Friday, October 31, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fall in Cambridge not like fall back in Minnesota where my childhood was spent raking leaves into piles and jumping in them...only going inside when mom MADE us come in. Then we'd drink hot cocoa and watch Gopher football and Eric and I would drowsily pass out on the couch, completely tuckered out from a long day of leaf-pile jumping.

It's not like the fall at Wesleyan, either. Watching the trees change every day as I walked to class was pretty much my favorite thing to do:

Fall in Cambridge is more subdued...there just aren't enough trees to see the change of colors like I did just walking through my backyard at home. The sky is an alarming shade of blue some days - it always seemed more cloudy in Bloomington or home.

I want a day to rake leaves all morning, and then get cozy with a good book and some fresh apple cider...sigh. Someday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Biomolecular Kinetics

Little did I know that I would be taking several foreign languages here at MIT....and this class has them all smushed into one big garbled mess. The professors are teaching in Latin, my TAs speak Finnish, my problem sets are all in Chinese, the textbook is in a combination of cuneiform and middle English, the programming is in Math, but the help files are Esperanto, and I have to turn in my assignments in regular English (although, this is engineering English, which does have subtle variations). Thank goodness that there is at least one person who can translate each respective language for me in this class...otherwise I think I'd be a goner.

Don't get me wrong--I can see why this class is important, and I can see that after this class I'll be thankful for what I've learned and what I have accomplished. But right now? My feelings can be summed up as seriously overwhelmed, with a chance of hope that I'll make it out brain cells intact.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


One of the questions I often receive here is, "So - what do you do exactly? What is this bioengineering thing all about?"

Here's what MIT has to say on the matter:

"The goal of this biological engineering discipline is to advance fundamental understanding of how biological systems operate and to develop effective biology-based technologies for applications across a wide spectrum of societal needs including breakthroughs in diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, in design of novel materials, devices, and processes, and in enhancing environmental health."

In English, this means that bioengineering uses engineering principles (physics, chemistry, math) to better study and fix biological problems. These can range from:

-building better ways to study isolated liver tissue in order to assess toxicology before bringing out possibly dangerous drugs into clinical trials

-hacking the immune system in order to force antigen response to cancerous tumors

-using engineered viruses to bind inorganic materials in order to "build" batteries without toxic chemicals

Click here to watch a video delivered by Doug Lauffenburger, the head of the bioengineering program here at MIT. It's a great introduction to a particular facet of engineering.

This is an interview with Linda Griffith, the professor I worked for this past summer. The stuff that this department does just blows my mind...

If you are interested in viewing other Open Course Ware materials, click here for the youtube site. The great minds of MIT are being videotaped, and if you want to be astounded and amazed - this will do it. Forget David Blaine...this is the real deal.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Is a $40,000 wedding green?

At the ripe old age of 22, I am starting to attend the weddings of my peers. It's scary. But that is another while on Google reader, I came upon an article about Clay Hill Farm and a special contest they are having:

A $40,000 wedding. Let me type that again...forty THOUSAND dollars.

“The Green Wedding Giveaway will be a daytime wedding ceremony and reception at Clay Hill Farm on June21, 2009, the summer solstice. Rehearsal dinner, ceremony, catered reception, Hand-painted watercolor invitations, flowers, photography, DJ services, live cocktail music, cake, hybrid bridal transportation, spa services, organic beverages, tuxedo rentals, wedding-night suite and honeymoon week.”

Now, the definition of what is "green" varies widely, and people enter this spectrum at many different places, adapting their lifestyle accordingly. But when I think of what it really means to "be green" is a commitment to conscious consumption of what you need. Therein lies the rub: do you need a wedding? What are the boundary conditions and requirements for this important time in the lives of two people, and their families/friends? (edit: gag me...I just used programming terminology from my engineering class in a blog post. What is my world coming to??)

I don't think I could say no to a wedding. And I don't think a wedding I have could be completely green, anyway (anyone met my father? yeah...). But, I hazard a bet that a non-green wedding that costs $5000 will be a whole lot less wasteful that a green wedding that costs $40,000.

So...what do you do? I am at a loss. The best thing I can think of is to really think about what you both want out of a ceremony and party, and how best to interpret that in a meaningful way.

Thankfully, I have quite some time to think on it...