Should you (or someone you love) go to MIT?
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Today is “PI” day (written in American style, 3/14…) and MIT is holding a one day fundraiser… In honor of this day, this provides me with an excuse to post something I wrote for my Live Journal account a few years ago and which I get asked about from parents (and grandparents) of prospective students all the time. Of course the MIT I attended was nearly half a century back, but things haven’t changed all that much… Do I recommend MIT? Only if you are a very particular type of student. There is a reason why schools like MIT are so rare: because for most people, it is the wrong school to go to. MIT is not a place to find yourself. Because it is such an intense environment, it can be devastating to anyone who doesn’t already have a strong sense of who they are, and where they want to go. (Mind you, after MIT is finished with you, the person … Continue reading

Across the Universe: Obedience
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This column first appeared in The Tablet in January, 2008 When I was a student, I once took one of those tests designed to tell you what career you should choose based on your personal likes and dislikes. (“Do you prefer raw or cooked carrots?”) Strange as it sounded at the time, they had a point. Scientists do tend to have a lot of common personality traits. Of course, other careers also feature self-reliance and a certain disregard for social niceties. I just knew I wanted a life where I wouldn’t have to wear a tie. Oddly enough, I find the personality types attracted to science are not so different from those attracted to the Jesuits. Certainly when I was choosing science, the gender ratio and funding prospects in my field at that time promised me nothing but poverty and chastity. But obedience, the third vow of a Jesuit, is not typical for a scientist. Certainly it was the hardest … Continue reading