Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Bright Side Project: Mandizzle

Mandizzle is from Cleaveland, OH and runs her Etsy shop on top of a day job! (wow). She makes the lovliest headbands...If I could wear one every day, I would.

She rocks her headbands...I only wish I were that cool! She was especially awesome since I couldn't decide which one I wanted, so I told her to surprise me! She wrote back asking my favorite colors to wear, and made the absolutely PERFECT colors for me: cream and eggplant.

Here is me wearing the amazing headband!

You can wear it either hippie-style (so fun!) or like a conventional headband. Thanks Mandizzle!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Happy 25th Monday of 2009!

A very wise friend once told me she loved Mondays because it was like a mini-new year to start something new, or keep going at something with full force. She's a smart lady. It's a good way to be, I think.

Quote of the day:

"I feel like an animal I want to meet someday is definitely an affectionate emu."

And I won one of these amazing pouches from Unruly Things. Thanks to both Alyson of Unruly Things and Alice from Forest Bound!

Alice is from the Boston area, and works with a local organic farm during the growing seasons and crafts during the cold winter months. See an interview here at Heart Handmade if you'd like to know more about Alice's sustainable sewing from reclaimed materials.

The Bright Side Project: Becky Oh!

Becky Oh! is a handbag designer hailing from not too far away in New Hampshire! (I also love that she describes meeting her husband as "an unfortunate incidence with a renegade Peace Corps Volunteer" --she grew up in the Andes since here parents were missionary-musicians!).

She sells her work on her own online shop, as well as at the SoWa Open Market in Boston every Sunday during the summer (SoWa = south of Washington Street if you're curious...I am not enough of a local yet to know that one...)

Isn't it a cute little fabric bag?

They also come in many other great colors:

Thanks again, Becky!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Clambakes! and farmer's markets! And MRIs!

Before last week, I'd never been to a clambake. But now that I know someone in the working world (cough) I had the chance!

Scott works at Lime Brokerage doing software development and programming - so far he's really liked his job, and while there are frustrations here and there, such is life.

The clambake was actually a summer party catered by Legal Seafoods on the rooftop of their office complex (where they usually eat lunch). There was also an open bar and lots of delicious desserts...I may or may not have had an entire lobster plus corn and cornbread and potato salad and three brownies and whipped cream. It was nice to meet Scott's co-workers, as well as some of the members of the New York office--apparently their office parties are quite the occasion!

Eating lobster and other sea critters is always odd for me because I was responsible for knowing every spinneret, every gill form, etc... for a class I took in undergrad called Invertebrate Zoology. I loved the course, but it's made me just a bit too aware of the parts of things I plan on eating. I guess at the end of the day I would prefer a lobster roll: still get a great taste, with someone else doing the work and not reminding me of mandible counts.

Friday night was peaceful spent at home making lemon-lime sorbet and lime-coconut banana bread (as well as playing a bit of catchup)

Saturday morning was the farmer's market in Cambridgeport--I bought lettuce, garlic scrapes, strawberries, ground beef, rhubarb, beets, and scallions.

garlic scape - the part of garlic that must be removed (or else you won't get the garlic bulb; you'll only get the garlic flower) - you can stir fry them, or put them in eggs...basically use them as you would garlic)

I also went to Goodwill, and found some amazing plates and bowls (yeah I know...addict).

Saturday night was Carolina barbeque pork with Jim, Jen, Tim, Chelsea, and Scott - dinner included pork (in my new crockpot), creamed corn, collard greens with bacon, Mojitos, and then ice cream and sorbet for dessert. It was wonderful!

Scott picked me up this morning to get an MRI done (bright and early at 8:45 am!). My knee has still been giving me trouble since my fall last July, and I'm starting to get really frustrated. Hopefully this can give me some answers...

Afterward, we went to a little diner down the street called "The Breakfast Club" - super cute and tiny, with the specials named after the characters in the John Hughes movie.

(not my picture; from Yelp)

Now I'm just chilling in Waltham doing some reading and such while Scott does a rowing class - we're planning to make smoked gouda and beet greens risotto tonight (with rhubarb/strawberry compote over ricotta cheese) -mmmm...

Sunday in the City

(love the red door and brick)

(tiger lilies found on my walk to the farmer's market)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Amelia Bedelia moment

I remember hearing about Elgin's Marbles a while back - I had a Greek phase in sixth grade that had me reading copious amounts of historical Greek texts and mythology and wanting to be Athena and pop someone's cap, at least metaphorically speaking (and then I read about her in AP Humanities with Ms. Dahlin, and oh boy does she get down with wars...wow).

Anyways, Elgin's marbles: the gist is that some British guy took some artifacts from Greece and put them in a British museum in the early 1800s, and since then Greece has been crying "We want our marbles back!" Recently, I clicked on a link in my Economist newsletter called Lord Elgin and the Parthenon Marbles - a look at the current tensions between Greece and Britain over these marbles.

Now, in my head, these marbles looked like this:

Marble-shaped, if you well...although more Greek-looking. On columns. From the Parthenon. Made sense to me.

And today, after clicking on that link I find that nooooo....these are statues. Not large spherical things at all.


Now if you'll all excuse me, my refrigerator is running, and I need to go catch it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

she's solving a world crisis!

Okay...here's what we're going to do:

A. Turn off Jon and Kate Plus Eight; they deserve peace, time, and no cameras to figure things out.

B. Show the world that we care about the goings-on of Iran.

See! Look at that...solved!

Aloha Oe!

One of my labmates just returned from a Hawaiian vacation, and maybe it's the milk chocolate macadamia nuts he brought me that I have been positively INHALING (no, of course they don't contain 18 grams of fat per 41 gram serving! that's impossible! things can't be 44% fat! nope...don't believe it!) but I miss Hawaii. Sunshine, beach, puka shells, sea glass, coconuts, pretty fish, beauty...so I thought I'd post some pictures (of the very few I have scanned) of the trip I took to Hawaii with my mom, dad, brothers, and grandparents to Oahu when I was in 6th grade. It was an amazing time, that's for sure!

(my brother and his boogie board...they now go up to his waist...he's kind of, um, tall now)

The Bright Side Project

The Bright Side Project was started by
Tristan (Miss B) of the Blah Blah Bhlag, and Julieta (Miss K) of Besotted Brand who decided to do a month of giveaways back in January...and it was so much fun that they never stopped! Miss B says:

"I know times are tough right now, and maybe shopping has become a distant memory. I feel your pain, I seriously do. The Bright Side Project is dedicated to YOU. All you have to do for a chance to win is answer the artist/designer's question in the comment section."

And really---that's all! It's kind of like playing Apples to Apples, except you win something, and the best answer probably isn't "Helen Keller" + "Touchy-Feely." And it is a rather lovely way to start the morning, as well.

I have been VERY lucky in the past few months and won not once, or twice, but FOUR times. It's very exciting, not only because you get a fun package in the mail, but you also have an opportunity to become acquainted with new artisans doing things you didn't even know were even out there. And the best part is that you don't have to win anything to be exposed to their work...I love it!

So---thank you Bright Side for making my days a little bit brighter! (and look forward to posts of me and my prizes coming soon!)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

I love you, Dad!

Fifty Things in Five Years

I've been adding to this since March...it's now finally ready for it's debut. Okay----go!

1. Graduate. (oh boy. this is a big one)

2. Dance at a ball in Vienna!

3. Host an REU student (a summer undergraduate student)

4. Prepare curriculum for malaria for ages K-12.

5. Visit DC and see the cherry blossoms bloom!

6. Weekend trips to:

Newport, RI
Providence, RI
Cape Cod
Martha's Vineyard
New Hampshire
The Jersey Shore
Acadia National Park

7. Go on brewery tours here in Boston with my brother

8. Pick my own berries and make homemade jam

9. Sew my own duvet cover

10. Make my own yogurt

11. Start (and continue) the tradition of "Monday Classic Movie Night"

12. See the band "Beirut" live

13. Store all of my things in fun vintage suitcases instead of office boxes

14. Keep an orchid alive.

15. Compost in my apartment

16. Finish 10 semesters with the MIT Symphony Orchestra

17. Go back to Gotland to visit Birgit and Åke (as well as visit Pallav's family in Stockholm and Ulrika in Uppsala)

18. Successfully refinish/reupholster something

19. Publish a paper

20. Find the perfect powerpoint font (I thought I liked Futura, but then I toyed with Gill Sans, and now I'm all in a tizzy because neither of those is quite right)

21. Plan all my meals, all the time

22. Get a DLSR and learn how to take fantastic photographs

23. Do the 100 pushups plan (may have to be modified due to a knee injury, but we'll see)

24. Have a shoe collection which is practical, lovely, and of very good quality.

25. Picnic in Boston Common

26. Visit all of the stops on the T (subway line) here in Boston, and see what's going on around them.

27. Make my own vanilla extract

28. Play horn in a friend's wedding (to be biased about my own instrument, Ave Maria on horn is simply gorgeous)

29. Hold a tea party, complete with cucumber sandwiches and macaroons!

30. Make spritz cookies

31. Go to a beach during the day wearing a two-piece swimsuit (this contains about 85 fears. Sharks, bikinis, sunshine, UV rays....thank goodness Aveeno makes SPF55)

32. Visit a certain someone in Canada

33. DIY space rack out of these tin canisters

34. Scan in all of the pictures from my childhood and archive them digitally

35. Embroider something

36. See the Northern Lights

37. Learn Swedish/Gotlandska

38. Have guests from out of town all the time! (if you come I will feed you copious amounts of cannoli!)

39. Learn how to play one song in full on guitar

40. Send out creative/fun/retro Christmas cards

41. Feel like I have kept in touch with friends from high school and college

42. Be in the best shape of my life (I may go into this one later, I may not. But rest assured, I'm trying to get there every day).

43. Learn how to cook with tofu.

44. Commission a painting from a friend here at MIT

45. Fix my broken jewelry, and then inventory all of it for safety/insurance/posterity

46. Fix my iphoto archives (currently a mess and a half)

47. Make a felt advent calender (kind of like this one)

48. Put one more stamp on my passport (besides the aforementioned Austria, Sweden, and Canada)

49. Have a midsommar celebration, complete with sill (fish), beet salad, new potatoes, strawberries and cream, cloudberry jam and baguettes, and lots of lingonberry and elderflower saft (juice concentrate-like thing)

50. Be there at my brother's college graduation to offer him a shot of Old Crow

lovely weekend

Friday night was leftovers and salad (arugla with homemade croutons and parmesean), watching the French film Priceless, starring Audrey Tatou (and going to bed mercifully early. We're talking 10 pm, folks. I'm getting old!). I also stopped at Target and found three pairs of shoes (!) all closed toed and cute. I also bought a crockpot (on sale!) and a cute summer tote for $3.98. Oh Target...I love you.

Saturday morning was strawberry picking with the guys in my lab at Verrill Farms, a pick-your-own place about 40 minutes from Cambridge. Next was the farmer's market for amazing raisin walnut bread, fresh hamburger, cheese, and lettuce. Scott and I went for a quick ride in his new (well, used) car to vacuum it out at the gas station down the street and find him sandals. Can you believe he hasn't worn sandals since he was 10?! He found a really nice pair at Payless...and I, uh, found three more pairs of shoes: sandals from Zac and Zoe, the new environmentally friendly line, plus two pairs of wedges that I can wear to work. Let's just say I won't need to go shoe shopping for awhile...

Scott also tried out his new George Foreman grill last night, and he and his roommate and I enjoyed burgers and a new recipe from Smitten Kitchen, strawberry dumplings. They were pretty good, but I think I prefer pies and cobblers. It was nice to try a new recipe, though. The three of us also watched the second episode of True Blood (oh HBO, you and your vampires and gratuitous nudity...and props to Anna Paquin for being fantastic! --see the trailer here - not for the faint-hearted) as well as 100 Girls (hopelessly inane. And the opening credits had all of us collapsing in giggles. We all thought it had been made in the early 90s, but no...the year 2000. Wow. Seriously though...don't waste your time!)

Sunday was pancakes with fresh strawberries, and then lots of lab work - running a gel and trying to find my seemingly elusive protein. Pretty please? Show up tomorrow, okay? I'll bring you a present....

Friday, June 19, 2009

"You seem to be oddly sensitive."

For some reason, some things hit me really, really hard. Between death, intolerance, a broken health care system, blatant dispassionate acts, child abuse, dictatorships, loss of jobs and homes, hate groups, murder, chronic preventable diseases running rampant, gang wars, deliberate waste of life and resources, unequal access to education, slavery, illness, puppy farms, corruption, religious extremism, domestic violence, terrorism, illiteracy, flagrant abuse of the environment....well, I can get myself depressed pretty easily.

So, I try not to think about these things too often: idealistic pragmatism...I will not be in any state to solve these problems if I am just crying all the time and an absolute wreck.

Thus, my grievances with the real world and sadness gets a lot more local - things like roommate issues, a touching scene in trailers I watch on apple.com, having the subway doors shut on me because of obnoxious teenagers not letting me through...and then I get even more frustrated because I am upset about these things when I have no reason to complain. At all. I don't have malaria, I wasn't gang-raped as a child, I make a salary in the top 1% of the world's 6+ billion inhabitants, I have a safe place to live and food...and I get sad about flour beetles.

But most people don't really think of me as a depressed person, per se. I can get sad sometimes, like when I started crying 20 minutes into Blood Diamond and lasted about 10 minutes before I just had to leave ("I thought you wanted to see this!" said Scott - "I thought I did too!" I said through sniffles after I had finally calmed down. After ten minutes of sobbing).

So what to do? Lose myself in science? Write really angry or sad posts? Console myself with baked goods? I don't really know. Throwing myself into schoolwork has always been my refuge, but I think that has shifted to cooking...unlike studying, lab work doesn't always have that feeling of accomplishment, because like it or not, experiments fail. And most of the time, recipes don't.

I don't mean to be a downer on a Friday afternoon, but the past couple weeks have been rough...and the fact that the sun has decided to hide from Boston for the past three weeks doesn't really help. But--I'm going strawberry picking tomorrow, which should be beyond lovely. Strawberries do make everything better!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My apartment--the good, the bad, and the ugly

This year has been---uh---interesting in terms of my living situation. My roommates have lied to me about housing saying it was fine to have their boyfriend live in the apartment for 6 weeks, had passive-aggresive freak outs, I've woken up to their boyfriends hawking loogeys into my shower at 5 am, and one even brought flour bugs (which we thought were gone until, you know, they were swimming in my cereal yesterday morning).

That's the edited internet version, of course...but you get the idea. I have been miserable. It kills me that I have cool friends all over the country and world, and I am stuck living with people I don't know and I never see these other people that I love. The other thing that I have come to realize is that this lack of control is turning me into a crazy control freak in terms of how I want my life to be...it's stupid and over-compensatory, but I see myself over-reacting (if not out loud most definitely in my head) to things that really aren't a big deal. And yes, I resent it. And I'm trying to just chill out about things, but nothing difficult in life really comes that easily.

But, through all of these annoyances, I've been trying to make my bedroom a beautiful place to be (or retreat to, I suppose). I submitted my room for critique to a blog called Apartment Therapy this January. Their site is dedicated to improving the relationship between you and your apartment. They deal with cleaning, decorating, architecture, gardening...the whole nine yards. They are one of my must-reads, and they have given me a ton of ideas for my room and my future apartment. They offered a lot of great advice this January and they request that you send "after" pictures to see what you've done---and here they are:

Before you look at the pictures, it may help to orient yourself to my room: I'm in "Bedroom B" (136 square feet) below. I got lucky---not only is my room smaller, but it has less usable space due to the mini-hallway that the door opens into.

Taken from the door:

Angling to the right to see the bed/desk:

Looking straight on at the desk:

Looking at the armoire and my chest of drawers (and yeah, I know the toiletries stuff is ugly. But sometimes knowing your stuff isn't being used by other people is worth it):

Looking towards the doorish from the middle of the room:

Looking out the door (shoes and wine!):

Turning back to see the low chest of drawers:

I declined to spend a lot of money on bedding, window treatments or anything really expensive as I will be moving and want to save my money until then. The only things I bought are:

--Blue vintage suitcases ($10 at Goodwill)
--Naked binders ($80 for 8 binders...very expensive. But sustainable and beautiful. They pretty much make that part of my desk)
--multi-colored glass vases above the desk ($30 at some of the thrift stores here)
--Fun orange fractal tree-thing ($2 at Goodwill)

Some of the posters got a bit upset that a "dorm room" was on Apartment Therapy. However, the crux of the issue is that there are other college and graduate students looking to make little changes in their lives starting in their pre-furnished rooms - things that are doable on our time and budget. Going through this process encourages the realization of what we need, what we don't, and what makes us happy.

It really isn't the status quo to feature this sort of room on Apartment Therapy, but trying to make do with what is there (or hand-me-down furniture in general) is something most people have to deal with at one time in their life or another...which is why I'm glad I decided to send in my room in the first place.

Well, for better or for worse, I will only be in my apartment for six more weeks...so close!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Uniform Project

One dress, 365 days. I can't get over how cool this is...and it reminds me of my quest junior year in high school to wear a different outfit every day (I did. I don't think anyone noticed, though).

I've seen this in many of the design blogs I stalk, and the story is that Sheena Matheiken started an effort called "The Uniform Project" in order to see if A, she could succeed at this attempt at sustainable fashion, and B, to raise money for the Akanksha Foundation to promote education in India.

She has seven identical dresses, and they were designed by a friend to be worn open/closed/frontwards/backwards. It's a fantastic cut, and I'm pretty sure I might make myself a copy if I can.

She has a call out for accessories and other items to be donated to help her dress every day...I feel really sad that I donated my amazing 80s butterfly belt this summer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009



1. Going to New York for the book donation, plus seeing Pallav, Linda, Dave, and Linnea (and apparently a falafel judging? We shall see...and Dave? You better do a tripod picture for me!)

2. I passed quals! I am now officially a doctoral candidate.

3. Scooper Bowl Ice Cream festival! A fundraiser for the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute, this all-you-can-eat ice cream extravaganza has raised over 2 million dollars for cancer research.

I had:

Baskin Robbins (wanted to try the Rock n Pop Swirl, this concoction with Willy Wonka candies that was bright green, but again...too full!)

Ben and Jerry's: Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road (chocolate ice cream with all sorts of goodies)

Breyers: Cherry Vanilla (oh-so-smooth)

Brigham's (wanted to try black raspberry, but I was full)

Edy's: Take the Cake (odd and bright yellow. But tasty!)

Garelick Farms: Maine Lobster Tracks (fudge swirl and lobster tracks that were these red and cherry-dipped cone tasting bits)

Häagen-Daaz: Chocolate (mm) and Bailey's Irish Cream (oh. so. good)

HP Hood: Fenway Fudge (my favorite - lots of fudge, lots of chocolate...my kind of ice cream) and Cookie Dough Delight (delicious! not enough cookie dough, though)

Spasso: Amaretto gelato as well as coffee gelato (delicious, although the gelato in general didn't stay as smooth as the ice creams in this sort of a setting...kind of a shame).

That's ten scoops of ice cream. That's a lot.

4. I expressed, induced, and ran protein on a gel. And it kind of worked! (see below)

(gosh isn't that just beautiful?)

5. Farmer's market strawberries. And hopefully a pick-your-own lab field trip sometime soon! I also contacted someone about learning how to can, and hopefully this person certified as a "master preserver" can teach me all the tricks of the trade.


1. My roommate's flour had flour beetles and infested our apartment. = Gross. But she did help clean our entire kitchen with detergent (mm...smells like Tide!) so that's nice at least.

2. Still don't believe my professor passed away. I looked on my bookshelf and remembered that he loaned me a pathology book...and I don't know what to do with it now.

3. Old friends "breaking up" with you. I know it sounds really middle school and all, but jeez. We're old enough now to be able to articulate opinions like adults, and hey! not be jerks.

4. Boston in June is really odd. There is a beautiful May spring, and then this June gloom nonsense for about two weeks...gray, cold...all that. My apartment is freezing. I'm sleeping under two comforters.

5. Pratt and Whitney get a big thumbs down. I contacted them about Harold Fairchild and archival materials, and the receptionist said, in an aghast sort of way, "Well of course we don't have records that go that far back! We have very little of the history and information from that far back. And I mean, thousands of people have worked here! We don't have information on them!" ...um...this man DIED testing your product and you don't have information on it? Really? Good for you. It's even funnier because there is an entire section of their website talking about how Pratt and Whitney has contributed to the history of aviation. They'll be getting another call next week, that's for sure.

Monday, June 8, 2009

And sometimes you just go "Whoa."

I got a facebook message out of the blue on Saturday night from a gentleman named Tim Nyberg. I didn't know Tim personally, but I do know his son: he's currently doing a project called "Mullet Like Me" :

In 1959 journalist John Howard Griffin darkened his skin for an undercover experiment with racial tensions that would later be publised as "Black Like Me." Now, fifty years later, a man with markedly less courage takes on a mission with markedly lower stakes.

Classy, in the very least.

Anywho, this email read:

"I'm going to do a painting based on your [black dress] profile photo...if you want to see it, contact me via Jake - or watch galleryfortytwo.com (online gallery) thanks for the inspiration - Tim Nyberg"

(the photo is the one that is now my picture here on my blog as well as on facebook and above)

I read it questioningly, sent an email to mulletman expressing my slight disbelief, and kind of forgot about it. Until today, when I received another message:

"Hi Bridget:

I did a painting based on your really nice, artful facebook photo. You can see it online at http://www.galleryfortytwo.com/recent

Hope you like it - thanks for the inspiration. - Tim Nyberg"

The painting is absolutely beautiful! I can hardly stand it. I looked up a little bit more and found out that Tim is also the author of the Duct Tape Books. (Minnesota classics, truly).

The best part is that the stories don't really end there...the original photo was actually taken in July of 2003 during All State Band Camp: I was on my way to the final concert when Matt, a trombonist, saw me twirling in the hallway. He said "Whoa can you do that again! Let me grab my camera!" I spun and spun around, and kept going til he said "done!" ---and then I fell promptly to the ground!

We sort of lost touch until my junior year of college, when he found the photo on his harddrive and sent it to me. I loved it, and it's been my profile picture ever since.

Matt did his undergrad at Duke, and he was very involved with the photography community there as well. The photograph he took of me, "Twirling Dancer," was displayed at The Duke Photo Group Student Photography Exhibition in Spring of 2006. He's now at Stanford for his masters in engineering, and is still involved in photography. See here for more of his work (it's fantastic. Texture, lighting...wow. He really has quite the eye).

This year at MIT, I met a first year in aero-astro, and she said she was from Duke...I asked her if she knew Matt, and she said she did! I then told her kind of offhand that "I think a picture of me was displayed at Duke? It's a black and white photo of a dancer.." And her eyes got huge-- "That's you? That's the picture that is on all of the Photography at Duke advertisements!"

And that's why life is amazing. Really, truly, amazing. Because there is always another story--you just have to ask the right questions.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

a somber update

I mentioned in my last post that one of my professors from bioengineering had been in the hospital since last weekend (two weeks ago yesterday).

I found out about an hour ago that he died this afternoon. I'm still in shock. The last time I saw him was our final day of class, discussing swine flu, vaccines, the disease process, all of it. He was so excited and ready for his year long sabbatical in Singapore to teach (MIT has a sister school there, so to speak)...and now he's gone. He was still very young, and has a wife and family. I can't imagine what it would be like to go through all of this...

Rest in peace, David...you will be missed very, very much.

See the MIT's tribute article here, and an article in the Boston Globe here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Old Crow.

I can bet that most of you beyond my immediate family are a little confused by this sort of blog title. Old Crow? What is this you speak of?

Old Crow is whiskey. And believe it or not, this Tuesday after quals, I was the girl carrying the bottle.

(this is the dungeon, by the way...the place all the first year students gather to study and program).

I think I've mentioned it before, but this was my grandfather's favorite brand of whiskey (see Wikipedia: "Old Crow is a brand of relatively low-priced Bourbon whiskey..."). We all took shots of it at his funeral party, and received a handle of it from him the Christmas after he died (with his initials on it in his special serif font). I didn't have my bottle in Illinois when I turned 21, but thirty seconds after I got home for the summer, my brother started calling for shots. And man...it's gross. Terrible, awful stuff (although, notably much improved by coke, which was the main consumptive vector while my grandpa was ducking/pheasant hunting).

One of the things my grandfather said was "work hard, play hard." And that's why, after a long year of studying, and a reallllllly long qualifying exam, this is what happened:

That, my friends, is an empty bottle of Old Crow. (obviously not finished by myself alone---no worries, mom!)

So...now that I've gotten the celebration out of the way, what are quals?

Quals is the shorthand terminology for "qualifying examination" - a fairly grueling day-long test you take in graduate school to be officially considered a doctoral candidate. Our written quals take place in June after a full first year of taking classes, and our oral quals take place next summer and consist of our thesis proposal to our thesis committee. Since the MIT Bioengineering program is split up into two tracks, there were two tests administered: one to the folks in the bioengineering track, and the other to those in the applied biosciences (ABS) track. The former is much more mathy/equation based, so I chose the latter track. I spent the past two weeks studying with other members of the ABS track, going over class notes, review sheets, looking through textbooks, etc...we also hypothesized lots of different question possibilities based on the faculty members who are writing our exams (see a workup here by one of my fellow first-years).

And then the day of the test came. All that studying basically meant...nothing. This isn't meant to be a bad-mouthing the department post, rather a comment on the slight obscurity of the questions we were asked. I realize that the goal of qualifying exams is to see if we can think about all that we have learned and synthesize it in order to apply it to new or not yet understood papers, issues or problems. That is, after all, the goal of grad school as well.

However, I think there is a difference between that and having a question on a cycle that was taught in two slides of one lecture. It is intriguing to think of how to optimize these tests to really test our breadth of knowledge, and the best we could come up with is that we'd need an entire week of four questions a day to show what we really learned.

If you're interested in chatting more about these, I do not have the exams, but the questions were about differential equations representing a circadian cycle, tuberculosis toxin negative feedback loops with a translocating transcription factor, and iron homeostasis in prion diseases.

All in all, it was quite the exam. (and seriously, I hate blue books. Give me plain white paper anytime). We'll find out sometime next week whether we officially passed or not.

In other news, one of my professors has been in the hospital since last Saturday (almost two weeks). He went into cardiac arrest and is still in a coma. He's in stable but critical condition, so people are optimistic but unsure right now...