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Profiles and Blog Posts By Course

Here is some advice from other students by Course in which they major.

Course 1

Becca H. ‘12

“After spending the past few semesters in classes like 1.050, 1.035 and 1.036 learning the fundamentals of structural design, this is a chance to build a structure and test it. Even though I will likely have very little to do with structural engineering in the future (I am heading into a little sub-field of civil engineering known as transportation), it has been a lot of fun to see our design come to fruition. When I was younger, I wanted to be a bridge engineer and spent much of my childhood building and testing bridges in my basement.”

Course 2

Marie Elimbi Moudio ‘16

“Mechanical engineering attracted me because it gave me the flexibility to delve into a range of things — mechanics, materials, fluid and thermal sciences, and so on. This is liberal arts. It’s a multidisciplinary field that mixes a ton of things.”

Natzem Lima ‘16

“There are so many incredible opportunities at MIT, each one with very distinct rewards. To try to narrow this huge realm of opportunity, I took myself back to my days as a kid and thought about the interests that I had then, because to me those were more pure and genuine thoughts.”

Cara Lai ‘16

“The body is in many ways a machine; it experiences wear and tear, has complex systems coupled together in specific interactions, and occasionally needs parts replaced. But, in very obvious ways humans are not machines, and that’s where the humanities come in. The study of literature is about the experience of being human, and that’s inseparable from the practice of medicine.”

Read other Course 2 profiles.

Course 2A

Melis A. ‘08

“My reasoning was that the full Course 2 degree program has a pretty defined structure with many required classes. I wanted to learn about material properties, control systems, robotics, manufacturing, and thermodynamics, but I also wanted to have time to take my pre-med requirements (see my previous pre-med entry) and explore other classes. To get the flexibility that I wanted (and needed), I enrolled in the 2-A program. This enabled me to take the 9-10 core Mechanical Engineering classes, while taking 6-7 classes in my self-defined concentration.”

Laura N. ‘09

“I’m 2A-CIR. Now, what in the hell does that mean? First of all, it means that I chose 2A, the “flexible” version of mechanical engineering. Second of all, it means I chose to concentrate in “CIR,” or “controls, instrumentation, and robotics,” which is one of the primary research departments of MIT’s MechE Department.”

Course 3

Rachel D. ‘16  (Vlog!)

“When I applied to MIT I thought I was going to be a business major…”

Tiffany Yeh ‘17 (Academic Relations Liaison at Novartis Institutes)

“I really admired engineers. I just thought that they were really cool because they think outside of the box, and they can create a solution to most any problem that they see. I wanted to be like that. I decided to come to MIT because it was the best place to do engineering, and I eventually settled on materials science, because I felt like it was really applicable to all sorts of fields, including medicine.”

Course 4

Jenny X. ’13 (also check out “Fact: Architecture majors have to code

“I’ve been debating my path on the architecture career for quite some time now. But it has taken a long time for me to admit that, because at MIT, the work really does never stop. As new projects piled up in my face, I was of course excited – out of novelty, curiosity…but was it a relentless and humble excitement, a mobilizing force that will propel me to want to learn more for the years and years to come?”

Course 6

Joonho K. ’20

“Course 6-3 is ‘mostly Python’ before something like 6.031, which means that if you need to learn other languages (to be more employable, to do non-Python projects, do web development) you need to learn a lot of things on your own. I came into MIT with not a lot of programming experience (Course 18 was more my thing). I knew some basic Java and that was about it. Since then, I’ve gotten to be fairly proficient with Python, but not much else. Arguably, this is a bad thing, since you’re limiting yourself to one language. But after thinking about it, I think exclusively working in Python for almost two years wasn’t so bad after all. The exclusivity let me really get into Python and understand a lot about how it works, and how programming languages worked in general.”

Alexandra Eyerman ’16 (Senior Security Analyst at Accenture)

“I was really unsure what major I wanted to be when I first got here. I thought that everything looked really cool and interesting. What helped me first to narrow it down was classes; I found out that I really didn’t like physics all that much, and that I liked biology. So that narrowed it down, for me, to courses 20, 10B, 7, or 9. I actually wasn’t really thinking about 6/7 until I took the Python class over IAP. I’d actually never done any programming before I took that class, and I found out that I really liked coding. In order to combine that best with biology, I started looking at 6/7. Since I still had a lot of majors to choose from, I talked with upperclassmen and figured out what the other courses were like. I talked with an upperclassman about course 20, for example, and she told me about the classes she took and the classes she was taking – and a lot of the classes she told me about were not all that interesting to me. I didn’t want to spend most of my time here being in classes that I didn’t enjoy, so I decided that course 20 was not the way to go for me. Similar experiences led me to rule out 10B and 9, as well. That left me down to two different majors: 6/7 or 7. I decided that I wanted to try something different, so I declared 6/7. I went to some of the biology major panels and asked someone who recently switched to 6/7 why he did. For me, it was all about talking to upperclassmen about their majors and learning from their experiences to figure out what I really liked and how that aligned with my goals.”

Course 7

Camilo Espinosa SB ’18

“Even though I was primarily interested in biology, I still wanted diversity in terms of the academic subjects and the people around me. But it became clear that MIT really encourages you to step outside your major. Every undergrad has to complete a Humanities, Arts, or Social Sciences concentration, and I chose philosophy. Those classes have become a staple of my undergrad experience, and allowed me to keep in touch with my love for writing while still focusing on my science.”

Emily Havens Greenhagen SB ’05 (Head of Deployment, Ginkgo Bioworks)

“I couldn’t stop reading my textbook. I was so excited by the idea that there are living organisms that we can modify to use as tools. That’s when I decided to become a scientist.”’

Read other Course 7 profiles.

Course 8

Anna H. ’14

“Here’s what happened. I went to a Physics faculty dinner a few weeks ago, and pulled up a chair next to the Associate Head of the department, Krishna Rajagopal. I babbled about my major choice dilemma: about how I wanted to help people, particularly by addressing issues in cognitive science, but that I loved physics, and always had. I was a big fan of the physicist problem-solving approach.”

Yan Z. ’12

“ I was born in Beijing and have lived in Pasadena, St. Louis, and Irvine (5 weeks only), but home will always be whatever pops up when I open Firefox. Right now, I’m planning to major in mechanical or electrical engineering with a minor in musical composition, but check again in 3 hours.”

Lulu L. ’09

“Undergraduate years, it’s all about building up. IAP freshman year I had no clue what I was doing but somehow I found myself working on Artificial Gravity at the Man-Vehicle Laboratory. Back then, I still wanted to be a Course 16 (Aero-Astro) major. Not much came of it, of course, since besides 8.012, I didn’t know much. But it was definitely good experience, and as you will find, early UROPs serve primarily as stepping stones onto internships, other UROPs, more independent work, more interaction with the research team, more contribution on your part…”

Course 9

Jessie L. ‘07

“I worked in a joint Brain & Cognitive Science/Nuclear Engineering lab that was developing novel functional imaging methods. I put together equipment to train rats for the tasks that the functional imaging methods were testing (and trained the rats), ran MATLAB code, built electrodes for rat brains, performed the surgery to put the electrodes in, and did statistical analysis/number-crunching.”

Course 10

Juan Jaramillo ‘16 (Associate Scientist at Lyndra)

‘“I think that chemistry is one of the most beautiful sciences because it’s the one that interacts with your senses the most,” he explains. However, Jaramillo decided that he would be able to help the greatest number of people in the most meaningful way by pursuing chemistry within the context of engineering.’’

Molly Tracy ‘16 (Improvement Project Lead at Keolis Commuter Services)

“When first arriving at MIT, I was unsure between 5 and 10. All I knew was I loved chemistry in high school and wanted to do more of it. I asked as many upperclassmen as I could about chemistry vs. chemical engineering, and that really helped me to differentiate between the two majors (upperclassmen are a great source of information!). I took 5.112 and then 5.12 in my freshman year, so I really only had chemistry classes before declaring my major. However, my internship over the summer after my freshman year had me working with both chemists and chemical engineers. I ended up choosing chemical engineering because I also enjoy problem solving and optimization. Also, as someone who isn’t quite sure of what they want to do after graduation, chemical engineering was a great option because of its enormous versatility. Now as a sophomore, I am taking more engineering-focused classes. It’s certainly a different feel than pure chemistry, but chemistry knowledge is still applied, and the material is very interesting to me.”

Read Other Course 10 Profiles.

Course 11

Natasha B. ’16 (plus a few others) 

“Course 11 is a small major with a lot of breadth. It is cross-disciplinary, flexible, and engaged with the larger world in ways many other departments are not. For the curious: “DUSP EXPLORER is an online, interactive visualization of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies & Planning. Here you can find information about our current faculty, where we work, and how our projects intersect with each other and connect with the central themes of urban planning and design.” For the still-curious, scroll on. These are a few of my friends in DUSP, and their stories about getting here.”

Course 12

Alexandra Jordon ‘11

“As an EAPS—and particularly a geology—student, I was part of a tight-knit community. Unlike many other majors, I knew every EAPS undergraduate and nearly all the professors and grad students. This made the Green Building feel like home and the department feel like family. It also made many of our field research trips incredibly successful, because even though you were working, the work was fun because it was with your friends.”

Read Other Course 12 Profiles

Course 14

Spencer Pantoja ’20

“While one of my favorite things about economics is how varied it is, I do find myself drawn to the micro theory side. In particular, I love learning about systems of people, from how individuals make decisions, to how organizations make decisions, and all the way to how it translates into a market with game theoretic strategy structures. So when you go to Verdes at 2 am, I can talk about why Verdes is placed where it is with the times it’s open, how it chooses its prices, why you seem to face no costs in using your credit card to buy that Arizona tea, why that tea is pre-labeled with “99¢”, what type of person chooses to work at Verdes, and why you are up at 2am doing a PSET when you could’ve not procrastinated it during the day.”

Michelle G. ’18

“You could ask a different Course 14 person and easily get a different perspective on it depending on their individual interests and plans. Based on my own experience, though, I think you should consider studying economics if you’re curious about people and human society, but prefer an analytical, mathematical style of reasoning that isn’t provided by the humanities.”

Jacob London ‘18

Currently, Associate for Food and Water, Ceres, Inc.

“Before coming to MIT, I was interested in government and public policy. I knew that political science and economics would allow me to further explore these interests. Throughout my freshman year, I was wary of the fact that GIRs wouldn’t directly contribute to my knowledge of public policy. However, I still found that these classes were valuable because I became much more comfortable solving quantitative problems. After taking classes in political science and economics, I found that economics was better suited to my interests … and was more geared towards the analysis of public policy.”

Course 15

Andrea Gutierrez Marty

“As a freshman I only ever thought of declaring an engineering major. I didn’t even consider any other major, because Hey, this is MIT, why would I choose anything else? I began my sophomore year as course 10. The intro class, 10.10, was extremely difficult for me which wasn’t the issue, the problem was that I found the material to be boring. My peers in the class loved the subject and thrived while I fell behind and eventually had to drop the class. I was still determined to be an engineering major. I momentarily declared course 3, but as I explored options with my advisor and took on a UROP, I realized, I really didn’t want to pursue this either. I spent the summer in Boston and literally became best friends with one of the career counselors and S3 deans. Every week I would go in and talk about my skills, interests, and passions. It’s never easy thinking about what you want out of life, and at 19 years old, its actually pretty scary. Eventually, the career counselor helped me realize that what I wanted out of those engineering majors was somewhere along the lines of project management. I went through the course 15 website and looked through the OCW pages of all required courses. I was so excited to find topics that interested me in marketing, consumer products, and data analysis. The way classes were taught through group discussion and participation, cases and write ups, group work, and slightly longer lectures to allow for all this. This is what I had imagined my college experience to be more like and what I was missing from the classes I had taken so far. My junior fall, I made the switch to course 15 and never looked back. I have loved and succeeded in my course 15 classes ever since. Sure, I get the occasional remarks from my peers on how my “easy” my life must be. I just tell them they found what they like to do and I found my thing. Just because its different, doesn’t mean I don’t work as hard, the material isn’t as difficult, or that the major isn’t as legit. All majors at MIT require hard work, dedication, and passion to succeed. All you have to do is find out what excites you.”

Course 16

Allan K. ’17

“Here’s what I knew, graduating from high school:

  1. I wanted to build things, and enjoyed building things.
  2. I was not very good at building things (remember, this is a kid who didn’t know what an Allen key was or how to solder exactly one year ago).
  3.  I had a budding four-year-old fascination with astrophysics, astronomy, and stargazing, starting from freshman year, because I was also a flourishing high-school poet (with all the associated stereotypes) who found space poetic and romantic. (Semirelated: those interested in theology might ask me about how astronomy influenced and affirmed my understanding of God.)
  4.  AP English Literature was my favorite class senior year. Journalism III was a very close second.
  5. I was not an ambitious person. The only thing I ever really wanted from my life was a family, kids, and maybe a dog ironically named Kitty.
  6.  If I wanted to, I was in a good position to pursue pretty much any engineering career I wanted.
  7.  I liked challenges.

So when my turn came to introduce myself and share my reasons for choosing Course 16, I gave everyone the short version: “I thought I was going to be an astrophysicist until I realized I liked building things a lot more than I liked physics.”

Course 17

Yuliya K. ’18

“I became a Course 17 — Political Science major less than a year after I swore I’d be a Course 18 – Mathematics major. I didn’t know what I’d do without math. Now I’m a double major in Political Science (Course 17) and Philosophy (Course 24), and fortunately, I have not had to give up my interest in mathematics. I simply applied it to other fields to answer fascinating questions about the world. I describe Political Science at MIT as “basically statistics” and Philosophy as “basically logic.” My political philosophy papers have contained calculus formulas (for example, to determine the optimal size of government). For 17.803 Political Science Laboratory, I wrote a 20-page research paper with additional 19 pages of code in a statistical computing language I had learned in the Lab.” See: “The Perks of Being a Humanities Major”)

Samuel Rodarte, Jr. ‘13

Aerospace Engineering major; Latin American/Latino Studies, Political Science minor; Currently a legislative aide to Rep. Michael Capuano

“I took a political science class called ‘Making Public Policy’ with Professor Andrea Campbell, which just opened my eyes to a whole different world. It put what I was learning on the engineering side into perspective. After taking that class I caught the policy bug. Today, I am a legislative aide to U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.).in the House of Representatives.

Laws are written here. One little detail is changed, and millions of lives are transformed…. It makes me extremely happy to do this job because it’s an opportunity to give back for everything this country has done for me. I feel now like I’ve come full circle — from being on campus learning how government works, to being able to work to bring effective federal policy to the District, to Massachusetts, and to the country.” See the story:  Shaping Public Policy in the Nation’s Capital.

Course 18

Phoebe C. ’18

“I think I came into college with the expectation that my classes would be noticeably harder and more time-consuming than they were in high school, and for the most part that turned out to be true, though they ramped up in difficulty gradually rather than all at once. However, I also used to have the sense that I could learn anything I wanted as fast as I wanted, and I have definitely changed my mind on this front and come to terms with my limits in the past 2.5 years of school. One thing I want to note is that if you don’t think high-school math is particularly exciting or do math competitions, but you like to think about abstract concepts, please do keep an open mind about college math classes!”

Kathleen Candon (Course 18C)

“Coming into MIT, I thought I would major in 10B. I loved chemistry in high school, wanted to be an engineer, and thought biotechnology was cool, so chemical engineering seemed like a good idea to me. Once I attended some major information panels and talked to upperclassmen, I realized Course 10 wasn’t what I thought it was and it probably wasn’t for me. I then had no idea what I wanted to major in. I kept talking with older students and asking what they liked and didn’t like about their majors. I went to an MIT libraries session on how to choose your major and UAAP gatherings about it. I decided to try a UROP in Course 9 last winter because it sounded interesting. I realized that I enjoyed doing the research and learning about Course 9 for my UROP, but I really liked the coding and work with data that I was doing. I wasn’t sure that I was ready to choose a major, but when I had to, 18C seemed like the right choice. I really enjoyed both of my math classes last year, wanted to do some computer science things, enjoyed the focus on problem solving, and wanted a major with some flexibility. One thing I really like about 18C is it leaves so many doors open for me; there are many different paths I can take after graduation. I also have flexibility in my course schedule that allows me to try out random classes that I think sound interesting that are outside of my major. I have been considering minors in a few different courses, but I’m going to continue to keep taking classes that interest me and see if that turns into a minor or not.”

Course 20

Ben O. ‘19

“Biological engineering takes biological concepts and figures out how to apply them so, now that I know inducing this makes that how can I make a therapy, how can I use this protein as a marker for cancer detection, how can I simulate this phenomenon on a chip, etc. I entered the field of biology in order to make or find something that can change the way we treat cancer, so having a major that takes the information we have and finds out how to apply was exactly what I needed.”

Paul B. ’11

“But that’s actually part of the point of biological engineering: it is a highly interdisciplinary field, especially here at MIT; and it is continuing to evolve from the various fields that originally gave birth to it. Bioengineering is still incredibly ground-breaking, with new research pushing the limits of our knowledge every day – and that’s why I’m so excited to be part of bioengineering here at MIT, where so many fantastic discoveries have already been made.”

Course 21A: Anthropology

Comments on Course 21A.157 (The Meaning of Life): 

Zareen Choudhury ’17

EECS major

“Many of us at MIT have these deep, late-night conversations about the grander purpose of our existences. It seemed fascinating to have a structured and guided discussion forum for that conversation. I love the personal aspect of 21A.157. I don’t necessarily get that with my technical classes. I compare my own experiences with case studies from class. It gives me new perspectives on questions I’ve always grappled with — and that enriches my life.

Matthew Ryback ’17

Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering major

“The exposure to ethnographies about people worldwide has changed the way I think. You see how people derive meaning from their lives, and you reflect on your own life, potentially changing it for the better.”

Dorota Chapko ’12

Anthropology and Brain & Cognitive Sciences double major

In her Anthropology classes and research projects, Dorota explored in depth the social determinants of health and disease. These experiences inspired her current PhD work (at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland) on the interaction between social and biological factors in the context of cognitive aging. Her research addresses the challenge of demonstrating potentially modifiable components of socio-cultural capital that contribute to resilience to cognitive disorders in the face of biological aging.

Paul Kominers ’12

Economics and Political Science double major

Paul currently serves as the project manager at Democracy Works for the Voting Information Project (VIP), which offers cutting edge tools that provide voters with access to customized election information. At MIT, his anthropology classes taught him to think about the actors at every level of a human system, and sparked his interest in law and society, the public perception of science, and corruption.

Laura Martini ’08 

Mechanical Engineering major; Anthropology minor

Laura is a product designer based in Palo Alto, California. From MIT she went to Stanford, where she studied in the human-centered design program affiliated with the d.School while earning an MS in Product Design. She has found ethnography — interviewing, participant-observation, understanding a system from someone else’s perspective — to be essential to the design process (and an Anthropology minor to be helpful in landing an internship with IDEO).

Brian Oldfield ’13

Mechanical Engineering, Energy Studies major

Brian completed a major in mechanical engineering and a minor in energy studies to gain a deep understanding of the challenges of global climate change. In the class “Energy Decisions, Markets, and Policies,” he began to realize that solving energy issues is much more difficult than solving the associated technical problems. The Anthropology program gave him the tools to understand problems with human decisions, institutional structures, and political processes in mind. He applied these tools to his undergraduate thesis, entitled “US Virgin Islands Renewable Energy Future.” Brian is currently the Energy Practice Senior Consultant: Strategy and Operations for Navigant, where he focuses on grid modernization investments, and helping the US achieve aggressive renewable goals.

Course 21E: Humanities + Engineering

Ryan Robinson ’18

Engineering + Humanities major; Currently CEO of Conduit, a blockchain startup

“My MIT education has shown me that in a world so filled with technology we have to make sure that we make room for humanity. From science to humanities, technology to business, and invention to exposure, every human action has a human effect. Technology — at its greatest — begins and ends at our common humanity. … I use the skills I learned as a 21E major every day to move between the worlds of business and technology. Pursuing my interests in both engineering and humanities offered me perspectives and insights beyond formulas or words on a page. It’s that level of understanding that we’ll need to make a responsible impact in the world.” See story: From Blank Verse to Blockchain

Course 21G: Global Languages

Joshua Charles Woodard ’18
Mechanical Engineering major; Chinese minor 

“Learning Chinese was my most important academic pursuit at MIT. Technical knowledge comes and goes with time and necessity, but the ability to empathize with people of disparate backgrounds through cultural and language immersion is a life skill. People look at you differently, and you look at the world differently; for individuals striving to truly change the world, it starts with knowing how to talk to the people of the world.”

Piper Sigrest ’18
Aerospace Engineering major

“Studying Russian at MIT had a profound impact on me personally, professionally, and academically. I came to MIT with an interest in Russian — and left with a passion. The incredible faculty and staff in Global Studies and Languages inspired me to keep learning, and fostered a sense of curiosity and cultural appreciation within me. I had the incredible opportunity to both learn Russian language, and immerse myself in Russian culture and history. As an aerospace engineer and advocate for international collaboration, I know that I will use the knowledge and skills I developed from my Russian studies in both my personal and professional life.”

Wei Hou Wu ’19 
Computer Science & Engineering major

“Introduction to East Asian Cultures was one of my favorite HASS classes at MIT! You really get a comprehensive understanding the term ‘East Asia,’ and the regions that compose this region. Professor Teng utilizes a nice blend of traditional readings and lectures with guest speakers, including the head monk of the Fo Guang Buddhist Temple Boston, as well as field trips, such as to the Yin Yu Tang house in Salem. If you’re at all interested in the histories, stories, or ideas of China, Japan, or Korea, definitely give this class a try!

Course 21H | HASS: History

Chris S. ’11

“So, what is humanities, especially history, at MIT to me? It’s tremendously valuable experience to have, and one that has allowed me to grow in so many ways as a student. Because of it, I have become a much better writer and I now know how to build a solid case supported by evidence and how to express that clearly and logically in a paper. This not only manifests in the history papers that I write, but also in my technical writing as well. I have also been able to forge some of the best and closest relationships with professors, something that is much harder to do in the larger science lectures. I have engaged in heated discussions with a small group of students, ones that I’ve kept in touch with even after the class ended and who I am now good friends with. To sum things up, even if it’s not technical, humanities at MIT carries a distinctly MIT feel: challenging, stimulating, and entirely fulfilling.”

Nicolas Baldasaro ’05
Physics major

“Taking history classes at MIT provided me with an unanticipated career skill: gaining the ability to present technical analysis of economic and policy matters in a way that will be taken seriously by non-technical audiences.  What I learned in 21H has served me very well in my career, setting me apart from my cohorts, making my ideas more forceful and compelling, and generating demand for my advice on a variety of technical economic subjects.”

The following are comments about 21H.343

Making Books:  The Renaissance and Today

Tasha Schoenstein ’16
Mathematics and computer science major

“MIT students have an interest in preserving good forms of older technology and not just moving forward without looking back at what was good about the past. And being able to engage with history in the same way is really powerful.”

Story: Mens et Manus in the MIT History Workshop

Theodore Mouratidis ’16
Physics and Aeronautics and Astronautics, double major

“I really enjoy the fact that this history course (21H.343 (Making Books: The Renaissance and Today) has been 50-50; we spent 50 percent of the time exploring ideas and 50 percent building the printing press in the Hobby Shop. With such a ratio, the class truly embodied MIT’s motto: “mens et manus,” or “mind and hand.” 

Story: Mens et Manus in the MIT History Workshop

Kathryn Henrickson ‘17
Computer science and engineering major

“We got to learn how to use saws, a drill press, and other machines. It was cool to make something physical, where I’m used to just code. Building a printing press is awesome. — I also learned that printing is much more complicated than I had realized! … There’s a common misconception that there was a single printing revolution’ at the time of the 15th century printing of the Bible by Johannes Gutenberg. But this was not in itself a singular turning point in human history, Hendrickson explains. Rather, Gutenberg’s printing was representative of a broadly based transition from a society in which knowledge was controlled by the few to one in which information became increasingly accessible to a wider population.” Story: Mens et Manus in the MIT History Workshop

Course 21L: Literature

Cara Lai ’16
Mechanical Engineering, Literature major, currently earning an MD at Stanford Medical School

“I felt like I might be giving up something coming to MIT because I was very interested in literature. But that did not turn out to be at all the case.  MIT’s humanities programs are just stellar. ‘What is the truth? How do you interpret someone’s story?’ These questions get asked all the time in medicine — and they are also asked all the time in literature. The study of literature is about the experience of being human, and that’s inseparable from the practice of medicine. Medicine is about human relationships, and building relationships requires an ability to empathize with patients — even those who come from very different backgrounds. That’s where literature provides critical support. In fiction, great authors craft characters who are people — you can inhabit their lives. You start to empathize with them. In life, you can then draw connections. See story: Powered by Literature on her way to an MD 

Elizabeth Berg ’16  
Literature major

“I was worried about not having time to read Freshman year, so I took a Literature class to build that time into my schedule. Then I just couldn’t stop taking them! ‘Race and Identity in American Literature’ was the most thought-provoking class I’ve ever taken.  What was my most memorable moment in a Literature Class?  In ‘Reading Fiction,’ we had a group presentation on Surrealism, and we got someone, who wasn’t in our class, to enter halfway through the presentation wearing a gorilla suit, sit quietly for a couple minutes, and leave again.”

Anna Walsh ’16
Literature major

“My freshman fall, I took a philosophy class for my HASS requirement but I got so jealous of the fiction class my friend was taking I also read all the books on their syllabus! I’ve taken at least one, and sometimes two Literature classes every semester since. I’m a literature major because I couldn’t help it. Studying Literature has had an impact on my life in many ways: the richness of experience and skills in critical analysis, humor, and empathy.”

Mariya Samoylova ’12
Literature and Biology double major; currently an MD, surgical resident, Duke University School of Medicine

“As a medical student, I liked telling people that I was a Literature major at MIT. I started with literature at MIT because I was curious about it, and fancied myself to be multidisciplinary. I continued with Lit because it was fun and interesting and I got to be in classes with talented, charismatic professors. Then, I started going to Monday Teas, where Lit at MIT comes together and you realize that professors care about you and about each other. Suddenly, Mondays were something to look forward to. I was too busy enjoying my classes to realize that they were profoundly useful to me personally, and to my career.

Patients have some crazy stories to tell, and in a very direct sense, it’s nice to have experienced different narrative styles to be able to navigate the conversation. From a personal perspective, it’s also nice to have an abstract way of weaving them together into my own experience. Biology at MIT prepared me very well for learning medicine, but Literature at MIT prepared me for learning to practice it.… The Bible class in MIT Literature was a revelation because it was the first time that I had thought about religion as an active part of our language and culture, as something that carries great weight in decision-making, medical and otherwise.

The “Ethics” seminar acquainted me with some classic dilemmas and arguments that I encountered again in an elective on laws concerning involuntary treatment of psychiatric patients. My favorite classes, however, were “Modernism” and “Beauty”, because they introduced me to some new ways to think about the world.…

Laura Meeker ’14  
Literature, Engineering double major

“Like most Literature majors at MIT, I didn’t initially intend on studying literature. In high school I was an avid reader, but with the chaos of engineering classes I found that I rarely read for pleasure at all my first two years at MIT. Something was lacking, so I decided to take a Literature class, figuring that it would force me to take the time to do something I enjoy. I was hooked. I decided to make Literature my HASS concentration, and took a few more classes. Soon, I was having so much fun that a concentration wasn’t enough and a minor replaced it… then a major. I found that the more literature classes I added, the happier I became and the more balanced my life felt.

Studying literature completely turned around my MIT experience. The Literature department offered captivating conversation, small classes, and phenomenal professors who are passionate about what they teach as well as teaching. I also found a supportive community that feels like a family. Although I now work as an engineer, I am so grateful to everyone in MIT’s literature section for exposing me to a variety of wonderful texts, teaching me how to think analytically about them, and most importantly for reminding me that keeping in touch with my human side is every bit as important as my engineering pursuits.”

See story: Le Morte d’Arthur and the Engineer

Aaron Hammond ’17 

“I found my time in Literature essential in providing a humanistic counterweight to my technical studies at the Institute. The flexibility of the course and breadth of expertise among the faculty enabled me to pursue a program that catered to my interests in critical theory and complemented my work in natural language processing and human-computer interaction. Whether the topic was theories of composition of the Tanakh, scribal authority for The Canterbury Tales, the music videos of Janelle Monáe, theoretical accounts of the modern zombie, or periplum in Tony Kusher’s Homebody/Kabul, my classes in literature consistently challenged me to reflect and reexamine, and I feel better prepared on the other side to be the sort of technologist I want to be.”

Course 21M: Music section, Music & Theater Arts  

Dylan Sherry, ‘12

“MIT’s music program was a gigantic factor my decision to attend MIT rather than a music school. Conservatory programs are transforming musically, but MIT is transforming personally, professionally, and also musically. No other science and engineering school is like it. Real music is happening here.

Andrew Wang ’11

“My MIT classes in music theory and history transformed my understanding of music — and deepened my relationship to the sciences.”

Brandon Reese ’09

“When I first came to MIT I left my trumpet at home — it was torture! Since then, I’ve been in MIT Wind Ensemble for seven semesters, and wishing I had time to do the other ensembles, too!”

Katie Gertz ’15

“The MIT Music program truly has something for everyone: concert groups of every size and flavor, classes from harmony and counterpoint to electronic music composition to jazz harmony and arranging to improv…and the Lewis Library. I’ve heard and participated in incredible music here and it’s been absolutely fantastic.”

Dustin Katzin, ’12

 “Music is fundamentally math and physics. It’s waves and frequencies.”

Eran Egozy ‘95
Engineer, concert clarinetist, cofounder of Harmonix Music Systems

“The technologies that people are building today, opposed to 20 years ago, are much more connected to how people interact in social aspects of our culture. At first, computers were super technical. Now technology and humanity are deeply interlinked. It’s really important for people graduating with a technical or scientific degree to be immersed in the arts because it’s so much more relevant to today’s products and innovations.”

Ben Bloomberg ’11

“I look back on my time in the Vocal Jazz Ensemble as one of the major, defining parts of my MIT experience. There are very few programs where it is possible to work so closely with such distinguished, prolific, and inspirational faculty. As well, my fellow music students were one of a kind, and our adventures together were made better by the wonderful company.”

Jenna McKown ’10

“Being in the Festival Jazz Ensemble is like having a family at MIT. We’re a tight group with a tight groove.”

Dorian Dargan ’11

“What I like best about the world music offerings at MIT is the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the culture you are learning about.”

Nahomy Hernández ’14

MIT Concert Choir is one of the best experiences of my MIT career. It was the only time where I could see every single face in a classroom smiling. I could feel their passion, was energized by it, and always left happier than when I came. Bill Cutter is inspiring, talented, hilarious, and extremely cool!” 

Austen Yueh ’17

“MIT Music provides resources to us in a way I would have never imagined for a tech school; the opportunities they’ve made possible are a truly integral part of my experience here.

Alex Rigopulos,’92 ’94,
MIT music major, cofounder Harmonix, named as one the 100 most influential people in the world

“MIT’s music program saved me as a person … I was lucky enough to be in this special environment where I could study science and engineering at a serious level, and at the same time pursue music with great intensity. MIT provided an environment where I could explore the intersection of both worlds …

Many scientists and engineers have a deep affinity for music. I suspect it’s because both science and engineering are rooted in trying to comprehend deep and hidden structures.”

See more student comments on MIT Music in Musical Institute of Technology.

Course 21M: Theater section, Music & Theater Arts 

Neerja Aggarwal ‘17, M.Eng ‘18
EE and Theater

“Studying theater was essential in my making as a future technology leader; it is a core part of me that I will continue to develop. I was so fortunate to be able to turn my passion for performance into a creative outlet during my time at MIT. Here, I transformed into a stage director and theater maker. One of the best classes I took, ‘All the World’s a Stage: Perspectives in Global Performances,’ showed me that Art is more than a form of personal expression, it’s also a form of social action. MIT Theater truly embraces MIT’s motto: mens et manus and empowers its students. My theater thesis production ended up becoming one of the largest and hardest projects I’ve ever worked on, and the skills I gained while creating a collaborative, year-long stage production translated invaluably into my graduate engineering research.”

Peter Duerst, ‘18

The best classes that I took at MIT were my classes in Theater Arts. Theater is really powerful in that it gives you a method for experiencing ways of life and points of view you’ve never before considered. The skills you learn and practice in performing a monologue or directing a play are skills you can use throughout life. Empathizing more deeply, concentrating while relaxed, and giving legitimately constructive criticism are all things I got to practice while taking Theater Arts classes. I only wish that I could have taken more Theater Arts classes before I graduated!

Tal Scully ’18  

“Theater Arts classes have been the most important and memorable classes I’ve taken at MIT. They push and stretch students to develop skills that are not fully taught in technical classes. In acting classes like ‘Voice and Speech for the Actor,’ I have learned to be aware of my physical and emotional state and to consider how this affects daily interactions with people in both professional and casual settings. In the class ‘Director’s Craft,’ I learned how to lead and communicate with actors, how to understand difficult texts at a deep level, and how to persevere in the face of having no idea what is ‘right.’ These skills are vitally important for a career in STEM, but normal technical classes, even communication-focused ones, have never taught them to me as well as theater classes have.”

About the class “Sport as Performance”:

— “I really enjoyed the discussions in this Theater class as well as reading about topics in sports through a different lens. (Also thank you for bringing Bisou to class and letting us hold her during class; we are seriously dog deprived and Bisou is such a comfort during stressful times.)”

How to Change Majors (admissions blog)

“There is a difference between being unhappy with and uninterested in your classes and just being tired. It took me all of sophomore fall to learn that difference. I was tired, so tired, and I mistook unhappiness for exhaustion. I was overwhelmed, yes, but I was also unhappy.”