Monthly Archives: March 2017

What Should I Wear Today?

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! You finally decided to turn off your alarm and get out of bed. As you groggily get dressed, you face your first decision: What should I wear today? If you’re a guy like me, your answer often is “whatever is on the top of my stack of clothes.” (Hopefully that stack is at least folded!) But in places like Boston in April, you face an additional problem: Which stack? Do you go with a long sleeved shirt or a t-shirt? Pants or shorts? As you get ready to head out, do you wear a coat, a jacket, or neither? Do you bring an umbrella, sunglasses, or neither?

So you start checking a weather forecast. You learn that the high today is going to be, say, 54, with a low of 36 at night. What in the world is that supposed to mean? Are you supposed to memorize what to wear for every set of high and low temperatures so that you can recall it while you stumble out of bed in the morning? Besides, do the highs and lows even matter? What if you’re not going to be outside at 2pm or 3am or whenever those extremes will be?

You eventually give up and decide to move to California, where the weather is predictable and you don’t have to make such complicated decisions. Sad!

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Why I Didn’t Do Research In Your Area

[Note: This is a followup to my post last week about lessons I’ve learned in graduate school. The format is inspired by Tim Challies.]

Friend,

Your field of research definitely sounds interesting. I really enjoyed taking that class, listening to that seminar talk, or reading a few of your most recent papers. I actually understood most of what you were talking about! Some of the techniques are quite clever, and you and your collaborators all seem really friendly.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t end up joining you there. And you’re right to wonder — it would have been nice to collaborate with you, and I haven’t exactly found something else revolutionary to study instead. Well, it’s mostly because…

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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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