It’s been somewhat of a slow start for me at MIT. My professor was out of town on Monday and Tuesday, and the two postdocs with whom I’ll also be working on this project are both away at a conference until next week, so I was at first left alone with papers to read and computer tutorials to watch. They were interesting papers and useful tutorials, but I’ll be glad when I have a full panel of people to whom I can ask questions. There are actually very few people around right now on my floor of the Green Building, the building where the Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science department is located, so it's a lot quiet and a little creepy.
Assignment #1: What I would like to accomplish this summer
1. Be able to communicate with other professionals - I want to be able to understand the geoscience jargon well enough that I can adequately express what I am trying to accomplish to professors, grad students, postdocs, and more, as well as to be able to adequately understand what their research is about when they tell me. This skill is particularly vital in making connections with other researchers and other institutions, which will be favorable to me as I begin to explore options for graduate school. This is something on which I can improve throughout the summer and throughout my future, but I will be able to keep track of my progress along the way by evaluating my interactions with my group, members of other groups around me, and other researchers at conferences like AGU.
2. Be able to communicate with anyone - I want to be able to explain my project simply and clearly enough that non-geoscientists can understand, too. I want to tell everyone about this project, from my physics professors to my middle-school-aged cousins, and I need to find the right words to do it. I have a good start at this one, as I am already experienced in explaining my job at a condensed matter physics lab at UNL to the people around me. My ability to explain my project will improve as I learn more about it myself throughout the summer, following one of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
3. Get the hang of MATLAB, Git, and more - I will be using computers in ways fairly new to me, and I would like to reduce my dependence on help from people and manuals as much as possible. I recognize how powerful these computer skills are, so I know it is in my best interest to have them on my side. I would like to be able to work more independently by one-third of the way through the summer, so that I will not be wasting the postdocs’ time with continuous questioning. By the end of the second third of the summer, I want to reduce my dependence on online help, so that I can increase my own productivity.
4. Get the hang of reading the literature - The papers which I have started reading here are quite different from the condensed matter physics papers I read at the lab in which I work at UNL. It will take a lot time and effort, reading and re-reading, to understand the material in the papers and to learn the best ways to get the most out of them. By one-third of the way through the summer, I want to be able to explain the papers I already have, and be able to get the basic gist of any new papers I get after only a couple of read-throughs.
5. Ask at least one good question every day - I think this will be exceptionally helpful throughout the summer, and it is also just a good rule to live by.
6. Go to the New England Aquarium sometime - What can I say? I just really love aquariums. Seriously, though, work-life balance will be important this summer, because I want to get a lot accomplished, but remain a happy, functioning human being while doing so. Some of my ideas for fun include getting a library card and reading sci-fi, listening to the Boston Pops play on Independence Day, seeing if some of my friends that go to college in the area are around to hang out, taking in some of the local history, and more.
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