public service


Not for me.

I’m taking two classes at Harvard this semester: one is an Organic Chemistry II class with lab component (MIT doesn’t offer Organic II in the Spring) and the other is a Neurological Diseases class at Harvard Med. The first class is interesting but Organic Chemistry and I don’t exactly get along…the second is extremely cool and features awesome weekly patient presentations. However, one drawback to taking classes at Harvard is travel time. I need to go back and forth to Harvard’s main campus 4x per week and Longwood 2x per week.

But perhaps the worst feature of this arrangement is that MIT and Harvard’s Spring Breaks didn’t happen to coincide this year. So while I am in dreary Cambridge on this lovely Monday night…

sixteen of my friends are in Cancun. I’m a little heartbroken, but I digress.

Funny story: a few weeks ago MIT’s Camp Kesem coordinators traveled to LA for a national conference.

We had a blast meeting the 20+ other college teams, but perhaps my favorite part of the conference was the very first night. Each school had to prepare a skit for a giant talent show, and we decided to do a parody of what attending Camp Kesem at MIT is like. We pretended that we taught the kids Bernoulli’s equation before they could swim in the lake, weeded out camper applicants based on their 4th-grade GPAs, separated into teams named “the enzymes” and “the substrates” and sang the MIT fight song instead of traditional camp songs. The 200+ crowd roared and cheered at the end, the judges said that it was “too hard to choose a winner but…MIT, you guys were hysterical.” For the rest of the conference, we were repeatedly approached about the hilarity of our skit. We felt like rock stars, and so at our first CK MIT training session back in Cambridge, the coordinators decided to perform our skit for the MIT counselors, anticipating an even better result.

No one laughed.

At first, we were confused and dejected. Then, we realized what had happened. The counselors found Bernoulli’s equation, slide rule quips, enzyme/substrate teams…

entirely normal.    …

I love MIT.

High School Quiz Show, hosted by Lakshminarayanan (center), will present students from 20 schools, including Hingham.

High School Quiz Show, hosted by Lakshminarayanan (center), will feature 20 schools, including Hingham.

Dhaya Lakshminarayanan ’96, ’99, MCP ’99 earned three degrees in urban studies and planning then embarked upon careers including business consultant and stand-up comedian. Now she’s adding a new gig as host of WGBH’s High School Quiz Show, which premieres Monday, March 22.

“As a former smart kid, I have a lot of ‘nerd pride,’” says Lakshminarayanan, a native Tamil-speaker who learned English watching Sesame Street and other PBS shows. “I love that this show celebrates brainy students. There’s already a lot of emphasis on the competitive nature of sports; now smart kids will have their moment. And the approach to High School Quiz Show’s competition is fun, entertaining, and supportive.”

Are you as smart as a high school student? Find out by watching High School Quiz Show on Monday nights, March 22-June 16, at 7:30 p.m. Watch on WGBH 2, on the live stream at http://www.highschoolquizshow.org, or after the broadcast on Comcast On Demand. You can also follow live tweets at @HS_QuizShow and @WGBHboston. On the show site, you can take a quiz to see your own grade level, read about the schools, and check the broadcast schedule.

Share

Patrick Henry Winston 65, SM 67, PhD 70

Earthquake destruction in Haiti.

Damage in Haiti.

I experienced an earthquake once, high up in a Tokyo hotel. It scared me—really, really scared me—but the next morning, when I expected everyone to be talking about the earthquake, I heard not a word. Frightening as it was to me, the magnitude was too small be a topic worth raising.

So I should have thought more about the horror of Tuesday, 12 January 2010, when a real earthquake, magnitude 7.0, hit near Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Then, less than two months later, 27 February 2010, a magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit near Concepcion, Chile,

It becomes terrifyingly real when you realize you have colleagues and students from those places, and you learn you can’t be from there without having lost somebody.

My good friend and colleague, Michel DeGraff is from Haiti. My good friend and student, Daniel Rosenberg, is from Chile. So I sent a little money to MIT sites set up for Haitian and Chilean donations. I sent small amounts, but I know about superposition, and I know a lot of small amounts can make a big pile.

Michel has just returned from Haiti. He has several suggestions for donations. Daniel suggests you give via a site set up by MIT and Harvard students that takes you to site set up by MIT for helping Chile.

Or ask one of your friends where they think your donation can do the most good.

Share

Women have always been a minority at MIT, albeit a growing one, and a new student group, Graduate Women at MIT, seeks to support the personal development, individual growth, and empowerment of all graduate women while enhancing connections among existing women’s services. In 2009, 31% of grad students were female (compared to 45% of undergrads), a number that has increased 55% in the past 15 years. GWAMIT founder Kay Furman wanted to ensure that valuable resources were not underutilized by this growing population and that their needs were addressed Institute-wide.

At the kick-off dinner, sponsored by the MIT police, Sergeant Cheryl Vossmer and Captain Al Pierce spoke on the role of MIT police on campus and legal issues in domestic violence cases.

At the internal kick-off dinner, sponsored by the MIT police, Sergeant Cheryl Vossmer and Captain Al Pierce spoke on the role of MIT police on campus and legal issues in domestic violence cases.

GWAMIT will host a spring kick-off week April 26-30 (coinciding with Sexual Assault Awareness Week) that will include a keynote speaker, negotiation and invention workshops, panel on work-life balance, and more.

Here’s where you can help. The group is currently seeking collaborators, sponsors, and panelists for the week as well as other programs in the works. Are you a successful alumna? Have you studied women’s issues or workplace interactions? Could you lead a workshop on a particular skill set (i.e. leadership, negotiation, etc.)? Contact GWAMIT.

GWAMIT’s upcoming plans for the 2010-11 school year include a mentoring program, fall leadership conference, and spring empowerment conference. Check out the Web site to learn more (some events will be open to all alumni), join the student and alumni membership list, and support GWAMIT.

Some 20 women, representing various schools and departments, attended GWAMIT's internal kick-off dinner. Front row, from right: executive board members Megan Brewster, Kay Furman, and Jean Yang.

Some 20 women, representing various schools and departments, attended GWAMIT's internal kick-off dinner. Front row, from right: executive board members Megan Brewster, Kay Furman, and Jean Yang.

Contestants work a physics problem at the 2008 challenge

Contestants work a physics problem at the 2008 challenge.

Are there just not enough cocktail parties in the world for all the trivia floating around in your head? Don’t let it stagnate, waiting for Jeopardy auditions to circle back to your town or squander it on pub quiz nights. Offer up some of your best science-related gems to the Science Trivia Challenge, an annual competition organized by the MIT Club of Boston for the Cambridge Science Festival. The event will be held April 28, 2010, on campus. Trivia suppliers, however, cannot participate in the event as contestants.

Trivia facts should be geared toward a general audience (no PhDs required) in one of two divisions: Youth (for middle- and high-school students) and Open (for those with introductory college-level science knowledge). Any scientific discipline and topic is fair game, including (but not limited to) biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, astronomy, computer science, earth sciences, inventions, technology, medicine, history of science, and local contributions to science. Questions can be multiple choice, short answer, or matching.

View sample questions from past events then learn more about the requirements and submit your trivia.

Share

Findings from the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index

Findings from the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index. Teachers rank highest, followed by doctors, scientists, military personnel, engineers, and politicians.

If you had to choose, which profession would you say contributes most to society’s well-being? According to the recent Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, an annual survey that gauges kids’ perceptions about invention and innovation, teens rate teachers highest, followed by doctors (see graphic). Less than one-fifth of respondents viewed scientists as having the highest impact on society and only 5 percent chose engineers.

One reason might be because students simply aren’t aware what professionals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) do and don’t have suitable role models. But the good news is that teens are excited to learn. Indeed, 77 percent were interested in pursuing a STEM career, and 85 percent wish they knew more about STEM in order to create or invent something. The most effective way to engage them is through hands-on activities with enthusiastic mentors and teachers. Passion seems to be essential. More than half of respondents (55 percent) would be more interested in STEM simply by having teachers who enjoy the subjects they teach.

The most inspiring training grounds, teens indicated, were field trips to view STEM in action and places outside the classroom where they can build things and conduct experiments (53 percent).

Learn more about the Invention Index’s findings and how you can mentor students in STEM subjects.

Kendra Johnson with residents of Santa Ana.

Kendra Johnson with residents of Santa Ana.

Guest blogger: Kendra Johnson ’09

As a Public Service Fellow, Kendra Johnson ’09 undertook a big project—establishing family-size rainwater collection systems in indigenous communities in the rain forest of Ecuador. Today she’s a medical student in San Francisco but she recently revisited the area to check on progress at the original village and nearby sites where MIT students and local residents are installing the system.

Here’s an excerpt from Johnson’s blog about her recent trip back to Ecuador:

“The community water system is still working. It is not textbook perfect, but they know about the problems and how to solve them, and that means my role is to step back and let Santa Ana handle these challenges for themselves….

“We also repeated a house to house health survey and found that the reported number of times a child had diarrhea in a year dropped from an average of 6.9 to 1.9 times per year from before our intervention, which is quite promising….”

“The most exciting part of all is that the new mayor has made water her top priority for the next 5 years. Two communities have asked for Santa Ana’s help to apply to her for funding for the tanks, and they have both gotten tanks and are working with Santa Ana’s water technical team to do the installations. How amazing is that?”

Johnson’s blog, such stuff as dreams are made of, documents the water project,  Sachu Yaku; her semester in Cuba; and her new life in medical school. Or you can read only the Sachu Yaku posts that describe the early stages of the project.

Interested? The Public Service Center is looking for MIT students to continue the project this summer.

Next Page »