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.