Grad Life

Grad Life blog posts offer insights from current MIT graduate students twice a month on Slice of MIT.


Grad Life: 45 Dreams Deferred

“I’ve come to terms with the presence that failure will have in my career. I’ve stopped mentally categorizing failure as a taboo topic…With the clarity of hindsight, I can now tell you what “being good at failing” means to me.”

Author: Amanda Chen is a biological engineering PhD candidate. 




Grad Life: From My Future Self

“I’m writing you from the fourth semester of our grad school experience (the one you’re about to embark on!). I know you’re simultaneously thrilled and terrified to start a PhD program at MIT! Let me tell you, it’s going to be one of the most incredible things you’ve ever experienced.”

Author: Alicia Elliott is a nuclear science and engineering graduate student. She develops multiphysics, finite-element computational simulations of isotope evolution and transport in nuclear power plants to determine the level of radioactivity of components over the plant’s lifetime, which helps to reduce the radiation dose received by maintenance workers.


Grad Life: Can You Get a PhD Without an Advisor?

“Not having an advisor during my first year significantly reduced my research workload, but it also complicated my class scheduling and funding…I finally decided that I wanted to do the work I thought was important, and I didn’t want to change my focus based on what the remaining faculty were doing. All I needed to do was figure out how to be my own advisor.”

Author: Patrick White is a science and engineering PhD Candidate focusing on how to safely build and license a new generation of safer, innovatively designed nuclear power plants to help fight climate change.


Grad Life: Confronting AlphaGo
“With AlphaGo defeating a world champion in 2016, how long would it be before AlphaGradStudent was outperforming me, a decent-but-definitely-not-world-champion PhD candidate? If a computer is better at solving problems than I am, do I still have utility?”

Author: Lee Weinstein is a mechanical engineering PhD candidate with a research focus on solar energy conversion.



Grad Life: The Infinite Corridor

“As I entered MIT, I was struck by the energy of this place. I soon realized the infinite corridor had nothing infinite about it – at least not in the first glance…It felt chaotic and noisy—but strangely had an underlying order.”

Author: Dishita Turakhia is a graduate student finishing her dual masters in Architecture (Computational Design) and EECS with research focusing on using AI for developing innovative tools for design and envisioning the future of creative computing.


Grad Life: Why I Meet with Policymakers for Science

“Stepping out of the lab and onto the Hill has convicted me in deeper measure that to best serve my community, I will need to offer more than my best intellectual and technical efforts throughout my career. In equal measure, I will need to offer my hand in partnership to these other scholars in the political realm, seeing them as partners in the process of progress.”

Author: Shelby Doyle is a biological engineering PhD candidate and is a fellow in the biological engineering communication lab.


Grad Life: Graduate Women Explore a Path to Professorship

“The Media Lab can feel unstructured and open-ended, proudly full of free spirits. The idea of running my own group and participating in the ultra-competitive academic market seems daunting when I struggle to define my own department. PoP reminds me that being ‘in between’ fields can be a strength.”

Author: Biance Datta SM ’16, MIT Media Lab PhD student



Grad Life: Why MIT is the Best Place to Build the Future of Healthcare

“MIT represents a ‘neutral ground’ of pure technical talent that hospitals want to tap into for innovation and research,” says Colucci. “In my research, I work directly with nephrologists at MGH and collect data on dialysis patients through a grant that is dedicated to fostering collaboration between MIT and MGH. At MIT, world-class physicians have become my friends.”

Author: Lina Colucci is a fifth-year PhD Candidate in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Program. 


Grad Life: From a Remote Village in India to MIT to Build a Sustainable Future for Planet Earth

Before coming to MIT, Shekhar Chandra helped draft an environmental plan that influenced India’s position in international climate negotiations.

” I witnessed firsthand the interplay between markets, experts, and politics—a key dynamic in policy studies. This was when I decided that I needed a policy and planning-centric interdisciplinary doctorate in environmental policy to expand my influence.”

Author: Shekhar Chandra is an environmental policy PhD candidate.


Grad life: Writing Was Never a Choice
Evan Higgins interned last summer at BioWare, the company that inspired him go back to school to study video game writing.

“The studio and project leads lavished time on my writings, inspecting them for tone, language, accuracy, and creativity. They also taught me that video game writing needs to be pithy, visual, and focused on putting the player in charge. But more than any of that, they often looked at my work as a larger piece of a whole, and, if there were any issues, they sent it back to me as many times as needed.”

Author: Evan Higgins is a comparative media studies graduate student. He works in HyperStudio, the digital humanities lab, where he researches the history of black physicians in America. 


Grad Life: Stories of Science and SuperAging

“This January, during the only IAP of my one-year science writing master’s program, I packed my bags and headed to Logan Airport, escaping the icy, wet New England winter for… the icy, wet Chicagoland winter. I was off to visit Northwestern University’s school of medicine to do unconventional research for an unconventional thesis. I was there to learn about the scientists in the neurology lab I was visiting as much as about the topic they were studying.”

Author: Bennett McIntosh is a science writing graduate student.


Grad Life: Birth of a Sloan Entrepreneur

“I am one of three co-founders of Before It’s too Late (BITL), an initiative striving to shift the climate change narrative by closing society’s empathetic distance from it. I am working with five other Sloan students, in addition to supporters and allies across the nation, to create a virtual reality experience that highlights climate change stories, solutions, and simulations, aspiring to generate a sense of urgency and accountability that can be galvanized into collective action.”

Author: Jennifer Ballen MBA ’17 is co-founder of Before It’s too Late and founder/contributing writer of a sustainable business blog.


Grad Life: MIT Is Less an Ivory Tower, More a Market Square

“As I prepared to start my PhD in biological engineering in fall 2014, I can recall two distinct feelings: thankfulness for the privilege and anxiety for the task at hand. I was so grateful for the chance to come to MIT, to train in the field of chemical biology, and join the ranks of scientists focused on cancer research. And, as that gratitude sunk in, the anxiety snuck in right on its heels.”

Author: Shelby Doyle is a biological engineering PhD candidate and is a fellow in the biological engineering communication lab.


Grad Life: How MIT’s Center for Civic Media Taught Me the Strength of Hope

“Whether it is climate change, environmental justice, or energy infrastructure, when problems seem overwhelming, the strength of hope becomes even more important. And that’s the key to the Center for Civic Media—the continued faith in our potential to make a difference.”

Author: Katie Arthur is a comparative media studies graduate student. 



Grad Life: Dreams of MIT—On Becoming a SciWriter

“MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Journalism, or SciWrite, is less about scientific journals than science journalism,” explains Bennett McIntosh “…the all-important, oft-neglected task of communicating the facts and stories of science to the general public.”

Author: Bennett McIntosh is a science writing graduate student.



Grad Life: Bringing the Lab to the Field

“GOV/LAB demonstrates that rigorous scientific research can be accomplished in the absence of white lab coats, beakers, and sterile environments,” explains Leah R. Rosenzweig. “My political science research with GOV/LAB, since its inception in 2013, has taken me to poor rural villages in Tanzania, urban slums in Kenya, and youth hangouts in Uganda.” Read more.

Author: Leah R. Rosenzweig is a political science PhD candidate. 


katiearthur_featuredMIT Helped Me Tackle My Technophobia—and Push Disciplinary Boundaries

Katie Arthur admits that starting at MIT was overwhelming for her. I was one of those people. Self-confessed technophobe and analog extraordinaire, MIT seemed worlds apart from my undergraduate study in an institution that was over 565 years old (and in a castle). I was used to first editions of Shakespeare, not first glimpses at Oculus.

Author: Katie Arthur is a comparative media studies graduate student. 


MIT_CrossThe Magnetism of a Campus in a Digital Era

Matthew Claudel’s thesis involves studying the MIT campus and pathways for collaboration. “There must be a certain magnetism that drew us to campus. It’s an air that we’ve been breathing from day one, co-respirating with some of the brightest minds of our generation and previous ones. We brush shoulders with our peers and mentors and heroes—that’s the magic of being here.” Read more.

Author: Matthew Claudel is an urban studies and planning graduate student. 



The Best $75 I’ve Ever Spent

Shelby Doyle almost didn’t apply to MIT because she thought it was a waste of money. “I thought to myself, ‘If I send this application in, I’d be like paying $75 for someone to print it out and throw it away. Now, I know I’m not the first MIT graduate student to experience some degree of self-doubt, but this early onset pessimism was a bit extreme. ‘” Read more.

Author: Shelby Doyle is a biological engineering PhD candidate and is a fellow in the biological engineering communication lab.



Unexplored Worlds—the History of Blacks in Medicine

“…a week into a semester of required classes…I found myself still waiting for an opportunity to engage with my beloved worlds. What’s more, I had recently found out that my lab work would likewise not focus on my research interests. I would instead be working on an archive known as Blacks in American Medicine.” Read more.

Author: Evan Higgins is a comparative media studies graduate student. He works in HyperStudio, the digital humanities lab, where he researches the history of black physicians in America. 


09-15-16_jenniferballen2_featuredimageMy First Year at Sloan Led Me Around The World

“It is rare that one has the same exact vacation schedule as hundreds of amazing, like-minded yet entirely different, people. This is the beauty of the full-time MBA program. After Panama, I traveled to Cape Cod, Istanbul, Cartagena, Breckenridge, Newport, Japan, and Israel…My deepest bonds at Sloan have been formed through traveling.” Read More.

Author: Jennifer Ballen MBA ’17 is founder/contributing writer of a sustainable business blog and recently interned at the National Hockey League, with the NHL Green Team.

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