What I Wish I Knew When I Got to Grad School

We had our Open House in the MIT Math department last week, that time of the year when a bunch of the prospective grad students come to see the building, talk to the professors they think they want to work with, get a vague sense of what their social lives would look like in Boston, and gossip among themselves about how much better they expect it would be than at other places like Princeton.

I remember when I was in their shoes, filled with both the hope of possibility and an insatiable desire to prove myself among new colleagues. I’ve learned a lot more about grad school and the research process in the five years since then, and there’s plenty more I wish I knew. With that in mind, I’d like to write an imaginary letter (e-mail?) to my self five years ago, as a college senior deciding where to go for grad school. Here it is:

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Designing Great Competitions

Last weekend, I volunteered for the fifth time with the Blue Lobster Bowl, the National Ocean Sciences Bowl regional competition for the Massachusetts region. My main role was as a moderator, reading questions quickly and clearly for my seventh year since competing myself back in high school. But this year, I also played another role behind the scenes, working with the regional coordinator to automatically post results to a partially published Google spreadsheet. Now teams (and anyone else!) could follow along real-time with how each division was going.

My presentation of the standings after the Round Robin portion of the 2017 Blue Lobster Bowl. This year, we gave everyone access to a Google spreadsheet with this information, updated throughout the day.

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Reflections on a Week Away From Politics

I was at my wit’s end.

Politics had taken over my life. The endless barrage of news out of the Trump Presidency had ratcheted up my hyper-vigilance to 11. It was at this point that I came across this Atlantic article, which felt like it was describing my own struggles, translated to a work environment:

Duggan says that managers should help their employees focus on work, and that while support groups or other interventions sound good, it might be a further distraction. “The problem with that is you do a debrief about the election, then you have to do a debrief at the inauguration, then you have to do a debrief about the first week, the second week, and it doesn’t stop.”

Many of us were hoping that the constant campaign ruckus would die down after the election. Heck, people were already sick of the general election back in July! And the same political climate has continued, with no end in sight. Even some of the same features are back: On FiveThirtyEight, instead of tracking the current election polling average, you can now track Trump’s approval ratings average!

Different colors, same feels.

Different colors, same feels.

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The Spiritual Side of Board Gaming

Last week, I introduced what I’m calling the Golden Age of Board Games. As I explained in that post, there are many more and a wider variety of board games coming out every recent year than the world has ever seen. In a century that seems to bring more bad news than good, this is a bright spot many of us can cling to.

Yet, with such a new and bountiful world to explore and play in, we’d be remiss if we jumped right in without giving this fairly new activity more thought. As a Christian, I have thought a lot about how the board games I play — and the way I play them — affects me, my relationships with others, including God.

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Welcome to the Golden Age of Board Games

Around three years ago, I wrote one of my most read answers on Quora to the question, “What are some of the best strategy games out there?” A few weeks later, Helena Zhang, a friend of mine from Caltech and fellow officer in our MIT grad dorm, invited me to join a board game group she had started with some labmates. Our group came to be known as “Fun and Games” and started spreading through our social circles, and in particular to the Singaporean community at MIT.

That fall, a new Singaporean grad student started coming to our group regularly. I had met her previously through the Graduate Christian Fellowship and we played on the same team together (playing 7 Wonders) her first visit to our group. Little did I know at the time, those would be the first couple steps on a journey that would lead to us getting married last June, with the Fun and Games group helping to make most of our awesome board game-themed centerpieces:

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