2nd year of PhD is starting

Wow, and in a flash, 1 year has gone by. 2 years since I joined the lab, 1 year since I joined MIT’s BE program.

A few things ran through my head today, as I passed through the motions of a relatively light day in the lab (just a bunch of transformations).

First off, I saw the namelist for the incoming BE class, and the peer mentors assigned. This year, I passed up the opportunity to be a peer mentor to the incoming class, as I felt the need to focus more on research – getting the three colour circuits characterized better – and to provide myself with time for a hectic TA assignment during the months of October and November. (I might even have to skip lab meetings for those two months.) When I’m through 2nd year, however, I will definitely make time to be a peer mentor for the incoming class in 2013. Having received the privilege to study at MIT, I know I will be able to give back to the department (yes, I see being a peer mentor as service to the department, which all of us ought to be doing), but I have a strong gut feeling that this year isn’t the year.

Secondly, about the TA-ing this October and November. I went through TA briefing on Monday (just for the lab class, not the BE-wide or Engineering-wide training). It sounds like the class will be a lot of fun! I’m looking forward to a great time with the kids in this year’s lab class, and I think I will have much to learn from Natalie, Shannon and Agi about effective teaching.

Thirdly, about research – debugging and troubleshooting takes time, especially when I have to order oligos to do it. Many a time, I wish IDT could be faster on the east coast. We had effectively next-day service back at UCSF, as long as we ordered the oligos by 7PM (if I remember correctly). Order them by 7 PM on day 1, get them by 12 PM on day 2. Here, we have to order them 2 days in advance – order them by 9:30 PM on day 1, get them by 2 or 3 PM on day 3. While I’ve become better and better at planning around this delay, things could cycle through so much faster if we could have the same service levels here as we did back at UCSF.

I also have to assemble my committee. Chris’ suggestions were Kristala Prather and Eric Alm; I will probably approach them when school starts. I still need some time to formulate into clearly written words the central thesis idea, which probably means a few drafts. And of course, there’s the daily paper read (which I’ve skipped out on today, in exchange for coming home early for dinner, but will make sure I get done over coffee tomorrow).

Speaking of reading papers, I’m now experimenting with a different method of reading. Previously, I sometimes knew why I was reading a paper, and at other times, I didn’t. The times I didn’t know why I was reading a paper were the times I ended up dozing off instead of reading it. So now, I have set the goal of reading “something” (related to synbio, of course) every day, for the purpose of learning something new. And I will write a summary, in however many words I need, of the paper. I’m not sure how this experiment will go, but I’m hoping it will turn out well.

Alrighty, that’s it for now. Got a good long day of work ahead tomorrow, so I should probably end the post here.