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MIT school is hard: September 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — morgangoestoboston @ 2:09 am

So, business is ramping up here.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised–and I’m not–and I went into this with the mindset that it was probably going to be a lot harder than I thought it would be.

And it is.

But having that different mindset, I guess, is really helpful: instead of getting indignant that I can’t watch four hours of Netflix while stuffing my face with stove-top popped corn with cheese sprinkles on it (thanks for the heads up, David L.), I just actually do work.

It typically is the kind of work that makes me sweat beneath my armpits: cold-calling people for interviews, and interviewing them face-to-face.  Scary!  Really!  Sweat-inducing!  Here’s a brief run-down of what the program has had us write so far:

1. Instant interview, wherein we have two days to find someone interesting and uh interview them;

2. The assignment called something cutesy now; used to be called Flailing Around, which I like much better and thus have forgotten the actual name; it entails writing a reaction to a reading.  I cheated and wrote a nonfiction piece about why I like rocks, since it didn’t have to be about anything science-y and would likely be the only “easy” thing I write this year;

3. An assignment called “Front of the Book”–which is in progress–wherein we read the original science article (about astrophysics, mine is!  Ha!  Fish outta water, here.) and a few press releases about the discovery revealed in the original science article.  Then we have to write a 250 word piece about the phenomenon, including a quote from an expert.  An example of some of the language from the astronomy article?  “New structures discovered in our survey include a radial overdensity along the northwest minor axis extending nearly 100 kpc from M31, a diffuse structure to the southwest coherent over an arc spanning…” and you understand the dilemma.  But!  This is why scientists exist: to explain hard science to youse and meese.  Wight?

4.  Three pitches for news stories, which, until the final hour, we were all under the assumption that they had to be researched fully–ie, an interview with an expert for each pitch.  So I cold-called 3 people and awkwardly interviewed them while hunched over a borrowed digital recorder alternating between whaaat I’m really DOING this and sweating profusely.  As you can see, neither of those alternatives was exactly helpful.  But–I did complete the assignment, and we talk about the pitches tomorrow in class.

Through all this, I have:

1.  Interviewed a grad student who invented a prosthetic arm solely for fly fishing;

2.  Talked with a man who heavily involved with one of the first offshore wind farms in the US;

3.  Spoke with a researcher who deals with natural light in buildings–for this article, how natural light helps hospital patients recover quicker and require less medication;

4.  Interviewed a grad student about her thesis and eventual dissertation in HARNESSING ENERGY FROM ROGUE WAVES!  SERIOUSLY!

5.  And will speak with an astrophysicist!  Whaat.

Each interview I conduct gets easier, though each interview I conduct also shows me how much more legwork I should be doing every time I’m on the phone or sitting with someone.  It’s really tough and actually pretty tiring, but interesting…and fun?  Perhaps.  Ask me again in November.

Right.  BORING.  On to more fun things.  SPOILER ALERT!  Faeries ahead!  Business cards!  COFFEE MAKERS!

So in keeping with the complaining/airing nature of the post already, I just thought I’d post a few pictures demonstrating academic life [my academic life, anyways] at MIT.  You’ll have to forgive the random nature of the pictures–until I get better at regularly taking pictures (for example, I STILL haven’t gotten pictures of our conference room [really pretty] or our student lounge [really…pretty.]), you’ll have to learn to live what I give you.  I’m sure you’ll understand.  Ahem.



This is the stack of reading I had from the first week and a half of school.  Yes, that’s about a ream and a half of paper.  Yes, most of that is energy policy.  Yes, most of those print-outs are from a CLASS ON SUSTAINABLE ENERGY.  Yes, in the future, I probably will be slogging through the articles on my computer screen (though I’ve worked out a system of knitting and reading that works pretty well.  I’ve only had to rip out my sweater about 4 times, so yeah.  Easy peasy) so as not to feel like such a dickhead.  Excuse me, Mom.


This is apparently how MIT does literature.  Specifically, The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser, right, Wader?  I like how it all looks like some weird heat transfer equation.  (Note: Rob, I do not know whether this actually DOES look like a heat transfer equation…”heat transfer equation” is the best math-y math term I know.  It totally sounded good.)


I have arrived.  Mom and Dad, you’ll be getting one of these in the mail.  Between now and then, I just imagine you smiling at me like the smiley face is smiling at the card.  I can almost feel the familial warmth.

And finally, so MIT has a bunch of money?  Because they charge 40,000 a year for tuition [do not worry: I am not paying for this.  For much of it, anyways.  Because they realize science writers will not go on to careers in nuclear engineering.]?  And so instead of paying for coffee, we have this:


Eat your heart out, Cory Oldsmallout.


12 Responses to “MIT school is hard:”

  1. Mary Says:

    Ahhhh Morgan, I hate science so much! You have reminded me of this. But you’ve also reminded me that I miss journalism school. Story assignments are fun. It’s nice to be able to write about whatever you want (sort of) without the pressure of whether or not someone will publish it. Speaking of which, I highly recommend you submit your finished assignments to magazines and journals as soon as you get them back from your instructor. I get one of my stories as a student published in City Pages! Anything is possible.

    • morgangoestoboston Says:

      baha! Thanks for the suggestion–I’m really bad on sending stuff out… And this just reminds me that I should be looking at local papers, etc…

    • morgangoestoboston Says:

      oh BTW: I was telling my science writing program friends that my friend was the editor of Minnesota Bride…they were suitably impressed :).

  2. Frederick Crane Says:

    “But she’s so nice…”

    Honestly, I’m glad I stumbled onto this…We just thought you were working out in your room and a little lax on the hygiene front. Now that we know it’s in the pursuit of higher learning and scientific dissemination that you perspire, it all seems the more palatable.

    Go Gettum.


  3. Maryhope-ful for Morgan Says:

    So I’m reading along thinking “well Morgan shouldn’t have to look at any boring science! I can hook her up with cool psychology science!” (say wha? getting into a fight with your boyfriend makes your wounds heal slower?!) But then I read on and it was clear that the science you’re writing about is WAY cooler than anything I was thinking of. Rogue waves?! Fishing arms?! Wind?!

    Still, if you ever need to be hooked up with a social psychologist. . .

    Also, we really need to talk science journalism one of these days. . .

  4. Robby Says:

    Come on, Morgan. That looks NOTHING like Heat Transfer. It might very subtly resemble Thermodynamics, but that would be a major stretch.

    Btw, good work on all the connections you are making. It’s comforting knowing that if I ever lose my right arm in a freak fly-fishing accident, I know a chick that knows a dude that can hook a guy up.

    Sarcasm aside, keep up the hard work.

  5. Blake Says:

    Re: the second number three: If it helps any, my friends and I used to drink a lot of Natural Light in the Pinery. Sooo, if you need any help with this topic, we are a veritable fountain of information.

  6. Molly Says:

    I think the reading last night was a rogue wave.

    I’m so giggling and snorting over here and my husband wants to know why so I say I am reading an MIT blog. Gotta love those MIT blogs.

    I like that the asterisk makes Hell so eye-catching, as does the yellow of the smiley-face. They make so much sense together.


  7. Laura Says:

    Long, long ago I used to copy-edit (do I need a hyphen there? I tend to overuse them — see what this job did to me?) a scientific journal, all about astronomy, physics, and astrophysics. It was like, how do I know where the commas go? I have no idea what this sentence means. This post reminds me of how smart you are to be writing about this stuff and turning it into pretty, accessible prose. Go Morgan…

  8. Holly Says:

    Ack, Morgan, just READING about your reading makes my armpits sweaty.

    Also, I covet that espresso machine. Ahem.

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