had a lot of fun and I’m glad I did it, even though it did take a lot of time. A pic of my team is below:
-I also went to a Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) concert during IAP with Gus. The music was pretty good. I love Beethoven, and Schoenberg was good, although I just don’t like the sound of his music as much as other types of music.

It was also my birthday in February (I’m 20….which is kind of strange). We had celebrated Gus and Annelise’s birthdays in December, so we had quite a few birthdays within two months of each other. My friends threw a surprise party for me the day after my birthday, so it was a lot of fun. Below is a pic of the beautiful (homemade!) and delicious cake that Gus and a few of my other friends made me.

I think those are the major things that happened during my winter break. Sorry it took so long for me to write that up! I’ll do an update about my spring semester classes soon.

Sand Mandala and 300

One of the reasons Simmons is a uniuqe dorm is because we have visiting scholars that live here for a short time (a few months to a few years). One of them in a Buddhist monk, and he and a few fellow monks used sand painting to create a mandala over the past week. I went to a lecture about the mandala on Friday and it was very interesting, and the mandala is beautiful. The mandala was displayed in the Simmons' Multi-Purpose Room, and it was ceremoniously destroyed yesterday afternoon. To see more pictures and learn more about what the mandala represents, visit this website.

On Friday night I also went out with a group of friends (my "lounge" group, sort of like a club made for going out and doing things). We went to an Italian restaurant in Boston and had a family style meal. They refill everything for free (although it is about $25 per person), but the food was soooo good. I was so stuffed afterwards!

Yesterday night I went out with a few friends for dinner and then we went to see the movie 300. It's by the same people who did Sin City, which I thought was a very well done movie and I appreciated its style, but I didn't really enjoy watching it. 300 is also very stylistic and it is about the famous battle of Thermopylae where a small army of Spartans (300 of them) fight to defend Greece against Xerxes, the Persian king. The imagery was very beautiful, and although the action was gory, it was fun to watch, much more fun than Sin City for me. The acting was pretty good, and the action was awesome, although some of the dialogue was a little awkward. I recommend seeing it if you want to have a good time and don't take the movie too seriously. Gladiator is still at the top of my list in terms of old war/action movies about Greece/Rome.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Random Hacks

Earlier this year, there were two major hacks. On the day the Nintendo Wii came out (November 19th), the triforce was seen on top of the great dome. For those of you who don't know, the triforce comes from the Legend of Zelda video game series (my favorite game series!).

There was also a very amusing hack by MIT during the Harvard football game against Yale. The Harvard coat of arms on the score board was changed to read: HUGE EGO instead of VERITAS (meaning "truth").


I have been searching for an internship since the beginning of the fall. I interviewed with Exxon Mobil and Shell (and the interviews went well), but with no luck. It is tough being a sophomore, even a sophomore with a good resume. Determined to get an internship this summer, I rewrote my cover letter to make it especially great and sent it off with my resume to as many Intel people as I possibly could. I want to work at Intel because they are a great company and they need chemical engineers to work on making semiconductors (and I like electronics). I did get a response from someone, unfortunately he wanted me to work for six months instead of three, which would not allow me to graduate on time. I sent my resume to someone else at Intel, who forwarded my email to lots of different people at Intel. I got a few responses, and interviewed with one of them on Tuesday. I thought the interview went very well--and I was right! I got the job! I just found out yesterday morning that I have a job offer in Santa Clara, California for an environmental process engineering internship at Intel. I am so happy to finally have an internship. I haven't officially accepted it yet, but I'm pretty sure I will. I don't have a ton of details about the internship right now, but I'll post something on my blog when I know more. Does anyone else have any plans for the summer (or have something they would like to do?). Post your comments here.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Class of 2009 Ring Premiere!

Part of MIT's culture that is recognized outside MIT is the MIT ring, affectionately called "The Brass Rat." Supposedly, it is the second most recognized ring in the world, (the first is the Super Bowl ring). MIT's mascot is the beaver, which is where the word "rat" comes from. Many alumni wear this ring, and it is one way people know you are from MIT. Students receive the ring the spring semester of their sophomore year, in other words, very soon!

On Friday the class of 2009 had it's "ring premiere," where we got to see the design of our brass rat. Each brass rat is slightly different, with special designs to evoke memories of what memorable things happened the first two years you were at MIT.

I'm very excited about my brass rat and will wear it proudly! Visit this link for more information, and to see pictures of our awesome ring!

I will do a larger update soon about my winter break and IAP, so stay tuned. :-)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Fall Term 2006 Wrapup

I'm finally updating after a very long absence! This post will discuss the last few weeks of fall term, at least for academics.

I did very well on my last few tests, I even got way above average on my final 5.60 test, which was exciting! My finals went pretty well, but having four is not fun. I had 10.10 and Western Music on Tuesday December 18th. On Wednesday, I had 6.001, and Friday, the 22nd of Dec., I had 5.60. (I know, they are so close to Christmas! But the good thing is, you get two weeks off, and then you have all of January off for IAP, which I will discuss in another post). Most of them seemed to go fine. Unfortunately, I was not feeling very well for the 5.60 test, as I had a bad cold, which did not help me on the exam. But oh well, I didn’t end doing all that badly. I got an A in Western Music, so I was very proud about that! I was also very proud of my B in 6.001, especially since many students in the class have been computer programmers for years, and since it isn’t in my major.

I really enjoyed my classes this semester, although they did have their annoyances, which I will sum up below.

10.10 Introduction to Chemical Engineering [H. H. Sawin]

I learned a lot of Matlab for this class, which was good. Unfortunately, the psets take way longer than they should. I went to the help sessions Tuesdays and Thursdays after class, and that helped TONS. The TAs would answer questions and help us with the problems, and most importantly, Matlab errors. I’m not sure how good of an introduction this class was to chemical engineering, but I did learn about flow rates and such, which was interesting. I wish they would have gone more in depth with certain fields, so we could have a better feel for what being a chemical engineer is like. They did bring in lecturers from the department, which ranged from research in energy to biomedical, so those were very intriguing. We had a project at the end of the class, and I worked with two other people on it. We worked well together, dividing up the work, and we got a good grade on it in the end. I actually had fun working with them on it! All in all, this class was difficult, and often frustrating, but still fun.

5.60 Thermodynamics and Kinetics [R. W. Field]

This class was not too bad. The tests and psets were often long, but rather easy. I learned a ton about thermodynamics, and the material was interesting. Sometimes lectures were boring, but it was ok. I would have done really well in this class had I not felt poorly during the final, but at least I know I am well prepared for my chemical engineering thermodynamics class next term.

6.001 Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs [W. E. L. Grimson]

My roommate, Annelise, thought I turned into a programmer this term instead of a chemical engineer. It’s sort of true, because I spent so many hours at the computer lab for this class. This one was my toughest class, as I did well on the projects and homework, but not on the tests. It was tough for me overall, but it was one of my favorite classes this year. The professor was excellent, my TA (who is actually a professor as well), was amazing. I think I might have learned the most in this class, especially in terms of how to think. 6.001 is different than other intro programming classes at other schools because they teach you how to THINK about programming. The theory is that once you understand how to program in Scheme, you can learn other languages easily because you know HOW it works, not just how to program. I now know a lot more terminology for computers, and I know how to program. I loved this class, even though it was hard. I sometimes stayed up programming until 3 in the morning, and even a few hours before projects were due, and I had started them a few days, if not a week, before the due date. Some of the projects were very tedious and difficult, but they were still very helpful in learning the material. My favorite project was the famous “Adventure Game” which is based off of the Harry Potter universe. It was just text-based, but you could interact with objects and people, and cast spells and such. I implemented a humorous puzzle system in mine, and I also added health items and “bosses” to my game. I would definitely recommend taking this class, whether you’ve had tons of computer experience or not.

21.M011 Introduction to Western Music [M. Marks]

I also learned a lot in this class. I had the lecturer as my recitation instructor, and in some ways that was a blessing and a curse. I have never seen such an anal grader, but it did improve my writing. I learned a ton about music in this class, so much so that I actually recognize songs and styles just by listening to the radio, or an advertisement. When I was playing Gus’ Civilization IV game, they even had a song in there from the medieval period that I recognized, which I thought was really awesome! I can also go through most of my dad’s classical CDs and recognize composers such as Palestrina and Purcell. I found the lectures and recitations somewhat dry, but I learned so much in this class, so I recommend it!

All in all, this was a great semester, and I enjoyed my classes, even if I did feel like screaming IHTFP a few times :-).