MIT Admissions At MIT Admissions, we recruit and enroll a talented and diverse class of undergraduates who will learn to use science, technology, and other areas of scholarship to serve the nation and the world in the 21st century. Fri, 08 Sep 2023 19:26:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Strands Sun, 10 Sep 2023 04:00:52 +0000 a/n: this post is a little outdated – my hair is currently a faded blue.

I recently got my hair re-dyed. My mother usually insists that I get my haircut at an actual salon, since she thinks that if I bleach and dye my own hair I’ll ruin it (which, mind you, I have never done, despite having bleached it myself repeatedly!). I forgot to bring my book along with me to the drying apparatus, so while my hair was gently warmed, I inspected the snips of mint green hair that had settled on my black apron and ruminated. Hair salons in particular are very good for this type of calm consideration. They have a really lovely ambiance, with hairdressers happily babbling about mundane (but riveting) gossip and some 2000’s track playing quietly in the background, periodically interrupted by the dull roar of a hair dryer. 

I walked into the store with overgrown, faded, green hair that was in dire need of a trim. My stylist asked me how long I had been dying my hair, and I faltered for a moment, realizing that my knee-jerk answer – a couple of years – wasn’t true any more. She looked at me slightly expectantly, and I finally answered – “Six years… since I was a freshman in high school.” I’m a classic case of falling down the slippery slope. I started with dark brown highlights, and the next thing I knew, half of my shirts had blue stains on the collar. I’m actually a little reckless with my hair, all things considered. It’s been bleached three times, I let Athena hack off some curtain bangs during my freshman IAP, and I’m bad at remembering to condition it. After I left home I started letting it air dry (my mother was no longer around to nag me about catching a cold), and it’s usually in a state of disarray, since I often can’t be bothered to brush it. As I fingered the juncture between the cool metal and black leather of my salon chair, it occurred to me that my lack of care for my hair was pretty ironic, since my hair is incredibly precious to me. 

To be honest, my hair has always been a source of pride. Or at least, comfort. I would never have described myself as pretty in middle or high school, but my hair was always thick, pin-straight, and enviably shiny. It was one of the few ways in which I felt like I was able to fulfill the beauty standards of my Arkansan childhood. For the first 14 years of my life, I simply refused to ever wear it up, because I felt like putting it up got rid of the only thing that made me bearable to look at. That sounds a bit melodramatic, but it used to feel true. I actually still have a lot of trouble with this. Every few weeks, I force myself to put it in a ponytail. I’ll stare in the mirror for a moment, realize how dissatisfied I am with my appearance, let out a sigh of disgust, and pull the tie out of my hair. I’m sometimes a minute or two late to class because of these mini-crises. I’m not nearly as self conscious as I used to be – I actually consider myself reasonably conventionally attractive, now – but I just can’t seem to get over the thing with my hair. 

My nervous reflex involves running my hand through my hair, a-la a teenage fuck boy. I’ve repeatedly debated cutting all of my hair off, if only because I know I depend on it too much as an emotional crutch. Whenever I bring up the idea to friends there’s always the same sentiment – you have such nice hair, though, Shorna. It’s an incredibly sweet compliment, but I’m not sure I like needing my hair as much as I do, because I’m deeply aware of how much power my hair has over me.

When I was a junior in high school, I was a bit high strung. That’s… an understatement. I was always very close to crying (although I would’ve rather died than do it in front of someone else) and I had almost no emotional outlet for my ever-growing anxiety about college applications. I was terrified of squandering my potential, burning out too early, being unable to make good on all of the dreams I had chosen for myself. I was so incredibly stressed, all of the time. Halfway through the fall of my junior year, I was sitting at the dining table, reading Campbell’s Biology, when I mindlessly ran my hand through my hair and my fingers ran over a smooth circle of skin on the left side of my head. With a jolt, I realized a quarter-sized patch of hair on my head had just… disappeared.

I was overwhelmed by nausea and rising disbelief. I hadn’t recognized how much my hair mattered to me until it fell out. I felt so exposed, as if I had, in one fell swoop, been robbed of everything that made me effeminate and desirable. My hair was the only pretty thing about me – I couldn’t even depend on that.

It was an awful feeling, but I got over it. I recognized the fact that my hair falling out was my body aching for reprieve from the immense mental pressure I was placing on myself. I tried hard to calm down, if only because I really didn’t want more of it to fall out. It worked, at least a little bit. As my hair slowly grew back, I struggled to divorce my conception of my own beauty from my hair, while simultaneously trying to separate my academic success from my sense of self-worth. I was somewhat successful, but losing my hair was a huge sore spot for more than a year. When I went for my next biannual haircut, the stylist grasped the patch of shorter-than-normal hair and raised an eyebrow, smiling at me. “It fell out. Stress, I guess.” I grimaced, slightly sheepish. Her smile faltered a little. She let out an “ah” and shuffled it back into the rest of my hair. 

My hair has been red, pink, purple, blue, various shades of brown and blonde, and (most recently) green. I kept doing the things I had always done once it fully grew back, cutting and coloring with abandon. Despite the complicated nature of my relationship with it, my hair is important to me, so I think it ought to reflect who I am. It does feel right to look in the mirror to find my hair the color of paint fresh from the tube. I asked my stylist last Saturday to turn the ends a silvery-blue, but she cautioned me – “You have such nice hair, I don’t want to damage it. Let’s do something darker.” I smiled and accepted her proposal of a dark bluish-purple instead. As she wrapped up, running a dollop of gel through my bangs and unbuttoning the cape from my neck, I couldn’t help flushing giddily as her coworker let out an appreciative ‘ooh’ and told me I had ‘model hair’. She was probably exaggerating, but my hair is pretty, and very purple, and probably a lot more important to me than it should be. I don’t have a clean moral. It’s hard to care so much about something that feels both blatantly frivolous and deeply fundamental to your identity. My fingernails will be stained indigo for the next few weeks, so, after every shower, while I attempt to scrub them back to the correct color, I’ll try to remember that I can care about my hair without it affecting my self-worth. We’ll see how that goes.

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walking into the MEng Fri, 08 Sep 2023 19:31:03 +0000 This past Sunday, at 4 AM on the side of U.S. Highway 1 on Badger’s Island in Maine, along with Nathan S. ’25 and Jonathan H. ’25, I took my first steps on a 63-mile walk from Maine to Next House, an Odyssey which would take us 22.5 hours, crossing three states01 I mean, we were in Maine for about 20 minutes, but I still think it counts. and stopping at least five McDonald’s; a tragedy that would cost us 125,000 steps and probably gallons of water, during which we lost Jonathan at mile 32 to some hip flexor concerns02 o7. he's alright now, fortunately. as well as our collective sanity. We trekked down trails and up the sides of roads, through the heat of the mid-afternoon to the darkness of Highway 1 in the evening, until, finally, at 2:50 AM, we stumbled through the doors of Next House, limping, barely able to continue walking. It took me two or three days just to be able to walk normally again.

There are lots of things I could tell you about this walk. I could tell you that this walk reminded me of the power of perseverance; that, a lot of the times, when it plays out in real life, the story of the tortoise and the hare is more about the tortoise’s ability to keep going rather than the hare’s perceived laziness. I could tell you that getting through MIT is like that—the journey is long, and it’s not about going as fast as you can, but instead making it as far as you can. It’s about building up the stamina and mental capacity and just plodding your way down the side of the highway, one step after another.

I could also tell you that the walk taught me the importance of “knowing your limits” and “listening to your body”; that we should’ve quit at mile 54 when things started hurting and the project became much less interesting, that suffering just to say you’ve done something is almost never worth it. I could tell you that you need to engineer escape plans which you know you will take, because your decision-making skills are weakest exactly when you are tired and under stress, that is, when you need to make the decision to quit. I could also tell you that getting through MIT is like this—it’s very easy to see something interesting, decide to do it, and then refuse to quit even though it’s no longer fun and it’s hurting your ability to actually enjoy your college experience at all.

Those stories are important, but, in a sense, they’re both oversold—the truth, I think, is unsatisfying: the balance between perseverance and self-care is one that we need to find for ourselves, a kind of an Aristotelian mean which we are always seeking, a question to which there is no right answer except the one which allows you to achieve fulfillment.03 by this I mean that intangible thing we sometimes call "happiness"—not pleasure, but a complete kind of happiness that can weather difficult storms, what Aristotle causes "eudamonia." Sometimes, it is possible to just keep pushing through and have it turn out great; other times, you would’ve been much better off taking a break, or dropping a class, or quitting that activity you don’t put enough time into anyway. The answer, as it often is, is that two things can be true at once.

So, instead, let’s rewind a bit.

As you may know, I graduated from the Institute last spring, with an SB04 trivia: MIT only offers Bachelor of Science degrees, which means that all degrees are SBs. in Writing and Computer Science and Engineering. I’m back now, writing as I pursue a MEng in computer science,05 as you may have noticed from the blogger name. MEng, by the way, stands for Master of Engineering. which means I’m now a graduate student.06 *shudders*

And it’s different, and it’s the same. I’m living in a graduate dorm now, which is still a dorm, but I have my own bedroom for the first time in years.07 this was by choice, to be clear; there are lots of singles available at MIT, particularly for upperclassmen. during my junior and senior year of undergrad, I chose to live in a double, because I really liked having a person I couldn't avoid checking in with. I’m a graduate teaching assistant now, but many of my responsibilities are the same ones I did as an undergraduate lab assistant—staffing office hours, giving lab check-offs, etc.. I’m trying to navigate this weird, liminal space where I feel like I am neither a true graduate student nor a true undergraduate student—in other words, a moment of transition.

Where does this walk fit into all that?

In many ways, this walk felt like the last gasp of undergrad for me. So much of my undergraduate experience was defined by proving myself to nobody in particular—proving I could do anything and everything, doing dumb, insane things just for the hell of it. I need to finish these 63 miles because then I will be able to say that I am capable of doing it, just like I used to say I need to take all these classes because then I will have learned so much more about all the things I want to know about. This is not to say that I regret how I spent my undergrad, but rather that it is a modality of living which is slowly coming to an end, and this felt like one last manifestation of that spontaneous, do-it-all lifestyle.

But this was also the first time in years where I had the time and energy for a project like this, especially in the week between REX08 Residential EXploration, where first-year students get to explore all the dorms with a <em>lot</em> of fun events. REX is run entirely by student volunteers, from top to bottom, which for a long time included me, in various capacities. and the first day of classes. I’ve always been so busy, running from activity to activity, or, during the semester, living from problem set to problem set, that I never really got to slow down and focus on any one thing. In this sense, the walk felt like graduate school: narrowing my life down to specific, larger projects which have particular meaning—research, TAing, etc.—instead of doing six classes and a dozen activities. I wanted to go on a long walk, and so I dedicated a day to preparing for it, a day to doing it, and a day to recovering from it, and everything was good.

And, honestly, that narrowing is exciting to me. I am excited to see what is possible when I actually get to put more time into fewer baskets, what is possible when I get to take a little more time to recover from things and celebrate small victories, instead of moving on to the next battle. If the walk is anything to judge by, it’ll be fun, chaotic, intentional, maybe a little difficult and painful, but it just might be good yet. It will be finally choosing depth over breadth, as I prune the tree of possible paths towards some future, and, for the first time in my life, I feel ready to do that.

So, the walk was a great idea, or maybe the walk was a terrible idea, and maybe it was a good time, and maybe it was a bad time, but whatever it was, it felt like part of this turning point, from the past to the future, from undergrad to grad, from the widening to the narrowing, and that was good.

So, we’ll see. Maybe these thoughts are just a kind of start-of-term optimism, which is always abundant, or maybe this MEng will be a genuine turning point in my relationship with work, its depth and breadth, and what I want to do next. I’ve got a few semesters left to find out.

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welcoming our new bloggers! Thu, 07 Sep 2023 15:22:39 +0000 Summer has come and gone,09 in academic calendar only. it is definitely still meteorological summer. it was so warm last night and MIT is coming back to life. Students are back on campus, settling into their new dorm rooms for the year; classes are starting, with so many cool things to be learned; and as of today, the world has some new baby bloggers, all very excited to write for you!

After many hours of discussion and back-and-forth, we’ve selected seven new bloggers to share anything and everything about their MIT experience: what it’s like to take Thermo, or all the cool traditions in their dorm, or their favorite spots for lunch around campus, or their wild adventures Boston, or maybe even their journey of figuring out who they are :)

ali avatar
allison avatar
emiko avatar
gloria avatar
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kayode avatar
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Please give an extremely warm welcome to…

  • Ali C. ’26 of Arizona, who is walking to the end of the world (in Minecraft), has strong opinions about James Joyce, and thought about many things as she learned to swim in the ocean this summer
  • Allison E. ’27 of Hawaii, who once got 3,000 people to scream-sing happy birthday to a dog, lost (and found!) her phone after getting lost (intentionally) in Cambridge, and has many feelings about sending emails
  • Emiko P. ’25 of Missouri, who spent her summer building things that will go to the moon and looking for trash cans, formally elected mascot hype-woman, and varsity athlete to boot
  • Gloria Z. ’26 of California, who likes to devour niche fan wikis for video games she doesn’t play, turned a senior-year resolution into a love for the gym, and comic drawer extraordinaire
  • Jessica Z. ’27 of Pennsylvania, who keeps 1,206 (and counting!) memories in her Notes app, is interested in science communication so much that she was nerd-sniped by a WaPo article on fonts, and has a true connection to “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
  • Kayode D. ’27 of Kentucky, who makes board games for his friends’ birthdays, is possibly the biggest fan of Charlie Brown in the world, and will nerd out about Australian Survivor with you until the end of time
  • Uzay G. ’26 of France, who created a wiki filled with all of the things that he knows, found a deeper meaning in the need to commit when bouldering, and spent four days stuck in Toyko learning about Japan and himself

Keep an eye out for their first posts — coming soon to an admissions website near you!!

To everybody who applied to be a blogger: thank you. Writing about yourself is never easy, and we were honored that you chose to share your lives with us. This year, staff and senior bloggers read through sixty-seven applications, and there were so many talented writers we wish we could have taken. No matter what, we hope you keep writing, and hope to see you around (both on the Internet and on campus).

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Simmons Cat Mon, 04 Sep 2023 22:00:44 +0000 I love being back in Simmons after a long break. I get to hang out with friends in the 4AB lounge, eat dining hall food in Simdin, and rearrange the modular furniture like giant Lego blocks. Perfection itself as a dorm.

Well, maybe not quite perfection. After all, Simmons isn’t a cat dorm, so you wouldn’t find any furry friends (besides Kaito, the Heads of House’s dog) roaming the hallways. But we have plenty of cool stuff to make up for that loss! Like our famous ball pit and Gymmons, our–

Cat looking down from on top of a dresser


Wait a second.




Could it be? A living, breathing kitty cat in front of me? IN SIMMONS HALL?

A close-up shot of an orange cat


Omg, omg, yes, yes yes yesyesyes!!! My prayers have finally been answered – Simmons has a cat now! (And what a beautiful cat he is, might I add.)

Pspspspsps, come here, kitty!

Person petting the cat

What a soft boy

Oh my! He’s such a sweet little angel! And so friendly too! Could this day get any better?

Oh wait, silly me – I forgot to introduce myself! Hey there, little guy. I’m Andi. What’s your name?

Orange cat looking blankly ahead

No thoughts, head empty

Not one for words, huh? That’s okay. I think I saw a sign with your picture on the way in. Let’s see…

Door sign with cat

Wow, he’s a peer mentor too? He’s certainly making me feel at home in Simmons :D

Well, that’s certainly a unique name, but I like it! Great to meet you, Skateboard!

Sweet orange cat

Welcome to Simmons Hall, Skateboard, and I hope you have a great fall semester! Mine is already off to a great start :D

Me petting the cat

(Shoutout to Temkin ‘26 for letting me meet, photograph, and post about Skateboard! Without him, this post would not be possible.)

(Also, did you know Simmons will have not just one but six cats10 Actually there are probably more, but I only know of these ones for now this semester? It truly is the best place to live on campus.)

Edit: My inbox is blowing up right now with angry messages demanding that I also introduce some other Simmons cats. Without further ado, meet:

Yuri the cat

Yuri! (Apparently, he only understands Spanish)

Dumpling the cat

Dumpling! (The “void bringer”)

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Food for Thought [guest post] Mon, 04 Sep 2023 15:13:55 +0000 by Tananya Prankprakma and Sophia Wang


This post is a love letter to food written jointly by me (Sophia) and Tananya. 


I’m Sophia, the past head and creator of the Massachusetts Institute of Culinary Experiences (MINCE),11 Check out and @mitmince on Instagram to learn more about our events, recipes, team, and general thoughts on food. (PS: Even we’re a little confused about the stylization of our club name. But we love the feel of 'mince.' It’s an action that often marks the start of a recipe, and by that understanding, 'mince' is an act of creation.) a culinary group on campus. Tananya is the current head of MINCE. I started this organization to create affordable dining experiences run by students, for students. Hosted at unique locations within MIT and beyond, these culinary pop ups are meant to serve both as a creative outlet for students interested in the culinary arts as well as an intimate space for students to form meaningful connections around the dinner table.

logo of a cat with a fork

Our hungry, ever discerning MINCE cat

 The original intention of this blog was to expose more people to our organization by presenting the goal of MINCE and (attempting to) explain why we care about it. This itself was like finding yourself at a meadow, and having to explain why you enjoy it. Certainly, we still hope to achieve this message during the blog, but its driving pulse has since shifted to understanding why we ourselves are drawn to food, and through which mediums we’ve chosen to pursue that awe. Some of these include MINCE, others do not.


Saying I grew up on food is no less obvious than saying I grew up on air. I needed it, both literally as sustenance and fundamentally as a gravity, a first principle to found my life upon. I’m not sure when it started and meditating on how and why would be unproductive. The truth is likely as simple as noodles slathered in chili flakes and green onions, a ladle of hot oil tumbling down, aromatics alive and well. Revolutionary. My love for food, this desire to cook — I found myself in the middle of it and holding a bowl of yogurt, drizzled with honey, a stray handful of raspberries. I haven’t yet found a way out.

Like most members of MINCE, my love for food feels more like an instinct, a second first nature, than any cause-and-effect relationship or line of logic. Among the few belongings I hauled to campus my first year of college was a cleaver carefully wrapped in a microfiber cloth. Most of the media I consume explores food in one form or another, whether that’s documentaries on world class chefs like Vladimir Mukhin and Nancy Silverton, or a short form Instagram series on compound butters. The one notebook I’ve kept consistently is a recipe ideation book.

journal page

A recent page

I knew, certainly, that there was a reason I was drawn to food, but the thrumming instinct to be involved with food occluded any desire to spell those reasons out, taking with it any clarity in the process of untangling. More than that, the expression of something so important was difficult — something simultaneously obvious and impossible to put a finger on.

I first hit something during the fall of my junior year with my friend Kenny, a recently graduated ’23. He is a brilliant biologist, statistician, musician, the list continues. He is intentional, kind, intelligent, and raucously funny. Though Kenny does not pursue accolades, he has an impressive body of research and awards. He could easily (and humbly) find himself at any institution post-graduation. Instead, he will be moving to Kansas City one week after graduation with a two-year contract with Teach for America, teaching biology to high school students. After those two years, if he enjoys the work and the district, he will consider staying.12 I don’t include the previous details to perpetuate a ridiculous conclusion that because someone is well-educated at an institution like MIT, their goal must be to climb the ranks at even more elite institutions. I include it to illustrate a freedom of choice and diversity of opportunity that few people have access to, making his decision all the more thoughtful.

I asked why he chose teaching among his competing interests of research and academia. He explained with an integral.

2 graphs of impact vs time: the first shows constant impact over time, the second shows greater impact over a shorter span of time

 Teaching has an undeniable impact. It was the surest way, with his skillset, to make an impact every day on the twenty or so students that sat in his classroom. Doing that every day for years, he reasoned, was like integrating across a flat line (for the more scrutinizing eye, a unit step function). His career would have a reliable impact.

Whereas working on, for example, a research project is analogous to integrating a pulse function, or a right/time-shifted step function. Projects like these have high yield at success, but there is no guaranteed success.

There is clearly no best approach. Both must exist for a functioning and progressing society. However, his explanation acknowledged the fundamental importance of daily impact, something rarely accredited at MIT. MIT is an ecosystem of buzzwords. “Finding the next…”, “Breakthrough in…”, MIT is discovery, invention, and innovation. We are lucky to be in a place that enables us to pioneer the next novelty, but amidst this culture, you can easily lose your grounding.

In short, how we treat one another each afternoon, our daily services to our community, accumulates to reliably enormous significance.

Admittedly, rolling out tortellini on a Sunday morning for a friend, obsessing over the perfect acidity for a salad dressing, losing my mind over the set of a panna cotta, and claiming this was all important sometimes feels silly. However, I could not shake that feeling and at last he had given me the words.

More than an art, cooking is a service. Go one level further— what we cook is sustenance. There are few activities which are repeated so frequently and with such casual import. We have two to three meals daily, and we should get to enjoy those meals. Small changes to our attitude towards and preparation of food add up tremendously.

I feel privileged to cook for myself and especially for others. Participating in someone else’s ritual and on occasion elevating that ritual feels analogous to being let into someone’s most sacred habitual life, a fly on the (kitchen) wall. A meal is ordinary in the sense that it is common. A meal is also beautiful because it is so common. There is such latitude to experience food – all the flavors and textures, the sights and smells – because we eat often and with necessity.

I want to inspire joy through food, whether that’s a 15-minute ramen bowl or a meticulously orchestrated two-hour course. A meal may be ephemeral, but add it up — three times a day, 365 days a year, how many years in a lifetime? — and you’re left with something permanent, a lasting effect of care and love (because what is love if not the most consistent form of care?).

When food is posited only as the snack you eat in lecture, a trip to the dining hall before rehearsal — something fit in between the ‘actual’ events of our life — we forget the miraculous, life-giving fuel a meal is, and the nourishment food is capable of imparting. If anything is deserving of ceremony, food is surely a worthy candidate.

Well, what does this all look like in practice? MINCE is among my favorite examples. We are a 20-person team of students. Three times a semester, we host pop ups where we serve ~35 students, chosen by lottery, a 4-course menu priced at $17. Each menu is centered around a theme. I’ll expand briefly on two past events.

Night at the Art Gallery

Our goal with Night at the Art Gallery was to highlight the culinary arts by drawing parallels to well-known paintings and movements like the Renaissance period, Impressionism, and Neoplasticism. We wanted to transport our guests and challenge ourselves with modern gastronomy.

weird balloon-esque artsy poster

Our Night at the Art Gallery Menu 

Our menu was:

(starter) “Birth of Venus” Botticelli’s scallop nigiri

(main) “Compositions” Mondrian’s duck breast three ways

(dessert) “Water lilies” Monet’s white chocolate matcha genoise

(drink) “Starry Night” van Gogh’s 4D butterfly pea drink

Our dessert team spent eight hours the Tuesday and Wednesday before our event working on tempering a white chocolate flower for each cake. They even made a computer-aided-design (CAD) model of the flower and CNC machined a custom mold at a maker space on campus. Our main was an aged, sous vide duck atop a honey glazed milk bread sandwich with a duck-fat potato puree. To complement the duck, we experimented with countless set gels, eventually settling on an orange-safflower jelly and scallion, chicken broth aspic.

But food is only one part of any meal. The company and the environment make up the rest.

Our lottery intentionally limits parties of guests to 2. We encourage students to come willing and excited to form new connections around the dining room table. Our reservation form from this event asked participants, “what would you study if you could major in anything?”

A few of their answers:

coffee brewing

electronic textile handicrafts


furniture making


chipotle menu design


We then formed tables with the responses, hoping to ignite chemistry and intimacy.

Our design team made over 50 balloon-animal dogs by hand, a reference to Jeff Koons’ famous stainless-steel sculptures. One per guest was placed at the center of each table. A bamboo reed was stuck between the arms of each iridescent dog to diffuse lavender, the fourth dimension of our drink course. The table runners were brown sheets of paper carefully striped with intersecting lines of color, mimicking the precise geometric forms and primary colors of the de Stijl art movement we would reference in our main. Look carefully at our menu, and you’ll find that the background is a CAD rendered model of a man with an apple obstructing his face, a reference to The Son of Man by René Magritte. Angela, our head of decor, even sculpted 3 clay pieces for the event–apples, progressively melting–which we positioned on stands throughout the room. The venue was a lecture room in the architecture department, but that night, our guests dined in an art gallery long closed. Mesmerizing and whimsical. Sacred in its secrecy.  A tiny world created for the evening.

Romance through Film

Romance through Film was a Valentine’s Day event we hosted through collaboration with MIT Datamatch, a dating algorithm popular on campus. The event emphasized one of MINCE’s major goals: creating meaningful connections with food as the centerpiece. I asked myself before starting MINCE, “in the torrential firehose of life on campus, when do people have the chance to sit together unoccupied?” The answer was over a meal.

menu printed on film esque paper

Our Romance through Film Menu

Our menu was:

(starter) Charcuterie cheese board

(main) Lamb ratatouille

(dessert, pt. 1) Apple rose tarts

(dessert, pt. 2) ‘Life is like a box of chocolates’

(drink) Love potion

Each was a nostalgic reference to the food from childhood films our team largely grew up on, from Shrek’s ‘Happily Ever After’ potion (our take is a raspberry syrup, strawberry jam, and pomegranate concoction finished with dry ice) to a humble vegetable stew that transported the vulturous Anton Ego. In an extravagant touch that very much embodies the attitude of MINCE, the cook team laser-cut and assembled custom wooden boxes for our guests. Inside, we placed a Bordeaux chocolate and a white chocolate and raspberry truffle. Engraved on the box was the message, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. Love, MINCE.” The head chef of this event, Michael, wanted to use the romance of memory to comfort and delight our guests.

After service, we shared with him that as much of a pleasure the meal was for our guests, creating those courses had given our team a childlike joy we’d all missed dearly.

 The decor for this event was simple and elegant. We booked a penthouse overlooking the Charles at sunset. Two talented friends of MINCE, a violinist/pianist and a guitarist, generously played our event. Our team focused on how to spark conversation between our pairs of strangers. We opted to create a deck of question cards, some taken from the New York Times’ 36 Questions That Lead to Love, others suggested by MINCE members. 

A few of the cards are shared below:

Admit something.

What’s something you wish you could do for the first time again?

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

What do you wish you could spend more time doing?

I am constantly surprised by the vulnerability strangers can achieve. Events like this have emphasized to me that when we create a place where vulnerability is both encouraged and importantly, casual, people will seek that space out with eagerness and intentionality.

This summer, I worked part time at a cozy ramen shop in Porter Square, Yume Wo Katare. Yume Wo Katare translates roughly to an invitation: talk about your dreams.

The shop is no bigger than two dorm doubles (maybe a generous triple) and is arranged in three neat rows of six. At any time, there are no more than 21 people in the restaurant, including staff. The walls are covered in cartoons. Each depicts one stage of the chef’s journey to opening this fan-favorite spot, from the years he spent in Japan to his arrival in Boston. There is a sign, much like one you might find on the road, NO PHONE ZONE, then in smaller lettering, stay present. Look up and you’ll find a painted sky, baby blue. Clouds, fat and imprecise, dot the ceiling. Each is a dream.

     Invent a patented design.

     Travel the world by van.

     Quit my job.

Even the chairs blend into this world of whimsy. The wooden backs of two chairs in the middle row read, THIS IS NOT JUST RAMEN. The second, THIS IS YOUR DREAM. There is only one item on the menu: pork tonkatsu. A broth so rich it looks almost murky, creamy from fat, some rendered, others still white, floating like icebergs in your bowl. Handcut noodles, chewy and jagged. Soft garlic, minced and preserved overnight, disappearing on your tongue just as it enters. The pork is salty and pink and has been braised for hours. Its fibers give way to the slightest parting of a chopstick. Delicious. When a customer finishes their bowl, a member of the Yume team will ask whether they have a dream to share. The customer nods and sets down their pair of chopsticks. The chef calls the attention of everyone in the restaurant. Even the noodles stop swimming.

He wants to build a log cabin in the woods and raise a family there. Stacked logs of cypress and moss, crisscrossing. Crickets chirping through the night (you hear them even with all the windows closed).

She is an amateur birdwatcher. Her dream is to spot a black-throated gray warbler, a rare bird found in the Midwest. She’s captivated.

“I want to grow old with my girlfriend.” She is sitting next to him.

“My dream is to publish a novel.” I know she will. The newest Brandon Sanderson sits on the table. I watched her thumb through it in line.

wall reading 'dreams'

Inside the ramen dream workshop

 When I was first hired, I exhausted Jake, the owner and head chef, with questions about his bowl. What determined the plating order of all the ramen components? What was the flour mix and ratio he used? How did he come to the perfect minced consistency for the garlic? I tried and tried to drill to the root of the dish he had mastered from his Sensei. He answered, but I could tell he wasn’t interested. “You have to understand,” he said. “I’m not interested in food. This isn’t a restaurant; this is a dream workshop.” I was stunned. “I create a good bowl of noodles, so people respect the dream workshop.”

I am obsessed with food. I want to understand the mechanics of food, its science and interactions, in a pursuit of knowledge that feels more instinctual than necessarily deliberate. In this way, our attitudes are markedly different. But his words ring true to me. They remind me of the service and the space food occupies in the people it has and will touch.

 Among the people that food impacts, I want to emphasize that the service of cooking runs in both directions. In MINCE, as much as we focus on our guests, there is a special camaraderie built through battling with the kitchen. Most Friday nights before events, you will find the New House dorm kitchen and the adjacent conference room packed with members preparing pesto sauces, assembling banana leaf platters, julienning pickled radishes until well into the early morning. We’re fueled by our in-house barista, Haris, who at 11pm makes delicious instant coffee with hand-whipped cream. Michael once flew in a Thanksgiving pecan pie and roasted duck as a treat during one of our fall recipe and development (R&D) sessions. We listen to Tananya’s indie mixes. We go on roadtrips to New Hampshire’s White Mountains and Maine’s coastal cities for inspiration and retreat.

Without going out of our way to, MINCE has become a community of people who are as many parts passionate as they are kind and caring. A friend put it to me, “MINCE self-selects for people who would spend their weekends cooking for others.” I am proud of our members and lucky to call them my friends. As much as we create for our guests, who make all these events possible, we create for ourselves. The environment of innovation and friendship makes the delirious early morning hours, the frustrations over grainy caramel and burnt kulfis, part of an eager process for all of us.


At the first restaurant I worked at, a modern Southeast Asian restaurant named Bone Kettle in Pasadena, California, days off were rare but anticipated. Each time, we would drive to Las Vegas to stuff ourselves at luxury casino buffets, stop at Cane’s for Texas toast off the highway, rip through bags of pork cracklings, and enjoy each other’s company in the brief refuge from long days. I consider the team at Bone Kettle to be an extension of family, and the two constants through our relationship were good food and good people. Working there in California was the last word of encouragement I sought out to start MINCE with my closest friends, because, in truth, all I’ve wanted was good food and good people.

serving a lot of food

Camaraderie on the line at Bone Kettle

As for MINCE’s future, I am excited to see Tananya’s vision come to life. Meeting her, getting to know her, is like taking your favorite walk at sunset by the river. Like putting on headphones and that first flood of music which crosses into audible sound, the swelling of something warm. More than anything, Tananya is open to the world, its ordinary and extraordinary offerings, in a way I find both incredibly rare and fundamentally accessible. I have met few people with such earnesty and affect. We share similar and different beliefs towards MINCE, which you’ll read about shortly. She has the patience and nurturing eye to both recognize and coax out the beauty in her environment. Further, she is able to translate that into something special, imparting onto others that sense of awe which comes so naturally to her, others might call magic.

sophia and tananya in the back of a car

Tananya and I

 I’m sure my understanding of food and my role in this vast ecosystem will change over time. This is my most complete, written understanding to date. When writing this blog, Tananya and I met many times to discuss. We were both struggling to commit pen to paper. She said, “how am I supposed to make every connection, when the words go in a line?” That’s exactly it. Like crumbs of bread scattered in my lap, the juice of a peach running down an arm…if I could explain the feeling with feeling.


Hello! I’m Tananya, and I have just a few words I’d like to say. In my first draft, I actually had almost 2000 words to say, but after sitting on it for a month this is all I have left. Sophia has said most of what you need to know, so here is the rest. 

I’m writing this little piece because this summer, the responsibility of making decisions that guide Mince has been given from Sophia to myself. There’s been a lot to think about. I actually don’t have much experience dining in cool and innovative restaurants, and growing up I never ate out much. I probably don’t cook any more than the average person that just wants to save money, though I do want to work on that this coming year. Also like many other people, I see food as a meaningful expression of love and care, largely because of how I was raised–with good food shared with good people. Love, regularly scheduled, dinner every day. I believe that food is beautiful, because if you’re lucky, you have no choice but to eat, over and over and over again. If you’re lucky, eating is something memorable, and food becomes another way to find joy in daily life

In terms of joy, the other things I care about are pretty typical. I think the ways in which time is best spent boils down to only a few things. Being with the people I love, being with myself. Being with the outside world, seeking fresh air when possible. Reading good books, listening to good music, doing what makes me happy, whatever that entails. 

I also tend to believe that the things I pay attention to, and the fact that I pay attention to them, has meaning. Light and shadows, the feeling of wading in cold water. Kids running around places where they shouldn’t, the greenness of summer in my hometown. As I learn more and more about what it means to be alive, I find myself wanting to capture and express something about my experience, even though I haven’t quite put my finger on it. In short, I would like to be a storyteller. 

I decided not to post 2000 words because explaining why I care about the things I do, to borrow Sophia’s metaphor, was like I came to the edge of a meadow and had to explain why it was nice. I want to try to tell my story in other ways, and see what comes through. 

I’m very happy to be able to call the people I’ve met in Mince my friends, and so grateful that Sophia started such a wonderful community. It’s a space where people can come together and share with each other, beyond food, what we love. Should you share a meal with us, we hope that you can feel that love as well. 

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four ways to unstrip a screw Sun, 03 Sep 2023 21:41:09 +0000 It’s work week at tΞp!13 pronounced 'Xi' like the Greek letter, tΞp is the co-ed fraternity formerly known as tEp.

While work week in Greek life systems outside the MIT bubble might refer to something else,14 what sounds like an incredibly draining week of 'working' on a manicured persona (i.e. learn sorority chants/dances, gossip and slander your peers) in hopes of securing a bid (an invitation to join a sorority/fraternity) work week at tΞp is what it sounds like: a week dedicated to working on the house.  tΞp resides in a beautiful hundred year old brownstone that overlooks the Charles River on the north and the glittery high rises of Back Bay Boston on the south. We have an industrial kitchen with the most powerful burners I’ve used in my life (finally something hot enough for proper wok cooking), five flights of spiraling staircases adorned with intricately carved wooden railings, eclectic murals and sculptures in every nook and cranny, and of course, friendship and love and community.


The beautiful hundred year old brownstone needs to be maintained! The industrial burners need to be degunked! Nooks and crannies accumulate dust and dead bugs and who knows what brown mystery substances! Friendship and love and community thrive more in spaces that aren’t active heath hazards!15 as a former resident of Tetazoo, where dirt and grime were constant companions, I would like to propose a distinction between wholesome grungy communal living and active health hazards On-campus dorms may have facilities workers to tidy up after filthy undergrads, but at FSILGs16 fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups , that job falls solely on residents. While there is great value in giving twenty-something-year-olds the right to self governance and full ownership over their living space, it’s no surprise that frats have a bad rep for being gross.

That’s where tΞp work week (and also weekly house chores throughout the school year) comes in! Each resident takes on various housekeeping tasks that range from deep cleaning communal spaces to home repairs to purging ancient but useless relics lying around the house. Anything to keep the beautiful hundred year old brownstone beautiful for another century! Or at least for the next year.

I think a mouse died in my walls the other week. Another resident spotted a mouse scurrying across the kitchen. Our hole-y basement is probably the reason why tΞp has been looking real nice for mice lately, so one of my work week tasks has been to patch up holes in the basement. Armed with DIY youtube, spackling, mesh, and three different kinds of caulk, I fill in a couple of suspiciously mouse sized holes with the same finesse as Tiktok landlords.

“Looking for holes has made me notice, well, that it’s kind of a wonder that this house is still upright.”

“That’s what happens when you get crusty engineering students MacGyvering home repairs for over fifty years!”

“I guess if it works, it works. Though they probably said ‘if it works, it works’ every year for the past fifty years and that’s why we’re stuck with the house in this state.”

One prominent hole that can’t be covered with a pile of spackling is the hole between the bottom of the basement door and the ground. There used to be an intact door sweep covering that hole, but the door sweep rubber has since degraded and the not-so-intact sweep needs to be replaced. This is done by taking out the screws holding the sweep to the door:

door with a broken door sweep. the four vixible screws holding the door sweep panel are circled in red

screws circled in red

This could’ve been a quick fix especially with one of tΞp’s power drills, but alas! Screws sometimes do an annoying thing called stripping, which is when the screw head gets so worn down that you can’t remove it using a screwdriver anymore. This occurs when the tip of a screwdriver slips on the screw head instead of actually rotating the screw. Sometimes you’re not using the right kind of screwdriver. I think in my case, the screws are so rusted into the door that the force it takes to break the rust binding exceeds the force a screwdriver bit can apply to the screwdriver head before slipping.

You can see below that if you strip a Phillips head screw (the ones with cross shaped slots) enough, the cross shaped slot becomes a circle. Phillips heads screws are especially notorious for stripping because the cross shape creates multiple separate points of contact, all of which must be interfaced upon snugly to prevent stripping. It’s also much easier to strip a screw with a power drill than a manual screwdriver, since power drills rotate quickly and strip the screw before you notice that happening.

a picture comparing a normal phillips screw with a stripped screw (the screw slot has been worn down, making it difficult to remove)left: lightly stripped screw. right: badly stripped screw. photo courtesy of Toolever

Of course the five screws on the sweep have to be old rusty Phillips head screws. Two hours later, I end up using four different methods and all sorts of tools to extract the five screws.

a photo of screw extracter bits, safety glasses, dremel, drill, flathead bit, phillips head bit, hammer, screwdrivers, pliers

mildly aesthetic spread on the tΞp work bench

Method 1: Be lucky

Time taken: 10 seconds

Power drills usually have multiple speed/torque settings, where speed and torque are inversely proportional to each other because that’s how motors work! I fiddle around with the settings until I find one that successfully extracts screw #1.

Method 2: Dremel a flathead slot

Time taken: 40 minutes with a phone break

me wearing safety glasses and ear plugs and dremeling into the screw. orange sparks are flying out.

can’t forget the PPE (personal protective equipment)!!

Unfortunately screw #2 (and all the ones that come after it) is a lot more rusted than screw #1. I badly strip screw #2 as I try to extract it with the power drill. Apparently one way to get out a stripped screw is to dremel a deeper slot (essentially a flathead slot) across the screwhead, and then use a flathead screwdriver to get the screw out. The rationale is that flathead screws strip less easily than Phillips head screws.

different kinds of screwheads: flat, square, phillips, security, torx

My DIY flathead screw gives just enough leverage to dislodge it from the door. This method isn’t foolproof though. The dremel blade cuts a V-shaped slot into the screw head, which doesn’t interface with a flathead screwdriver as nicely as a U-shaped slot would, which makes the DIY flathead screw prone to stripping.

diagram showing that dremels make v shaped cuts which still strips the screw, compared to a u shape that a flathead normally has

So I just dremel an even deeper slot, unscrew the screw a bit more until it strips, and repeat. Once I can’t get the slot any deeper, I dremel a flathead slot in along the other axis of the  cross created by the Phillips head. And once I’ve worn down the second slot as well, the screw has been extracted enough such that I can use a pair of pliers to get it out all the way.

chewed up screw

the aftermath. nail polish is illusionist from mooncat

Method 3: Hammer a flathead slot

Time taken: 15 minutes

The dremel is quite loud (hence the ear protection), prompting a fellow tΞp to lean out of the second story window to see what’s going on. Apparently she was tasked with replacing the weatherstripping on the sides of the same door during last year’s work week, which also involved extracting a ton of rusted Phillip head screws. She recommends hammering a manual flathead screwdriver into the screw to increase contact between the screwdriver and screw. Then use the power of your bulging arm muscles to unscrew the screw.

hammering a screwdriver into a screw

It actually works!

Method 4: Use a screw extractor bit

Time taken (excluding trying methods 3 and 2 beforehand): 5 minutes

Time taken including: 1 hour

Screw #4 is a real doozy. It’s as if the rust gods blessed screw #4 with ALL THE RUST. My bulging arm muscles are too tired and not bulging enough for method 3 to work, and method 2 is a flop as well. I’m back at the tΞp work bench looking for a bigger flathead screwdriver when I notice a rather inconspicuous black plastic container in a corner.

Apparently we’ve had screw extractor bits specifically for extracting stripped screws this WHOLE TIME?!

They’re quite easy to use: You first insert the screw extractor bit into a power drill with the pointy end sticking out to gouge a large hole into the screw head. Then flip the screw extractor bit to use the ridged cone shaped end (pictured below) to “catch” onto the screw head.

screw extractor bit dug into a stripped screw

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I also remove screw #5 using this handy dandy bit that I wish I knew existed two hours ago.

Here ya go! Four different ways to remove a stripped screw.

And here’s to a year of living in a beautiful hundred year old brownstone house that also happens to be functional and clean!


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so you’re starting your first year? Sun, 03 Sep 2023 03:38:01 +0000 This week, I worked as an Orientation Leader (OL) to help first year students acclimate to MIT. It was a fun, high-energy job. Every OL was assigned around 13 students, and I quite liked my crew. Throughout the week, I saw people open up more to each other and really talk. Like petals of a flower, the people of my orientation group seemed to blossom. 

As I spent much of my time around first years, I found myself giving copious amounts of unsolicited advice. Even if they didn’t ask for help nor prompt the discussion at all,17 😅 ahahaha sorry not sorry I had many tips to share, so I thought to pass them along to the blogs, too. I guess other class years could also benefit from this tip list, but it’s largely written with first years in mind. This is in no way a comprehensive list, but there should be at least one useful tip. Think of this less as a “how to do MIT” and more like a “here is a hodgepodge of advice that will hopefully maybe possibly make your MIT life better.”


  1. Hold onto your 101 Things To Do Before You Graduate List, in case you find yourself on one evening trying to think of something fun to do. I know people who’ve regretted losing theirs. The list has some really wonderful local, well-thought-out activities. Consider highlighting ones that you accomplish as you go through these four years.
  2. Make time to wander around. MIT has a lot of funny corners, and maybe you’ll stumble upon your new favorite spot. 
  3. Complete MakerLodge. This is the Project Manus maker training program, made specifically for first year students. By completing it, you get a free Arduino, toolbox filled with tools, MakerLodge T-shirt, and MakerBucks ($50 stipend for maker supplies). This program is not available after your first year,18 </span><span style="font-weight: 400">To clarify, upperclassmen can still do the exact same activities included in the program, but they just wouldn’t receive the free stuff. so get it in sometime this year. FYI: It takes a few weeks for us to publish our maker calendar (last year, there were 50 mentors, which is a lot to coordinate). Also, because I’m a Project Manus Mentor, you may even see me at an orientation or training! If you mention you’ve read this blog, I’ll show you some of my favorite secret art around the maker space. :)
  4. Download Splitwise and Venmo, because you will be sharing costs with people at some point. I swear by Splitwise for group transactions. I use Venmo to actually process payments and Splitwise to calculate cumulative group payments.
  5. Skim through the full course catalog. No, this doesn’t mean you have to read every single page, instead get a sense of what classes are offered in each major. What sounds cool to you? What major do you tend towards? Any HASS (humanities, arts, and social sciences) classes stick out? I think casting your net wide and observing what you find yourself interested in is a good way to really figure out what you want to do. Your interests may (and probably will) evolve with time, but, regardless, this is a good tool to employ.
  6. Get a Harvard library card,19 scroll to the bottom of the <a href="*hmlmtp*_ga*MTkwMTQzNTY2LjE2OTM3MTE0MzY.*_ga_3CXC97RWEK*MTY5MzcxMTQzNS4xLjEuMTY5MzcxMTQ2Mi4zMy4wLjA.#access-cards" target="_blank" rel="noopener">site.</a> we‘re classified under “Ivy Plus and BorrowDirect”  because it’s a means to a good escape out of the MIT bubble for studying. It’s a bit of a process, but a short one. I had to apply online, book an appointment, go in-person to get my identity verified and photo taken, and ta-da: out popped a Harvard ID! It’s also just cool to have some custom memorabilia from that other school in Cambridge.
  7. Try every dining hall, so that you can gauge which ones you like most and get a spacial sense of most dorms. 
  8. Make a list of all clubs that you have any ounce of interest in. Join their mailing list. Drop by one of their meetings. What do you have to lose? See if it fits your vibe. I think casting your net wide during freshman year is helpful in feeling self-assured with deciding your commitments. Also, this is the time to explore, so do make use of it. Of course, exploring is a large part of life as a whole, but freshman year is especially fruitful for it.
  9. Get your physical MIT ID. You can get them at any kiosk. I don’t understand why the institute didn’t print them by default this year (it’s been printed every year I’ve been here so far). Your phone may be glitchy or out of battery, so mobile ID would be bust. Maybe you want to tap onto the bus or subway with a CharlieCard, which is built into the handheld ID. Some businesses may only apply a student discount if they see the physical card. It’s also nice to have as a knick knack. Plenty of reasons to get one.
  10. Think of one thing you can look forward to every morning. It can literally be anything. A cup of tea? A good stretch? Opening up the windows? On tougher days, it’s nice to have at least one thing to help get you out of bed.
  11. Check out the gym. All students get a complimentary full gym membership (whereas it’s ~$100/month normally), so one shouldn’t take it for granted. I know I’ve felt the difference when having to pay for the gym out-of-pocket while interning abroad this past summer. You can try out swimming on the weekends with friends, walking with an incline on the treadmill, or whatever else feels good to you. If working out is a bit intimidating, the Engineer Your Health Plus Program may be a good place to start. And, maybe the gym just isn’t for you, which is chill, but at least see what’s available to you.
  12. Set aside a weekly time to do your chores. Sometimes, time can slip by and the lingering laundry pile can grow into a monstrous one. That can be avoided. 
  13. Don’t be afraid to say no to a party. Parties will always happen. But, tonight will only happen once. Your time is precious, and if you don’t feel like going, that’s totally fine and perfectly normal. Some nights are for sipping some tea, lighting a candle, and binging your favorite show, at least I know some of mine are. 
  14. Reach out if you need help. This one sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised. In the past, I know I have certainly done a lot of mental gymnastics to get out of asking anyone for help. Here are some examples of thoughts I’ve had: If I ask for help, that’ll show that I’m weak. I won’t do it. If I ask for help, it shows I’m not doing enough. I’ll just work harder. If I ask for help, I’ll just be an annoying bother to whoever I ask. I’ll just keep it to myself. If I ask for help, it shows I’m not cut out to be at MIT. I have to prove that I can do it myself. In retrospect, the logic is kinda funny because asking for help actually does the opposite of what these thoughts claim: asking for help is an act of strength in taking care of yourself, a means of working smarter instead of harder, and a display of being a resourceful MIT student. The resources MIT offers didn’t just come out of thin air; they’re there for a reason. You can start with asking anyone: a friend, blogger (we really do respond to our blog emails 👉🏼👈🏼), associate advisor, TA (teaching assistant), GRA (graduate resident advisor), advisor, professor, S^3 (student support services), SMHCS (student mental health and counseling services), among many other options. Please. I’m begging you. Ask. For. Help. You’ll need it. We all do. 

I hope you found some nuggets of wisdom in there. As you’ve probably already heard a bazillion times before, welcome to MIT. We’re so lucky to have you.


P.S. if other upperclassmen have unsolicited (well, I guess now solicited) tips to share, please drop some in the comments below!

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making meaning Wed, 30 Aug 2023 19:44:33 +0000

UFBoot does not converge, continue at least 100 more iterations

My job on IQ-TREE has been running for more than an hour.

For my UROP, I’m exploring the role of a bacterial communication system called quorum sensing (QS) in marine microbes, where bacteria produce molecules and behave according to the concentration of those molecules. Right now, I’m trying to build a phylogenetic tree that helps me analyze how similar the protein sequences of certain enzymes that produce QS molecules are.

I text my supervisor.

me: i’ve been running it for A While now and it’s on iteration 700 and every 100 iterations it does that which is very ??? i think i might try to submit it again, but maybe i put it in wrong at the fasta level, not sure tho :(

It’s not an issue with the size of my tree — I’ve only put in about 100 entries, and there are people out there analyzing trees with thousands of sequences.

Turns out it’s because some of the sequences I’ve put in are way too similar, and essentially, the tree search is stuck in a loop, constantly going back and trying to find a better alignment, over and over again.



“I’m so obsessed and fixated on the past,” I tell my therapist today. “I keep trying to process it, but I just keep thinking about it over and over again and it feels so hopeless. I don’t know how to process it any more than I already have.”

“It sounds a bit like you’re just reliving the past, instead of actually processing it.”



I leave the session with the realization that “processing” doesn’t necessarily mean poring over all the details of a past situation and recalling how I felt about it.

Instead, it’s more about making meaning out of things that happen — and that’s the only way to move forward, the only way you break out of the loop.



This summer, I stayed in Cambridge to work on my UROP full time. There are some things that haven’t exactly turned out the way I expected or wanted them to, and this month especially, I’ve found myself curled up in my room, too exhausted and numb to deal with all of my responsibilities.

Still, I’ve done a lot this summer. I’ve made a lot of progress on my research, and I’ll be continuing it as a SuperUROP this year with the Civil and Environmental Engineering department.

It’s been a while since I last blogged. I got plunged into an unyielding pit of writer’s block, along with some personal issues that left me in a general state of “I don’t know what’s going on in my life, let alone how to write about it.” A lot has changed in the past six months. (I’ve missed the blogs!)

To ease back in, I thought I’d make this post a hopeful, positive little update about what’s been going on with me, with lessons I’ve learned along the way.

  • Last semester I took five classes, which was a first for me.
    • 6.1220/6.046 (Design and Analysis of Algorithms): This is a notoriously difficult class. I dropped it my junior fall right before the first exam because I knew there was no hope for me, the way things had been going. I took it again this spring, and it was still hard, but I passed, and I’m really really proud of that!!!
    • 7.05 (General Biochemistry): I think this was one of my favorite classes — it was endlessly entertaining and engaging. There was a lot of material relevant to my UROP as well, as a plus.
    • 7.002 (Fundamentals of Experimental Molecular Biology): I needed this class because a lab class for my major wasn’t offered this year, so I took this and I’m taking 7.003 this fall. Chris and I were lab partners, which was fun.
    • 21L.487 (Modern Poetry): Back in freshman year, I took 21L.004 with Prof. Tapscott. It was over Zoom, but his unique sense of humor and attitudes toward poetry made it a good time. Being in his class in person this time was a treat.
    • 21A.502 (Fun and Games: Cultural Perspectives): Such a fun class (as you can expect from the name!) I’m doing my HASS concentration in Anthropology, and this class brought so much joy to me every week. We went on field trips to Pandemonium Games in Central and Sinha Capoeira in Somerville. It was so immersive and the readings were endlessly interesting — and Prof. Jones is amazing! I’m scheduled to take another class with him next spring :)
  • After a couple of rough semesters as I tried to adjust to life at MIT, I achieved an all-A semester this spring! Grades aren’t everything, but this was a really big moment for me.
  • In April, I presented a poster at the MIT Microbiome Symposium on my work!
selfie of me at microbiome symposium

lil selfie :)

  • RIP East Campus, but I’m moving out in two days to a beautiful, airy apartment with friends I adore endlessly. We have color-coded spreadsheets to coordinate group orders? And Tiffany even drew up a floor plan?? I’m excited beyond belief to make this place ours, and to spoil my cat with cute cat trees and unnecessarily fancy litter boxes (it looks like a plant!). Expect an apartment tour at some point.
plant cat litterbox


  • I’ve been learning how to knit! I’ve gotten pretty far in terms of my crochet skills, but I’ve always wanted to make socks, which is what I’m knitting right now. Below is a little sample of fiber arts pieces I’ve made in the past few months.

That’s it from me for now. There’s a lot of stuff I’m looking forward to this semester — and hopefully, I’ll get to share those things with you.

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life, with the brass rat Sat, 26 Aug 2023 15:06:03 +0000

It’s been three months since Ring Delivery, where sophomores receive their class ring to celebrate being halfway through their journeys.

The event is somehow both underwhelming and overwhelming. Underwhelming, in that there are no activities other than taking pictures, snacking, and dancing—which are, of course, fun but it’s really just that. Overwhelming, in that everyone is there. There are few moments in the MIT journey where a whole class is together, and this was one of them. It’s fun seeing who knows who, especially the overlaps between people you knew separately but not together. No one warned me how chaotic timing would be. Everyone wanted a bite out of everyone for photos, which panned out disastrously and beautifully among a thousand students. Picture this: a group waits on one person before taking their photo but that one person is in another group photo and that other group is waiting for another person who is also taking pictures with another group… and so on. It’s fun. We managed to figure it out, for the most part.

4 people posing with their class rings

bloggers!!! jebby, andi, ella, and i

two people pretending to punch 1 person

xuan l. ’25 and i ganging up on sonny x. ’25 (we weightlifted/kickboxed together on campus, so this photo paid homage to that)

2 people posing with the class ring

jade d. ’25 & i 👊 (and two others caught up in the background lol)

group of 7 friends posing in front of neon signs together

my heart, the chaos table (alonso h. ’25, caitlin o. ’25, isaac l. ’25, me, daina n. ’25, asal v. ’25, and malachi m. ’25)!!! (credit: maxwell y. ’23)

group of 7 friends posing taking a selfie together

a silly little selfie

woman holding gold ring

👁 married to the ‘tute 💍


After Ring Delivery, I’ve noticed that the Brass Rat elicits three main things for me: (1) a regular fondness for MIT, (2) interactions I wouldn’t have otherwise, and (3) an eye for media spottings.



The ring depicts a lot of physical entities around the campus area: the Boston skyline, Cambridge skyline, a map of MIT’s underground tunnel system, the Great Dome, and the Charles river. Sometimes, I glance down at the ring and am reminded of some wonderful memories I’ve had at these places.



Right after school ended this past spring, I attended Summer 2023 Wildfire, a northeast fire spinning retreat. Every attendee had to work shifts to help put the event on, and I was a greeter. Several alumni that I had never met before were wearing their Brass Rats and I thought to point them out! It was fun connecting to MIT fire spinners of the past, especially through a physical item we both regularly wore. Outside of that retreat, I’ve also bumped into other MIT students and professors at airports, restaurants, and other public spaces. The ring always sparked a sense of camaraderie.



MIT alumni sometimes appear in media—like movies and news articles and such—and they often don the Brass Rat. It’s still very strange for me to feel… affiliated? It’s fun to look at an image online and think “oh, I have the same thing!”20 technically, every class gets a custom ring with their year and class-specific design modifications, but they all have core similarities It’s like a lifelong game of iSpy. The ring is a great way to feel connected to beavers past, present, and future.21 There’s a rich history behind the ring—if you wanted to dig in more, it’s laid out well on both the <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">blogs</a> and <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">alumni site.</a>


More Brass Rat info linked here for Iron Man, Ghostbusters, Apollo 11, and the ISS. Bonus: a Grad Rat (graduate equivalent of the Brass Rat) appearance in a McDonald’s commercial.


I feel old. I’ve always felt old, but now especially with this ring. I don’t think this feeling is necessarily good nor bad, just a feeling. I am moving through time; time is moving through me. The finiteness of my time22 not just at MIT but also life as a whole 😀👍 at the institute is real. But, that finiteness enables me to spend my time more wisely and fully. I’m excited for these ~upperclassmen~ years.

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leaving season Mon, 21 Aug 2023 22:46:11 +0000

And we leave it all behindCan’t you see we need some time?

at a camp i attended junior year, they would play The Woods by Hollow Coves a lot near the end. it just, made sense. it was winter. we were sleeping in tents outdoors. at meals, we would gather around the heater and melt into the homeliness that seems impossible to find in ten days. a few tunes from this song take me back. huddled up in our coats, the last day when we were leaving, all with heavy hearts. we didn’t know if we would see each other again, and for the most part, we didn’t. we still wish each other on birthdays. usually.


i only have vague recollections of my summer before college. i wasn’t really doing anything but also, doing so much. if i began to write everything that needed to be done, it would fit into a nice and concise paragraph or a cute Notion checklist that i customize, but practically, it was all over the place. the many trips to the embassy and the photo booth and the vaccination centers and all kinds of shops, the preparation takes over your entire summer, especially if you are not careful. i was not. 

spread sparsely among the logistics are friend meetups and family gatherings—the goodbyes, but not really because every time, you think there is still a lot to get done, there are still weeks, and then, days left. 


at some point, it hits you. the leaving. oh, the leaving. bitter or sweet, it is always heavy. 

my thoughts were torn between the excitement of what was coming, what to expect of it, how i was failing at expecting and on the other hand, the deep, deep sadness of leaving everything behind. my home, my family, everyone i knew, my country, my culture, my language, everything. i was terrified, terrified that i would never be able to come back. metaphorically or literally. when i return, it wouldn’t be the same. i wouldn’t be the same. and the yearning to be in-place will forever stay. i will always be leaving.


once i was in the airport, once i was past where i could look back, once i had left, i was fine. 

i boarded the plane when it was time, and flew to Doha and made it through my layover to my next flight and made it to Logan. i passed through customs. i reached MIT. everything was fine. 


Ab tere bina yahan meri saansain
Jaise bina nindiya ki raatain hain to 23 Translation: without you here, my breaths //are like nights without sleep

Baarishen by Anuv Jain will always remind me of August and rainy evenings staring out my window on the seventh floor, looking at Kresge. and writing my first leaving poem. and the scent of that oddly specific humidity. i don’t talk to my old roommates a lot. when i enter McCormick, i still think about those nights. it is the place that kept me through my first hurricane and my first week away from home.


in the beginning, campus was quiet, still plagued with post-covid summertime silence. it was scary. when i laid awake at night, i could hear bikes racing by on Memorial Drive. and a moisture hung in the air that kept me company. getting to Killian Court felt like the most-unsolvable puzzle.

soon enough, people started trickling in. i met my GRAs24 Graduate Resident Advisors and the Heads of House. international orientation started. the about-hundred of us gathered in Walker Memorial for some events, shuffling through classrooms where we had taken other Zoom sessions. a smaller group took the Red Line train to Porter Square. we went up the many, many stairs and reached the bigger-than-Central Target. we ran around collecting essentials and running over confused to our Orientation Mentors, asking the most basic questions, about laundry detergents and soap dishes, cross-referencing it with how things worked back home. it was pouring when we came back. 

later, my roommates arrived. Abby C. ’25, someone i talked with on the McCormick group chat and who was in the same pre-orientation program as me, also came. we walked to Newbury Street together. i walked all the way across the Harvard Bridge for the first time. we talked like we had known each other for a while. 

just as the FPOP25 first year pre-orientation program ended, orientation and REX26 residential exploration started. then, campus was really bustling. i went to a lot of events, meeting so many people. i moved into a different dorm, went to advising meetings and chose classes for the first semester. 


and just like that, the leaving really, really ended. i was so caught up with the shiny-sparkly-always-happening life at MIT that I was no longer homesick. only a few weeks after i got to MIT, i said that one of my favorite things about MIT is that i never know how my day will go. it never goes the way i plan. i kept doing more, or less, but different things. this stabilized a little into the semester, and in later semesters, but for the most part, i would still say yes to many spontaneous plans, which has given me some of my fondest memories and closest friends. 


Na pooch parizaadon sey yeh hijr kesay jhela hai
Yeh tan badan to chalni hai aur roh par bhi chalay hain
27 Translation: don't ask from the beautiful, of the suffering of this separation OR don't ask of the suffering of this separation from the beautiful//this body is wounded and soul, too, has blisters

i watched Parizaad freshman spring. it was a Pakistani TV show about a person who is constantly trying to prove himself and find himself at the same time. he grapples with the struggles of growing up poor and the circumstances he is put through, while trying to find fulfillment for the poet inside of him.

i had fun watching it because in addition to the plot, the writing was really good, but more than that, it was the only Urdu i heard outside of calling my parents.


i did not skip over the homesickness part. i was very miserable at times. perhaps, because i did not have a huge adapting curve at the beginning, there were a lot of where the hell am i moments, even months after. the hallways in my own dorm would haunt me. i did not call it home for the longest time. in fact, i was fascinated and envious of others who did. it just seemed impossible that this random room in this random28 the housing process at MIT is not random, but in the larger scheme of things, it feels right to call this random building could be home. it also felt like a huge declaration that came with the guilt of leaving my home, wanting everything back home to stay the same, then finding a new home. 


at the same time, i kept finding people who let me explore who i was. who let me change and stay the same. i kept having conversations that made me feel like i had known the person for a long time. i started to, hold on to your hats, like that random building i was too scared to call home.


it hurt so much to leave home the first time. it, still hurts so, so much to leave my home. but, it also hurts when i leave MIT. i can promise you it will become so incredibly hard to leave MIT, if not the first year, then the second. it is a long and winding road. it looks different for everyone but it leads you home. 


And it’s fine to fake it ’til you make it
‘Til you do, ’til it’s true

Snow on the Beach (feat. Lana Del Rey) by Taylor Swift reminds me of cooking in the Tang Hall kitchen and looking out my window, amazed by the heart-shaped puddle. January was fading away in a dramatically white haze. the coldest days that winter. when i would come back from everything, i would walk past Next House to Tang Hall and it would stretch infinitely far. almost every night, i would layer up and walk over later to 4W, like it was home.

there is so much beauty and so much to become a part of once you let yourself. just by being involved with the communities around you, going to events and talking to people during and after, even if it is a bit nerve-wracking at the beginning, you can find a feeling of belonging so pure that it washes away the guilts and doubts and fears of the leaving and the trying to find new places and the forgetting and the remembering and the jumping headfirst into this brave, new adventure.


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