what do you do at MIT?

I am a double major in 21W (Writing) and 6-3 (Computer Science and Engineering) and will be starting an MEng in 6-3 in Fall 2023. My HASS concentration is in Spanish.

I do a lot of things around MIT, including extracurriculars and classes; here are some lists of what I am currently doing and what I have done.

things i currently do

  • Asymptones, Tenor (since September 2019) - we’re an acapella group that sings fun and nerdy music!
  • MIT Admissions, Blogger (since September 2020) - we write blog posts which seek to provide a student perspective on life at MIT, with all of its many forms and aspects.
  • Next House, Desk Worker (since September 2021) - I sort mail and distribute packages at the front desk.
  • Next House, President (since February 2022) - I lead Next Exec, a group of students who help run Next House on a day-to-day basis, and am reponsible for representing Next House to external organizations like the Dormitory Council and Undergraduate Association and to members of the MIT administration.
  • Dormitory Council, Vice President (since June 2022) - Along with the President, I help run the Dormitory Council, a student government responsible for addressing the concerns of students in dormitories and liasing with Housing and Residential Services and the Division of Student Life.
  • Madry Group, SuperUROP (since September 2022) - I am helping to study the political and technical possibilities and ramifications for social media regulation, as part of a year-long project.
  • Asymptones, Publicity Chair (since December 2022) - I plan posters and other publicity material for the Asymptones!
  • Musical Theater Guild, Orchestra Director (since December 2022) - I am conducting the pit orchestra for MTG’s production of Heathers during IAP.

classes i am taking next semester

During IAP, I am taking 21W.ThT (Writing Pre-Thesis Tutorial).

During Spring 2023, I will almost certainly take:

  • 6.1220[6.046] - Design and Analysis of Algorithms
  • 6.UAR - Seminar in Undergraduate Advanced Research
  • 21M.405 - Chamber Chorus
  • 21W.ThU - Writing Program Thesis
  • 6.S983[6.888] - Secure Hardware Design
  • 21W.743 - Voice and Meaning: Speaking to Readers through Memoir
  • Harvard ENG CNL: The Novel Lab

things i have done

  • Musical Theater Guild, Pit Violinist (Fall 2019) - I played in the pit for MTG’s production of A Chorus Line.
  • Multidisciplinary Simulation, Estimation, and Assimilation Systems (MSEAS) Group, UROP (Fall 2019) - I helped study optimal path planning for ocean vehicles based on numerical methods.
  • Next House, CPW Committee Member (Spring 2020) - we planned welcoming activities for students admitted to MIT as part of Campus Preview Weekend, specifically with the goal of representing Next House; this included adaptation of the entire program to be virtual in the span of two weeks.
  • Next House, REX Committee Co-chair (Summer 2020) - we led the committee planning welcoming activities for students matriculating to MIT as part of Residence Exploration, representing Next House; this included the creation of a new program to provide support communities for first-years in lieu of dorms, which were not open at the time.
  • Miyagawa, Ortiz, and Fei Group, UROP (Summer 2020) - I helped study pre-historic artifacts displaying abstract geometric patterns from a computational perspective.
  • CC.802 / Physics II, TA (Spring 2021) - I helped lead small groups twice-a-week in recitations, held weekly office hours, and graded problem sets.
  • The Trope Tank, UROP (Spring 2021) - I helped study automatic narrative variation, and the specific effects of varying noun phrase generation on the perception of narrative.
  • Quizbowl, Vice President (Fall 2020 - Spring 2021) - I was responsible for running social events for and generally providing input on decisions made by the quizbowl team; I was also responsible for directing one college tournament.
  • ESP, Teacher (Fall 2019 - Spring 2021) - I have taught classes for a variety of ESP programs, including Firehose, Firestorm, Splash for MIT, Splash, Spark, and Summer HSSP; these have generally been for classes of 20-40 students of middle-, high-school, or college age. These classes have been:
    • Something, Definitely (a survey course of short introductions to a variety of mildly obscure subjects, taught for Spark 2021)
    • Streets! (a class about everything to do with streets, including traffic signs, highway systems, etc., taught for Splash 2020)
    • Did We Start the Fire? History from 1949-1989 as Told by Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire” (a six-session class about every lyric in the song “We Didn’t Start The Fire*, taught for Summer HSSP 2020)
    • A Brief History of in rem Cases in the United States (a class about absurd cases which fall under in rem jurisdiction; e.g. United States v. Forty Barrels & Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola, taught for Splash 2019)
    • Everything You Never Wanted to Know About South Dakota (a class introducing all of the content you might ever need to know about my home state of South Dakota, taught for Splash 2019, Splash for MIT 2020, Firestorm 2020, and Firehose 2021)
  • Next House, GRA Hiring Committee Member (Spring 2021 - Summer 2021) - I helped read applications and interview candidates for Graduate Resident Advisor positions in Next House, providing a student voice in the hiring process.
  • Next House, REX Committee Member (Summer 2021) - I helped plan welcoming activities for students matriculating to MIT as part of Residence Exploration, representing Next House; this included negotiating the first large gatherings of undergraduates following the COVID era.
  • 6.006 / Introduction to Algorithms, Grader (Fall 2021) - I graded student problem sets.
  • 6.0001+2 / Introduction to Computational Thinking and Data Science, LA (Fall 2021) - I staffed office hours, where I helped students think through the process of writing code and solving problems in Python. I also helped test and edit problem sets.
  • Next House, Vice President of Relations (Spring 2021 - Fall 2021) - I assisted the President in running Next House on a day-to-day basis, and was responsible for a variety of tasks relating to the community in the dorm.
  • THINK, Team Member (Fall 2019 - Fall 2021) - I helped judge and run a high school research proposal competition, which funds six proposals each year and mentors them through project completion, including a trip to MIT!
  • lean0nme, Supporter (Fall 2019 - Fall 2021) - I helped run an anonymized text support hotline for the MIT community writ large.
  • Quizbowl, Team Member (Fall 2019 - Fall 2021) - I participated in a number of regional quizbowl tournaments; quizbowl is an activity where college teams compete to answer more questions in all sorts of academic fields.
  • Musical Theater Guild, Pit Violinist (IAP 2022) — I played in the pit for MTG’s production of Pippin.
  • Schwarzman College of Computing, Undergraduate Advisory Group Member (Fall 2021 - Spring 2021) - I helped provide feedback to the leadership of the newly-formed MIT Schwarzman College of Computing as it worked to accomplish its mission of coordinating the use of computing across MIT.
  • Dormitory Council, Judicial Committee Chair (Fall 2021 - Spring 2022) - I interpreted the constitution, ran elections, and generally provided input on decisions made by the Dormitory Council.
  • Next Act, Actor (Spring 2022) - I played Underling in Next Act’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone.
  • CC.802 / Physics II, Grader (Spring 2022) - I graded student problem sets.
  • Next House, Thanksgiving Committee Member (Fall 2019 - Fall 2022) - I helped organize a large (three-turkey) Thanksgiving dinner for all residents of Next House who choose to stay over Thanksgiving break for three years - 2019, 2021, and 2022.
  • Asymptones, Music Director (Spring 2022 - Fall 2022) — I organized arrangements and planned and lead rehearsals for my acapella group.

classes i have taken

Classes at MIT are usually 12 units. All classes below are 12 units unless otherwise noted.

This section is organized many different ways:

by semester, with comments

Classes are 12 units unless otherwise noted.

fall 2022 (49 units)

  • 6.5831[6.814] - Database Systems
  • 6.5900[6.823] - Computer System Architecture
  • 6.9830[6.997] - Professional Perspective Internship (1 unit)
  • 6.UAR - Seminar in Undergraduate Advanced Research (6 units)
  • 21M.405 - Chamber Chorus (6 units)
  • 21W.740 - Writing Autobiography and Biography

dropped:

  • 6.1600[6.053] - Foundations of Computer Security
  • 21M.283 - Musicals

spring 2022 (66 units)

6.033 was okay. It had a very good lecturer and reasonably good content; I liked learning about all of these individual systems and thinking about how they worked based on how they were designed! Katrina LaCurts continually emphasizes that no other school teaches systems thinking quite this way, and I found that the sampling of all of these levels, while revisiting the same themes, was quite interesting. The synergy between the lectures and recitations were also quite clear; we would learn about a subject in class and then immediately follow up with it a more specific example in recitation. Readings were fairly dry and technical, but not exceptionally heavy.

On the other hand, the communication portion of the class was consistently butchered. Recitations were okay in this respect, although occasionally it felt like being taught how to read, especially when papers were essentially just re-summarized. The communication tutorial was essentially worthless, and the design project—the main portion of the class—was hindered by the unintuitive nature of power grids. The specification for that design project was also at best confusing and at worst inconsistent, which was unhelpful. Feedback was also not exactly forthcoming; the communication instructor provided some communication feedback, and the recitation instructor provided some technical feedback, but this occurred once throughout the entire project and didn’t really hone one’s skills.

In summary, as I wrote in my course evaluations, “I learned a lot, and I was able to produce a lot of text, but I am not completely sure that these two things were that related.”

I did not attend lectures for 6.036; I gained some very slight insight into the way that machine learning works from a theoretical aspect, and the textbook was good, but overall it was hard for me to understand what I gained out of the class. The homeworks and labs themselves were pretty interesting, or, at the very least, satisfying to complete, and the grading was mostly fair (although the final was heavily weighted due to a fire alarm during the midterm).

I think the difficulty with this class was that it seemed philosophically muddled. The homeworks and labs seemed interesting, with interesting applications and different architectures, but it didn’t feel like I gained an overall “thinking framework” to approach problems with machine learning. I wrote in my course evaluations: “it seemed like random sets of applications with no real relationship and content that I could probably Google and/or learn on the spot if I ever really needed to use it, or a class about mathematical theory which is not taught deeply enough to actually be remembered well or conceptualized.”

I loved 21W.771. I was so glad to go back to a form I felt good in—poetry—after a semester of desparately trying to force myself to write fiction. My progress was also obvious over the course of the class, going from poetry which I found somewhat poor and with many critiques from the professor and the class at large to poetry that I found dizzying to write and which sourced careful analysis from the professor, which in many ways is the highest form of praise. We read two poetry books as well, which was satisfying, and I have been writing poetry somewhat consistently ever since, which is great. I also have a greater diversity of forms under my belt now as well, which is nice; more prose, more sonnets, and the pantoum, a form I am still struggling to master.

  • 7.05
  • 21M.405
  • 21M.785

dropped:

  • 18.704 - Seminar in Algebra
  • 21M.405 - Vocal Repertoire and Performance (6 units)

fall 2021 (78 units)

I really loved .004. I really liked digging in deep to the fundamentals of how processors and digital computation in general work, and the labs and design project were super interesting and just challenging enough to be engaging without being frustrating. On the other hand, I think I am saying this as someone who may be unusually interested in this specific portion of computer science and engineering.

Logistics-wise, I don’t think this class was the most well-taught in the world; I opted-out of recitations because I thought my TA was not very qualified, and out of the three lecturers, I only found one to be particularly engaging (Mengjia Yan). I also think the heavy weighting on quizzes which don’t really relate to lecture content and don’t really seem too valuable in comparison to the application-based nature of the labs was not a great decision. On the other hand, the grading was fair and also done extremely quickly, which is always appreciated.

6.170, like 6.031, is another one of those classes which promises a lot, and does genuinely introduce students to some valuable ideas, but is hindered significantly by its teaching staff and philosophy. In particular, the class attempts to accomplish three things: teaching students how to be good full-stack developers, teaching students how to be good designers of software, and teaching students how to think about ethics in the context of software. Unfortunately, it fails to strike a good balance between the three, and therefore accomplishes none of its goals particularly well. I did enjoy some of the assignments—we had to essentially build a Twitter clone, which was quite amusing—and I had a particularly good final project team which really kept a good pace throughout the entirety of the back-half of the class, which made that process much more tolerable.

Logistics-wise, I found the professors to be enjoyable lecturers, but found the content presented in lectures to not be particularly useful. (Recitations were also hit or miss; see the discussion of balance above.) I also was consistently frustrated with the choice of having extremely vague grading guidelines, even though grading generally was done quite leniently; I would have much preferred meaningful rubrics and harsh grading. On the other hand, the sheer quantity of grading done by the TAs terrifies me and so perhaps leniency or inconsistency in grading is not such a surprise.

This was my first real biology class at MIT! I really liked this class—it truly presented a sampling of a lot of different aspects of genetics, and I feel like I learned a lot because of it. As someone who is probably not going to end up doing anything related to biology, but is interested in the subject, this was a pleasant introduction. For people who are actually interested in biology, the class was probably marginally too theoretical, and could have benefitted from some more discussion of application. In general, however, I found this class fascinating, because it was a subject that was both relatively applied (compared to say, some of the math classes I’ve been taking) and contained a vast quantity of recent developments and open questions (i.e. it was full of discoveries from within the last 10 years).

Logistics-wise, I found the professors to be enjoyable, especially since they seemed actively passionate about the subject as they were teaching it. I ended up not attending recitations for this class, and didn’t suffer much for it. Grading transparency in the class was low—most of the times for exams, we just got an average and very little information about grade cutoffs—but there was also a lot of noise about grades because of the prevalence of pre-meds in the class, and I didn’t find it particularly egregious. (Besides, the professors provided extremely useful example problems and the pset problems tended to mirror the exam pretty closely anyways.)

I didn’t realize how much I missed writing proofs until I took this class. I found the class conceptually very interesting, and I found a lot of value in the way lectures were taught and the problem sets were structured—the latter especially so, because the problems were never difficult, per se, but required you to thoroughly understand the structure of the concepts at hand. I also benefitted a lot in this class from the fact that my roommate was also taking the class—explaining the ideas back to him really solidified my own understandings of the material. Having this broader understanding of computation writ large, starting from the very basics (i.e. finite automata) and moving all the way up to Turing machines and problem complexity, does feel like it might be somewhat useful in the future as well: maybe not for anything “real”, but at least for 6.046.

Logistics-wise, I thought Sipser was a relatively good lecturer, although the class often disengaged from some of his more rambling lectures. (Additionally, since he wrote the textbook, the comparative advantage of attending lecture was small; the material in the textbook was practically identical to the material presented in class.) I thought the grading was generally fair, and exam grades in particular were returned fairly quickly, although I was not too happy about having 30% of the final as multiple choice.

Concert Choir was good, as always, although I found myself more aware of our flaws this semester. We did the Bach Magnificat, the Stevens “Magnificat,” and Higdon’s The Singing Rooms. I found the repertoire not particularly inspiring, which made the evening rehearsal times a little less tolerable, but I did enjoy the class overall. And, of course, we did Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with MITSO, which was fantastic, and one of the musical highlights of the semester—being on that stage with a lot of 4W friends, performing our hearts out, brought me an immeasurable amount of joy.

If Concert Choir had trained my musical independence over the past three semesters, Chamber Chorus demanded it at another level. Not only did we have a lot of pieces to learn, but we’d learn them by sitting down in class and essentially just sight-singing them until we knew them. This was particularly difficult in a section of just four tenors, and even more difficult when the section split. (I was also tasked with the role of producing higher notes on Tenor I, which was also a little out of my comfort zone.) I loved the repertoire though; I thought all of the music was extremely pleasant and, when we managed to hit the chords correctly, it just sounded fantastic, especially in the chapel. I have never looked forwards to a 9:30 class until this one, and it kept me just on the edge of my comfort zone for the whole semester, from the audition to our holiday performance in Lobby 7.

I was honestly quite tentative going into this class. If Fiction Workshop had taught me anything, it was that I was not good at writing long-form fiction. Despite this, I ended up taking this class anyways, and (quite fortunately) I found that playwriting was much more to my tastes. I really enjoyed the process of producing dialogue, and I also really liked having pages read in class, which made the workshop a lot more engaging. I also found the professor to be extremely kind while also providing extremely insightful comments which did really help improve my work. I did struggle, of course, to actually write the piece, but I’m especially happy with the result, and I’ll keep working on it throughout the coming semester in 21M.785.

Continuing Conversations—or, as I like to call it, Concourse Book Club—continued to be an enjoyable time. Our text this semester was Dante’s Inferno, which was certainly an interesting read, and although at times we disagreed with our editor (Hollander), we also found the translation to be fantastic. This was certainly an easier read than Herodotus, and although I’m still not entirely sure what to make of all of it, I did find both the text and the discussions we had to be enjoyable. (Notably, half of the value of this class is just the random discussions we have at the beginning of class which have nothing to do with the text, and this means the class will probably always be enjoyable as long as the professors stay the same.)

spring 2021 (70 units)

  • 6.031 - Elements of Software Construction (15 units)
  • 21G.784 - Introduction to Latin American Studies (13 units)
  • 21M.301 - Harmony and Counterpoint I
  • 21M.401 - MIT Concert Choir (6 units)
  • 21W.762 - Poetry Workshop
  • CC.512 - Organic Chemistry

fall 2020 (93 units)

  • 6.006 - Introduction to Algorithms
  • 6.009 - Fundamentals of Programming
  • 18.03 - Differential Equations
  • 18.701 - Algebra I
  • 21G.704 - Spanish IV
  • 21M.401 - MIT Concert Choir (6 units)
  • 21W.757 - Fiction Workshop
  • 21W.765 - Interactive Narrative
  • CC.012 - Continuing Conversations (3 units)

spring 2020 (69 units)

  • 6.08 - Embedded Systems
  • 18.100B - Real Analysis
  • 21G.703 - Spanish III
  • 21M.401 - MIT Concert Choir (6 units)
  • 21W.755 - Reading and Writing Short Stories
  • CC.011 - Seminar II (3 units)
  • CC.802 - Physics II

fall 2019 (56 units)

  • 2.UR - Undergraduate Research (3 units)
  • 6.042 - Math for Computer Science
  • 18.022 - Calculus
  • 24.93 - The Search for Meaning (2 units)
  • CC.110 - Becoming Human: Ancient Greek Perspectives on the Good Life
  • CC.5111 - Principles of Chemical Science
  • CC.A10 - Concourse Seminar (3 units)

ASEs and such

  • 6.0001 - Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in Python, from ASE
  • 8.01 - Physics I, from AP Physics C
  • 7.012 - Introductory Biology, from ASE
  • 18.01 - Calculus, from AP Calc BC
  • GEN.APCR - AP Elective Credit, from AP classes in HASS (45 units)

by requirements met

GIR

Calc 1 AP credit
Calc 2 18.022
Chem CC.5111
Physics 1 AP credit
Bio ASE

HASS

+ denotes double-counted. * denotes CI-H.

Humanities CC.110*
Arts 21W.755+
Social Sciences 21G.784+*
Concentration 21G.703
  21G.704
  21G.784+*
Electives 21M.301+
  21M.401+ (x2)

REST/LAB

RESTs 6.042+
  CC.512+
LAB 6.08+

21W

Bold denotes classes currently being taken. Italics denotes classes tentatively scheduled for next semester. * denotes CI-M. + denotes double-counted.

Nine Classes 21W.755+
  21W.765*
  21W.762*
  21M.780
  21M.785*
  21W.771*
  21W.740
  21W.?
  21W.?
CI-M 21W.757*
21W.ThT 21W.ThT
21W.ThU 21W.ThU*

6-3

Italics denotes classes tentatively scheduled for next semester. * denotes CI-M. + denotes double-counted.

Undergraduate
Introductory 6.08+
Programming Skills 6.0001
Discrete Math 6.120+
Foundation see below
6.004 6.004
6.006 6.006
6.009 6.009
Header see below
6.031 6.031
6.033 6.033*
6.034/6.036 6.036
6.045/6.046 6.1220[6.046]
CI-M 6.UAR* / 6.UAR*
AUS2 6.170+
AUS2 6.5830[6.830]
II 6.170+
EECS 18.600 or 6.S983[6.888]
MEng
AAGS 6.5400[6.840]
AAGS 6.5900[6.823]
AAGS  
AAGS  
Math Elective 18.03
Math Elective 18.100B
6.THM  
6.997 6.9830[6.997]

by personal tier-ranking

S 6.004, 6.08, 21M.401, 21M.405, 21M.780, 21M.785, 21W.740, 21W.762, 21W.765, 21W.771, CC.012, CC.512
A 6.009, 6.5830[6.830], 6.5900[6.823], 7.03, 7.05, 18.100B, 18.404, 18.701, 21W.757, CC.110
B 6.006, 6.031, 6.033, 6.036, 6.UAR, 21G.703, 21M.301, 21W.755, CC.5111
C 6.042, 6.170, 18.022, 21G.704, 21G.784, CC.011, CC.802
D 18.03, CC.A10