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First Year Advising Seminars: Fall 2023

Below are descriptions of the first year advising seminars (FASes) that are being offered in Fall 2023.

In choosing a FAS, try not to focus too sharply on what you think your major might be. Many MIT students find themselves as seniors following very different paths than they anticipated when they were first-year students. Keep your mind open to other possibilities.

Seminars are one way to explore some of MIT’s richness right at the beginning of your college career, and are also a chance to try out a topic you might be interested in pursuing later in more depth. Most seminars are 3 units of credit.

All students select their preferred advising option via our online advising application.

Fall 2023 First Year Advising Seminars

2.A16 Founder’s Journey: Startups and Entrepreneurship

  • Mr. Kenneth Zolot, Office of Digital Learning
  • Schedule TBD

Lots of amazing companies were started by people who went to MIT. What were those people like as freshmen? Come find out. In Founder’s Journey, we’ll provide you with connections to the key parts of the Cambridge startup ecosystem. We’ll go visit nearby companies and startup accelerators. We’ll provide a forum in which you’ll meet like-minded students and co-create your entrepreneurial path. It’s an immersion into the resources and mentors that surround you. Some of MIT’s most accomplished and recognized entrepreneurs will visit this seminar. And some of MIT’s future most accomplished and recognized entrepreneurs will be enrolled in this seminar.<br/><br/>Ken Zolot will lead the Founder’s Journey seminar. However, he will not be advising students. Instead, seminar participants will be assigned to one of several affiliated faculty advisors.

Ken Zolot is a Senior Lecturer in MIT’s Office of Digital Learning. He leads “The Founder’s Journey”, an immersive experience for freshmen seeking to demystify the process of starting a company. Ken is also a professor of creative entrepreneurship at The Berklee College of Music. He has founded several companies and continues to serve as an adviser or director for many entrepreneurial organizations, including the Deshpande Foundation, Olin College of Engineering, HackNY, FIRST Robotics, Techstars, and The Kauffman Foundation. Ken holds a Master of Science degree from MIT in Management of Technology, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Syracuse University.

3.A04 Blacksmithing and Physical Metallurgy

  • Mr. Michael Tarkanian, Materials Science and Engineering
  • Schedule TBD

Physical metallurgy encompasses the relationships between the composition, structure, processing history and properties of metallic materials. In this seminar you’ll be introduced to metallurgy in a particularly "physical" way. We will focus on blacksmithing forging hot iron but may also venture into metal casting, machining, and welding, using both traditional and modern methods. The seminar meets once per week for an evening laboratory session, and once per week for discussion of issues in materials science and engineering that tie in to the laboratory work. Students will begin by completing some specified projects and progress to fabricating pieces of their own design.

Mike Tarkanian is a lecturer in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. His career as a materials scientist began in 1996 when he enrolled in a freshman advising seminar dealing with ancient technology and culture. Mike has been a member of the DMSE since then, as a student (BS ’00 and MS ’03), research affiliate, and staff member. Mike’s career and educational path is evidence that, at MIT, the simple choice of an advising seminar can result in profound experiences and unexpected opportunities.

4.A02: DesignPlus: Exploring Design Across MIT

  • John Ochsendorf, Architecture & Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Paul Pettigrew, Architecture
  • Schedule TBD

This seminar will help first-year students to explore possibilities in design across many fields at MIT. Design is a creative and interdisciplinary means of discovering problems and solutions. This seminar will help first-year students connect with design-oriented peers and faculty, and learn about ways to build design into the rest of their MIT education, regardless of major. The seminar is flexible to account for diverse student interests within the field of design. Through guest speakers, design exercises, and site visits, students will gain a broad perspective on designing and making across MIT.

Enrollment limited to students in the DesignPlus First Year Learning Community.

John Ochsendorf is professor in Course 1 (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Course 4 (Architecture). He knows the MIT campus very well, having lived on campus as a head of house for seven years from 2010-2017 and having chaired the 2016 campus centennial celebrations. Like most professors, he is a student at heart and he looks forward to learning as we explore MIT together in this seminar. 

4.A22: The Physics of Energy

  • Prof. Leslie Norford, Architecture
  • Schedule TBD

Welcome to MIT! If you are coming because you love building, let this seminar be your red carpet. You will be meeting once a week with three faculty who love building cool systems. We will learn about MIT together while we are understanding and building exciting systems that use and convert energy. We will drive an electric go-cart and compare it to a gasoline-powered vehicle. You will design and build your own set of stereo speakers and a power amplifier to audio system you can keep. We’ll look at motors and circuits to control these devices. We will be working in an amazing new prototyping laboratory, and you will get to develop an energy experiment of your own design. Join us!Seminar Notes

Special Sign-up Instructions: There are two sections of The Physics of Energy (4.A22 and 6.A48), each led by a faculty member who will be the seminar leader/ freshman advisor to the eight freshmen in his section. The 2 seminar groups will meet jointly from time to time. You may list one, two, or all three of the sections among your seminar choices.

Les Norford will be the advisor to section 4.A22. Les is a mechanical engineer who teaches in the Department of Architecture and has a special interest in environmental issues. He’s studied buildings and how people live and work in them around the world. Les earned his BS in engineering science from Cornell University and his PhD in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University.

6.A06 First.nano – Fabricate Your Own Solar Cell in MIT.nano Clean Room

  • Jesus del Alamo, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science 
  • Jorg Scholvin, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Schedule TBD

Take a peek at the nanoworld at the brand new clean-room facilities of MIT.nano and become the nano-engineer that you have always wanted to be! Decked out in a bunny suit at the ultra-clean facilities of MIT.nano, this seminar will offer you a hands-on experience fabricating and testing a silicon solar cell. With us, you will learn about Si nanotechnology and solar cells physics and testing. Marvel at how awesome and mysterious the world looks and behaves at the nanoscale.

Jesus del Alamo is the Donner Professor and Professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT. He became fascinated with semiconductors as an undergraduate student at the Polytechnic University of Madrid where he was involved in solar cell research. His current research interests are focused on nanoelectronics based on novel semiconductors and new material systems and physical principles such as ferroelectrics and ionic devices.

Jorg Scholvin grew up in Germany and came to MIT as an undergraduate in 6-3. A fascination with microfabrication resulted in a switch to 6-1 and a Ph.D. on CMOS technology for RF power applications. After working at UBS in CT for three years, Jorg returned to MIT working on research combining microfabrication and neuroengineering, and co-founded an SBIR-funded company that commercialized the devices. In 2018, Jorg joined MIT.nano as the Assistant Director of User Services at Fab.nano, where he acts as technical consultant to researchers joining and using the fabrication facility.

6.A48: The Physics of Energy

  • Prof. Steven Leeb, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Schedule TBD

Welcome to MIT! If you are coming because you love building, let this seminar be your red carpet. You will be meeting once a week with three faculty who love building cool systems. We will learn about MIT together while we are understanding and building exciting systems that use and convert energy. We will drive an electric go-cart and compare it to a gasoline-powered vehicle. You will design and build your own set of stereo speakers and a power amplifier to audio system you can keep. Well look at motors and circuits to control these devices. We will be working in an amazing new prototyping laboratory, and you will get to develop an energy experiment of your own design. Join us!

Special Sign-up Instructions: There are two sections of The Physics of Energy (4.A22 and 6.A48), each led by a faculty member who will be the seminar leader/advisor to the eight first-year’s in his section. The two seminar groups will meet jointly from time to time. You may list one or two of the sections among your seminar choices.

Steven Leeb will be the advisor to the freshmen in this section 6.A48. Steve is an electrical engineer interested in making things move. Among other research pursuits, he is working to develop synthetic muscles from a polymer material and to make fluorescent lights that talk. He enjoys teaching, swimming, cooking, eating, and making things work.

6.A51: Prosody and Gesture: The Music and Dance of Language

  • Dr. Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, Research Laboratory of Electronics
  • Schedule TBD

Spoken language is characterized not only by words and sentences, but also by prosody, that is, the variations in pitch, timing, amplitude and voice quality that signal how words are grouped into phrases and which words are more prominent. For example, we can tell the difference between “It broke, out in Washington” and “It broke out, in Washington” by the location of the phrase boundary (represented in writing by a comma). Similarly, “Don’t TELL him about it” differs from “Don’t tell HIM about it”, because different words have more forceful pronunciation (represented here by the capital letters). At the same time, speakers often move their hands and other body parts (eyes, face, torso) as they speak, in ways that enhance communication. In this seminar we will examine current theories of prosody and how it functions in typical healthy adults, consider some examples of co-speech gesture, and then consider how these two streams of communicative behavior may interact in models of speech production planning. There will be opportunity to learn how to label prosody in speech from both adults and children, and to examine the question of how spoken prosody interacts with the gestures of hands, head, eyes and torso that often accompany spoken utterances. This topic will be especially appealing if you are considering taking classes in EECS, Brain and Cognitive Science, Artificial Intelligence, Music, Foreign Languages, Linguistics, or Biology.

For more information:

Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel is a Principal Research Scientist in the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) and has been active since 1980 working with the Speech Communication Group, a multidisciplinary laboratory engaged in teaching and research on the production and perception of speech by humans and machines. She investigates the cognitive structures and processes involved in speech production planning, particularly at the level of speech sound sequencing and context-governed phonetic variation. Stefanie received her BA in Philosophy from Wellesley College and her PhD in Cognitive Psychology from MIT.

7.A01 Pandemics: Past, Present, and Future

  • David Housman, Biology
  • Schedule TBD

We will study the molecular biology and genetics of pandemics of the past and present to better understand the ways in which the current pandemic is likely to evolve and to critically evaluate strategies to control the pandemic and/or improve clinical outcomes. We will understand some of the long-term effects of infection in past pandemics. We will study how infectious disease has selected for changes in the human genome which cause genetically based diseases. We will use our understanding of pandemics to consider what programs we might recommend to prevent or manage pandemics in the future.

David has led research projects at MIT to discover the genes for many human diseases including hereditary forms of cancer, neurological diseases such as Huntington’s disease, and muscle diseases such as myotonic dystrophy. His research group has also been engaged in research on virus contributions to disease, most recently working on the role of Epstein-Barr virus in autoimmune diseases and identifying pharmacological interventions which may be effective in these diseases. Over the past several decades he has taught courses in human disease at MIT and human genetics at our joint HST program with Harvard Medical School.

7.A03 Stitching a Frankenstein’s Protein

  • Eric Chu, Biology Department
  • Schedule TBD

Are you fascinated by the marvelous shape and structure of a protein? There are many open source and MIT licensed software readily available to assist you on the journey to find or build your favorite protein. You will learn to predict genes from a DNA sequence and verify the predictions from exploring genomic and protein databases. You will also learn to visualize and examine the 3D structures of proteins from these databases. Basic molecular cloning techniques and protein engineering will be discussed to guide your decisions to modify or assemble protein fragments to build your 3D Frankenstein’s protein de novo.  

Eric Chu is an instructor in the Bioteaching Laboratory in the Department of Biology. He received a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and completed his postdoc there researching microfluidics and single cell multi-omics. Currently he uses his expertise in biochemical engineering and bioinformatics to plan and create new lab-related contents for 7.002 (Fundamentals of Experimental Molecular Biology), and 7.003 (Applied Molecular Biology Laboratory). He enjoys teaching, eating, hiking, skiing, and traveling.

7.A12 Nucleic Acids: The Structural Basis of Genetic Material

  • Dr. Shuguang Zhang, Biology
  • Schedule TBD

Since the discovery of the structure of the DNA double helix in 1953 by Watson and Crick, the information on detailed molecular structures of DNA and RNA, namely, the foundation of genetic material, has expanded rapidly. This discovery is the beginning of the "Big Bang" of molecular biology, biotechnology and modern medicine. The principles of nucleic acid structures stem from the basic chemical interaction, especially in structural compatibility and chemical complementarity. Complementarity plays a key role in determining genetic heredity, i.e., heredity information is passed through generations, both in a conservative and evolutionary manner. Complexity often stems from simplicity. The structure of nucleic acid is no exception. In this seminar we will discuss, from a historical perspective and current development, the importance of pursuing the detailed structural basis of genetic materials. Weekly readings and regular attendance are expected.

Shuguang Zhang is currently at the Center for Bits and Atoms in the Media Lab. He received his PhD in genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology from University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). He is a past American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow, Fellow of National Academy of Inventors. He is a Foreign Corresponding Member of Austrian Academic of Science. Shuguang is interested in studying the structural basis of molecular biology, biological materials, and the origins of life. He and his colleagues discovered a class of self-assembling oligopeptides, “Molecular Lego,” with applications in biomaterials science and more. Dr. Zhang will share how he founded his startup from this curiosity-driven research.

7.A18 Genes in the News

  • Dr. Ky Lowenhaupt, Biology
  • Schedule TBD

In this seminar, we explore a topic in Biology or Biological Engineering, using primary literature, papers describing data and interpretation, published in a peer reviewed journal or posted on BioRχiv.  Previous versions have focussed on innovations in vaccine development, engineering the human microbiome, CRISPR technology, the genetic basis of behaviors, and other topics.  This year, we will select our focus at the initial meeting, so come with ideas.

Each week, teams of two students will lead the discussion of a paper that they have selected, addressing an aspect of our topic. The paper may be augmented with information from non-technical sources, giving context for why it is “in the news”. Everyone will be expected to read about all the topics and actively participate in lively discussions.

Ky Lowenhaupt is a Lab Manager in the Center for Synthetic Biology. As a researcher, she used a variety of biochemical and biophysical approaches to study the ways in which structural features of DNA affect cell function. Her interests are broadened by her artistic daughter, her involvement in theater, and her general curiosity about things. No matter what the subject, she likes to know what we really know, and how we know it.

8.A06: Accounting, Corporate Finance, and the Real World

  • Matthew Cubstead, Physics
  • Schedule TBD

Starts with a basic introduction to financial accounting (the ABCs of accounting principles, cash flow, and balance sheets) and then delves into issues of corporate finance. Topics include the time value of money, the corporate cost of capital, balance sheet analysis, fraud, and financial forecasting. There will be a few real-life case studies and discussions of actual events/mergers/market crashes, etc. No prior accounting or economics experience required.

Matt Cubstead is the Administrative Officer of the Physics Department. He has an MBA in Finance and worked for several years as a financial consultant and then as a Vice-President in the corporate lending area of a major national bank. 

8.A13 Geek Book Club

  • Joseph A. Formaggio, Physics
  • Schedule TBD

The seminar will center around a number of science-based topics as presented in both film and literature. Themes to be discussed in the course include time travel, (dys)utopian futures, machine self-awareness, and interstellar travel. But really, it is an opportunity for students to discuss a number of popular books and movies focused on science fiction. Students will be encouraged to engage in weekly discussions on these topics, as well as write one or more short papers based on these broad themes. Love of books and movies a must!

Joseph Formaggio received his B. S. degree from Yale University in physics in 1996. Thereafter, he received his Ph.D. in physics from Columbia University, where he did his dissertation on neutrino physics. In 2001, he joined the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, where he was later appointed as a research assistant professor. He arrived at MIT in 2005, where he continues to work on experimental neutrino physics (To learn more, see

10.A01 Hands-on Making in Chemical Engineering

  • Kristala Prather, Chemical Engineering
  • Schedule TBD

Chemical engineers are behind virtually all of things you encounter on a daily basis! Chemical engineers remediate environmental contaminants, produce clean water, and generate clean energy. A ChemE can harness reactions to power and control a car. Chemical engineers engineer proteins and produce chemicals leveraging biology! Chemical engineering principles can even be used around the house to systematically improve cooking and baking products. Join us to experience chemical engineering hands-on through two projects which may include: The ChemE Car, Water Reuse, Bio-electrochemical Systems, Bioreactors, Yeast Surface Display / Lateral Flow Assays, and ChemE in the House.

10.A02 Hands-On Engineering, Squishy Style Making with Biology and Chemistry

  • Justin Buck, Chemical Engineering
  • Monday 3pm-5pm

Engineers build, tinker, invent, and solve; we learn through the successes and failures of doing; wet lab engineers are no exception. Excited by what the breakthroughs in biochemical technologies will bring to the 21st century and beyond? Do you want to create using tools other than the hard materials (e.g. wood, metal, plastic, silicon) of traditional makerspaces? Join us in MIT’s first and only wet-lab makerspace to see what you can engineer in the realm of the wet lab… with the squishy chemical and biological materials! Can you program a bacteria to take a photograph? Want to use CRISPR to genetically engineer yeast? Interested in engineering proteins for biotechnological application? Want to leverage microbes to treat water or produce chemicals or energy in a bioreactor? Do all of this and more in Huang-Hobbs BioMaker Space as you explore how your engineering capabilities can meaningfully improve the human condition. Students will pick two hands-on projects for the term.

NOTE: This seminar meets on Monday 3pm-5pm (cannot co-enroll in 6.100A/B due to conflict)

Justin Buck is a Principal Lecturer in the Departments of Biological and Chemical Engineering and the director of MIT’s Huang-Hobbs BioMaker Space. Dr. Buck’s interests are in water, energy, and environment, and his training is a blend of engineer, scientist and entrepreneur.

10.A14 Exploring ChemE: Because the Molecules Matter!

  • Hadley Sikes, Chemical Engineering
  • Schedule TBD

This seminar is for those who are deciding what to study at MIT and would like more information about Chemical Engineering as a possible major. We’ll address how to approach a choice-of-major decision, learn the basics of the ChemE curriculum, meet people who studied chemical engineering on their way to the variety of things they do now, and work on a project that will use some chemical engineering skills. By the end of it, we’ll try to give you confidence in your choice of major, whatever it turns out to be.

Hadley Sikes is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Her research focuses on using chemical and biomolecular engineering to diagnose, treat, and understand disease.

10.A16 Exploring ChemE: Because the Molecules Matter!

  • Thomas Kinney, Chemical Engineering
  • Schedule TBD

Question: What do chemical engineers actually do? Answer: Just about anything and everything!  This seminar is for those who are deciding what to study at MIT and would like more information about Chemical Engineering as a possible major. We will discuss adapting to college in your first year and address how to approach the choice-of-major decision. You will learn the basics of the ChemE curriculum and hear from a wide-range of guest speakers who studied chemical engineering on their various career paths. By the end of term, you will have a better understanding of what chemical engineers do, and hopefully you will have confidence in your choice of major, whatever it turns out to be!

11.A11 Topics in International Development

  • Prof. Wesley Harris, Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Schedule TBD

This seminar introduces freshmen to a methodology for approaching communities to identify, understand, and solve problems in an urban or rural international development context. By working extensively with a local or virtual community, students will learn to apply a variety of social science and engineering tools, methods, and practices to clarify international development problems. Using an applied problem-solving approach, students will focus on solutions to micro-projects in international development. In this seminar, students will learn an effective and impactful method to approach developing communities, understand problems, and structure useful solutions. Hands-on solutions leading to scalable innovations of specific solutions to problems will constitute the primary activity of this seminar. Students will be expected to conceive, design, and build innovated solutions/projects/methods such as producing fertilizer from protein waste, fish feed from chicken feathers, water irrigation systems in remote regions, arresting the growth of deserts, etc.

Wesley Harris will be the advisor to the freshmen in this seminar. He is the Head of New House Residence Hall. Prof. Harris is former Head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and former Associate Provost.

12.A31 Build Your Own Climate Model

  • Glenn Flierl, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
  • Schedule TBD

Models play a critical role in understanding how the climate system works and predicting how climate will change. We will build and analyze models from the simple to the complex to understand both climate dynamics and the process of constructing computer models (in Python or Matlab or…).  We will start with simple overall energy balance, adding absorption of infrared radiation by greenhouse gases, then examining stochastic effects such as volcanic eruptions. Next we will examine the latitudinal structure and seasonal effects and the possibility of multiple climate states. When variations in both latitude and longitude are allowed, models can also have “weather” in the atmosphere and strong currents like the Gulf Stream or Kuroshio in the ocean. We may also look at data from more complex Earth-system models.

Glenn Flierl grew up in Ohio and, of course, became fascinated by the oceans. At least they certainly seemed more interesting than Lake Erie, and physical oceanography appeared to have better job prospects than building sets for Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. He now uses physics, math, and computers to help understand the Gulf Stream and ocean vortices, as well as the Great Red Spot.

12.A56 GPS: Where Are You?

  • Prof. Thomas Herring, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
  • Schedule TBD

The use of Global Positioning System (GPS) in a wide variety of applications has exploded in the last few years. Hikers, drivers, sailors, and aviators use the system as a navigation aid but many others use GPS in ways that were not considered during its design. Some of the most stringent uses come from meteorology, where the system is used to track water vapor in the atmosphere, and from geophysics, where it is used to measure continental drift, deformation leading up to earthquakes, and mean sea-level rise. In this seminar we explore how positions on the Earth were determined before GPS, how GPS and other Global Navigations Satellites Systems (GNSS) work, and the range of applications in which GPS/GNSS is now a critical element. In this seminar you will explore how to find locations using simple household items (simple, at least by MIT standards). You will use hand held GPS units to hunt for candy around campus and have access to expensive units (and inexpensive ones) to write messages that can be can be seen from space. We also explore emerging technologies that will allow low cost GNSS equipment and cell phones to determine where they are to within a few millimeters to centimeters. This seminar is followed by an optional UROP in the spring semester where results from precise GPS measurements will be analyzed and displayed on the web.

Thomas Herring is Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. He uses GNSS to measure millimeter-level motions of the Earth’s surface in many regions around the world, including recently tall buildings, with the long-term aim of understanding earthquakes and other deformation processes. He also studies the Earth’s atmosphere with GPS through the refraction of GPS signals.

15.A03 Operations Research in Our Everyday Lives

  • Prof. Stephen Graves, Sloan School of Management
  • Schedule TBD

Who says that mathematics isn’t fun or useful? We will explore a branch of mathematics called operations research (OR), which is defined as the science of decision making. The origins of operations research date back to World War II, when the development of new mathematical methods was instrumental in locating enemy submarines. The application of these methods dramatically altered the course of the battle in the North Atlantic. Mathematical models developed with OR techniques can be applied to things that affect our daily lives, such as allocation of dormitory assignments, optimization of your diet, the deployment of ambulance services in a large city, classroom scheduling, sports, or even gambling. Operations research has also been used in finding lost treasures as well as in determining strategies for fighting AIDS. By examining interesting applications, we will take a close look at this fascinating field. The seminar will be organized around weekly sessions learning about OR applications that provide a survey of OR methods and models.

Steve Graves is the Abraham J. Siegel Professor, Post Tenure, at the Sloan School. His professional interests are in the broad area of manufacturing systems and supply chains, which are rich areas for the application of operations research methods. Steve is an avid sports fan with interests in all of the local sports teams.

15.A04 Startups and Entrepreneurship: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the MIT Galaxy

  • Paul Cheek, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship 
  • Alfred Spector, EECS
  • Schedule TBD

One of the things that makes MIT great is its rich and continuing legacy of entrepreneurship. A study done by MIT’s Martin Trust Center showed that the companies founded by MIT Alums would collectively form the 10th biggest economy in the world! More broadly, entrepreneurship is a powerful tool that is the basis for creating successful start-ups, but also a critical professional skill for leading a large organization or pursuing successful research. This seminar provides a window on MIT based on the concepts and pragmatics of entrepreneurship. Led by a dynamic team of entrepreneurs in residence from the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and the MIT Department of EECS, it provides an overview of an entrepreneurial approach to professional life, as well as the specifics of the sometimes complex MIT entrepreneurial ecosystem. The seminar will take the students’ perspective, helping students understand how to apply entrepreneurship in ways appropriate to them — whether they intend to start a business or be a leader in a university, not-for-profit, government entity, or corporation. Guided by the seminar’s leaders, there will also be a diverse and dynamic group of guest speakers who lived the entrepreneurial journey themselves. Among the specifics, the class will discuss tools like the Orbit online entrepreneurship community platform, MIT’s 70+ innovation and entrepreneurship-focused courses, mentoring options like the Trust Center’s Entrepreneurs in Residence or the Venture Mentoring Service, and organizations like StartLabs and MIT Sandbox.

Paul Cheek is a serial tech entrepreneur, entrepreneurship educator, and software engineer. He is a Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, an Entrepreneur in Residence at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, and the Co-Founder and CTO of Oceanworks. Paul was MIT’s first Hacker in Residence and has since taught, mentored, and advised thousands of entrepreneurs around the world. Each year Paul teaches hundreds of undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students in the “New Enterprises” course, which is believed to be the oldest entrepreneurship course in the country, and has also taught the advanced entrepreneurship course, “Building an Entrepreneurial Venture: Advanced Tools and Techniques.” As co-founder and CTO of Oceanworks, a for-profit company with a mission to end plastic pollution, he has developed a platform and traceability system to provide corporations with a trusted source for a variety of quality recycled ocean plastic materials at competitive prices. In the past two years, Oceanworks has diverted thousands of tonnes of plastic from the ocean, served hundreds of corporate customers in over 30 countries, and enabled the launch of a variety of high-profile sustainable products such as Clorox ocean plastic trash bags, Sperry ocean plastic boat shoes, and YKK ocean plastic zippers. You can learn more about Paul on his website.

Alfred Spector is a Visiting Scholar at MIT. For five years ending in mid-2020, he was Chief Technology Officer and Head of Engineering at Two Sigma, a firm dedicated to using information to optimize diverse economic challenges. Prior to joining Two Sigma, Dr. Spector spent nearly eight years as Vice President of Research and Special Initiatives, at Google, where his teams delivered a range of successful technologies including machine learning, speech recognition, and translation. Prior to Google, Dr. Spector held various senior-level positions at IBM, including Vice President of Strategy and Technology (or CTO) for IBM Software and Vice President of Services and Software research across the company. He previously founded and served as CEO of Transarc Corporation, a pioneer in distributed transaction processing and wide-area file systems, and he was a tenured professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Spector received a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University, where he was a Hertz Fellow. He is a Fellow of both the Association for Computing Machinery and the IEEE. He is an active member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Defense Science Board. Dr. Spector won the 2001 IEEE Kanai Award for Distributed Computing and the 2016 ACM Software Systems Award, the latter for his work on the Andrew File System (AFS).

18.A03 Knot Theory

  • Prof. Tom Mrowka
  • Mathematics
  • Schedule: TBD

The mathematics of knots turns out to be a rich and fascinating subject touching many parts of mathematics (and even high energy physics). This seminar will expose students to various topics in knot theory and related parts of mathematics, including geometry and algebra.

Tom Mrowka was an undergraduate here at MIT from 1979 to 1983. He received his PhD in mathematics in 1988 from UC Berkeley. After positions at the Mathematical Science Research Institute, Stanford, and Caltech, he returned to MIT in 1994 as a professor of mathematics. His mathematical interests are in the partial differential equations of mathematical physics like the Yang-Mills equations and, in particular, applying these equations to the study of low dimensional topology. He like swimming, running, and climbing when he has time.

18.A34 Mathematical Problem Solving (Putnam Seminar)

  • Prof. Yufei Zhao, Mathematics
  • Schedule TBD

Note: Due to high demand and limited capacity, only students who list this seminar as first choice will be considered. In your first essay response, please include a brief statement highlighting your mathematical background, e.g. top accomplishments in math competitions, participation in math camps, research, advanced readings (just highlight what you are most proud of, rather than a long list). This is the only FAS that is 6- units.

This seminar is intended to prepare students with prior experience in mathematical Olympiads for the Putnam Mathematical Competition in December. Classes alternate between topic lectures (including guest lectures by Putnam veterans) and student discussions and presentations. There is a strong emphasis on developing communication skills. In addition to weekly problem sets, students also have the opportunity to practice presentations in small group office hours led by an Undergraduate Assistant. Participation in the Putnam Competition (first Saturday of December) is required. An MIT News profile of this seminar can be found:
Yufei Zhao is Associate Professor of Mathematics. His research area is combinatorics. Prof. Zhao received his SB and PhD both from MIT. He was a former student in the Putnam Seminar and a three-time Putnam Fellow. Prof. Zhao has been teaching 18.A34 since joining the faculty in 2017. He is the recipient of a First Year Advisor Award and a UROP Outstanding Mentor Award for Faculty.

20.A06 Hands-on Making in Biological Engineering

  • Douglas Lauffenburger, Biological Engineering
  • Schedule TBD

Biological engineers harness the power of living systems to solve problems! Biological engineers develop cutting edge therapeutics, medical devices, and diagnostics. Biological engineers design synthetic genetic circuits and engineer proteins for improved function. Biological engineers tackle problems in materials, sustainability, and agriculture. Join us in MIT’s BioMaker Space to see a glimpse of what you can make as a biological engineer. Students will pick two hands-on engineering projects which may include: Bacterial Photography, Biobots, Yeast Surface Display / Lateral Flow Assays, CRISPR, DNA Origami, Phage Evolution, Biocementing, and Bio-electrochemical Systems.

21H.A01 Free Expression, Pluralism, and the University

  • Malick W. Ghachem, History
  • Schedule TBD

The purpose of this seminar is to explore some of the hard questions that live at the intersection of free expression, academic freedom, and the university’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive learning environment. We will discuss the history and law of free speech and academic freedom and consider the contemporary disputes that have arisen over these values. And we will study the responses of American university communities (public and private) to these conflicts since the 1950s: the bitter contests over McCarthy-era loyalty oaths, the free speech and anti-Vietnam War protests of the 1960s, the hate speech codes of the 1990s, and today’s ongoing turf wars over so-called "cancel culture" and control of teaching and the curriculum. Students will have the opportunity to design their own free expression statements and to propose administrative, curricular, and other reforms consistent with their own visions of the future of the university.

21M.A12 Arts at MIT

  • Stacy DeBartollo, Office of the Arts
  • Schedule TBD

Eight out of every ten students at MIT have a strong background in the arts. It is no surprise then, that the arts at MIT are recognized around the globe, for being amongst the most innovative and cutting-edge. With renowned arts-faculty, programming, initiatives, and events, MIT continues to contribute to the blossoming arts-science tradition. This seminar focused on the arts is your opportunity to get behind the scenes and see how the arts influence design, entrepreneurship, and research at MIT. We will investigate the arts at MIT by visiting many of the labs and institutions working in the arts on campus, engaging with experts in the field.  We will take part in hands-on classes, learn new skills from arts faculty, and explore opportunities to collaborate on new projects relating to design and innovation.

For more information:

Stacy DeBartolo is the Finance and Operations Manager for the Arts at MIT and the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology, and the Manager of the Student Art Association. Stacy has a B.A. in Art History from Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas, and an M.A. in Art History and Non-Profit Management from Tufts University here in Massachusetts. Having lived in the greater Boston area for 20 years, Stacy loves to introduce students to the arts opportunities at MIT and around the city.

21W.A03 MIT, Explained

  • Christopher Peterson, CMS/Admissions
  • Schedule TBD

The word "Institute" comes from the Latin for "custom," or "way of habit." More than brick and mortar, glass and steel, an institution is a thing made by people, over time. In this seminar, we will learn more about MIT as a organization with a past, present, and future, by hearing from leaders of major entities and initiatives that constitute the university (and what it is that they do all day), and reading selections that provide a "usable history" of contemporary relevance. This seminar may be especially well suited to anyone who is interested in effective, constructive student leadership at MIT by helping render visible the processes and principles that animate it, and so developing an accurate mental model of the Institute as a complex system.

Chris Peterson is an admissions officer, lecturer, and research affiliate at MIT, and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Coalition Against Censorship, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to fighting for free expression. He earned his S.M. from CMS in 2013, and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in the department on the relationship between the Internet and society.

CC.A10 Concourse Seminar

  • Prof. Anne McCants and Concourse Staff 
  • Concourse Program

Note: Special sign up instructions: If you are interested in being part of the Concourse Learning Community, you must list CC.A10 as your first choice on the Freshman Advising Seminars application. Concourse teaching staff will be the freshman advisors to all students who join the Concourse

The Concourse Fall Seminar supplements Becoming Human, our 12-unit fall humanities course. In Becoming Human, we consider a range of fundamental questions about such topics as the nature of happiness, justice, knowledge, love, and truth, taking as our guides the founders of the western intellectual tradition, the ancient Greeks. In the seminar every Friday, we further our understanding of these questions by examining more modern thinkers and by exploring intellectual and ethical quandaries at the heart of science, politics and philosophy. The seminar is a gathering of our whole community, students and faculty, for intellectual fellowship and lunch.

For more information:

Anne McCants studied economics, German, and history at Mount Holyoke College, and then completed her Masters degree in economics and Ph.D. in history at UCLA and UC Berkeley, respectively. She came to MIT in 1991 and is now a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow. Her teaching is focused in the areas of European economic and social history and social science research methods. She is the author of Civic Charity in a Golden Age: Orphan Care in Early Modern Amsterdam (1997), and numerous articles on historical demography, material culture, and the standard of living in the Dutch Republic. She is currently engaged in two major projects: one examining the long-term roots of economic development with a particular focus on the role played by institutions of the family and gender equity, and developing new measures for the study of wellbeing; and the other an economic and institutional history of the movement to build cathedrals and other major churches in the Gothic style in northwestern Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries. She serves as President of the International Economic History Association and Editor of the journal Social Science History. Her favorite ways to unwind are walking her dog Katie, cooking, working with fibers and textiles, and digging in the garden.

EC.A06 FLI into Fall

  • J. Alex Hoyt, Office of the First Year
  • Schedule TBD

FLI into Fall is a community of First-year students who identify as first generation and/or low-income (FLI). Students meet and engage weekly with fellow FLI first-years to discuss the unique journey and shared experiences of a FLI student at MIT. Though this community, students will learn how to maximize the opportunities MIT offers both inside and outside of the classroom. Topics will focus on accessing resources, prepare for career fair/job interviews, identifying personal strengths, adjusting study skills to the rigors of MIT, engaging with experiential learning opportunities, and much more. The seminar will include contributions from current MIT undergraduates, guest presentations from MIT offices/programs (e.g. Student Financial Services (SFS), Career Advising and Professional Development (CAPD), UROP), and more.

Alex Hoyt is the Staff Advisor for MITs First Generation and/or Low-income undergraduate community. Alex is currently a staff member in the Office of the First Year (OFY) and previously worked with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). In both these roles Alex’s work has focused on supporting undergraduate students as they navigate MIT and beyond.

EC.A29 How to Beat the First Year and Establish Healthy Habits

  • Master Sergeant Adam VanDeWalle, Army ROTC
  • Schedule TBD

Incoming first-year students begin their first semester at MIT with little experiences away from home. While dorm room assignments and cafeteria availability ease the transition, many students struggle to manage their newfound independence. This seminar aims to increase your confidence as a first year navigating an unfamiliar environment by developing critical skills that can be used every day.

The dynamic course is broken up into three modules:

  • Develop life skills including communication, goal setting, time and stress management, and comprehensive fitness required in adulthood.
  • Familiarization with learning styles and critical thinking to increase educational maturity.
  • Introduction to leadership and how to leverage the necessary skills.

Taught by combat veterans who have led organizations of up to 120 people, this seminar will use classroom instruction, small group discussion, and practical exercises to develop important life skills in what will undoubtedly resonate with young adults and emerging leaders.

Location will be in the Army Classroom on the first floor of the MIT Army ROTC HQs across the street from the MIT Baseball Field (W59-201 Vassar Dr. 02139).

Master Sergeant Adam J. VanDeWalle is originally from Cedar Rapids, Nebraska. He joined the Army in 2022, where he has worked as a combat engineer with six overseas deployments in total. He is a former drill sergeant, has earned his bachelors degree in history and really enjoys teaching, which is what brought him to the Senior ROTC program in 2021.

EC.A790 Engineering, Art, and Science

  • Mr. Edward Moriarty, Edgerton Center
  • Schedule TBD

In this hands-on seminar, you will experience engineering, art and science by designing, building and refining your own projects. We meet in the Edgerton Student Project Lab/Makerlodge, located on historic Strobe Alley in Building 4 and surrounded by inspiring demonstrations and illustrations. The seminar is an opportunity for students to work on a project they find personally compelling while developing their creative, technical, and teamwork skills. We provide training and access to a range a traditional tools and materials for electronic and mechanical projects as well as Maker tools, including 3D printers, a laser cutter, sewing machine, microcomputers, etc. We support students in using an effective design process, iterating and prototyping, collaborating and creating community, and in pursuing their passions in their projects. Along the way, we will encounter concepts of introductory electronics, physics, programming, materials, aesthetics, graphic design, and whatever else we need to make really fun and engaging devices. Student projects have included computer-controlled interactive art, "liquid light," innovative musical instruments, electrified skateboards, and underwater vehicles, to name a few. Our final project(s) might turn out to be a display for the MIT Museum or The Strobe Alley Corridor Lab. No prior engineering experience is needed; the only prerequisite is a desire to engage your heart, hands, and head in real projects!

Ed Moriarty ’76, an instructor with the MIT Edgerton Center, has been around MIT off and on ever since he showed up as a freshman in 1971. He has worked in various departments and labs around the institute and has been involved in numerous projects ranging from large scale electric generation analysis packages, to the MIT Shakespeare Electronic Archive. He has been a member of the MIT Logarhythms, Chorallaries, and the BackLogs Quartet. As a resident of “strobe alley” Ed relies mostly on fun, hands-on, in-lab, experience for presenting concepts … a refreshing change of approach from most of the book-learning done around here. He is active with many MIT student clubs and teams as well as with high-school engineering outreach.

ES.A100 An Introduction to Maker Skills

  • David Custer, Experiential Study Group
  • Schedule TBD

Introduction to making and use of MIT’s maker spaces intended to build skills needed for designing, conducting, and completing experiments and design projects, such as may be encountered in undergraduate classwork and research activities. Includes maker space training (i.e., wood shop, digital fabrication, and electronics fabrication) and open-ended design projects, with work evenly divided between class, homework, and maker space activities. Limited to [8] by makerspace training and scheduling; priority given to ESG students.

Dave Custer has been teaching hands-on, interdisciplinary subjects at MIT’s Experimental Study Group since he was a student in the program, over 40 years ago. After graduation, he spent a few years as an electrical engineer before returning to teach at MIT. He is also a long-standing lecturer in WRAP, the Writing, Rhetoric, and Professional Communication unit of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies and Writing program where he teaches communication, primarily in mechanical and electrical engineering CI-Ms. In 2013, he was a recipient of the James A. and Ruth Levitan Award for Excellence in Teaching in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. He is a member and former president of the UIAA Safety Commission, the global standards organization for climbing and mountaineering equipment. Dave spends his free time in the vertical world.

HST.A01 Quantitative Biology

  • Prof. Leonid Mirny 
  • Health Sciences and Technology and Physics 
  • Schedule TBD

In the last decade, biomedical research became a quantitative, data-rich field. A single biological experiment can produce gigabytes of data. How can we use these data to understand biological processes and build physical models? Through interactive games, puzzles and seminars, we will learn how to estimate (guesstimate) numbers in biology and in everyday life. We will use this skill to learn about DNA and molecular motion, energy and evolution, human genetics, and the human brain. We will also discuss computational and algorithmic problems that emerge when large volumes of biological data need to be analyzed. Together we will read selected papers – classical publications about the discovery of the DNA double helix and modern ones about the sequencing of the human genome. By mimicking classical experiments in class, we will explore how physics and quantitative thinking can help to solve some of the most challenging problems in biology.

For more information:

Leonid Mirny is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Medical Engineering and Sciences, and the Department of Physics at MIT. He has B.Sc. in Physics from Russia, M.Sc. in Chemistry from the Weizmann Institute in Israel, and Ph.D. in Biophysics from Harvard University. Prof. Mirny has been at MIT since 2001, helped to create MIT PRIMES program for high school students, and has been teaching several interdisciplinary classes such Quantitative Genomics (HST.508) and Statistical Physics in Biology (8.592). In his research he is interested in understanding how DNA is folded inside cells and in characterizing cancer development as an evolutionary process. His approach combines physics and data analysis to understand complex biological phenomena. His work has been published in leading scientific journals and featured on CNN and BBC news.

MAS. A02 Designing Creative Technologies for Kids

  • Mitchel Resnick 
  • Media Lab 
  • Schedule TBD

This playful, friendly seminar is offered by the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten group, which developed the Scratch programming language and online community. We’ll meet over dinner to explore how new technologies can engage kids in creative, collaborative, equitable learning experiences — and we’ll try out prototypes of new tools being developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten group. Each week, there will also be opportunities to share what’s going well, and what challenges have come up, as you navigate your first semester.

Mitchel Resnick is Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab. His Lifelong Kindergarten research group has developed technologies and initiatives (including Scratch, LEGO Mindstorms, and the Clubhouse Network) that expand creative learning opportunities for kids around the world. The goal: To cultivate caring communities that enable young people from diverse backgrounds to develop their ideas, their interests, and their voices.

MAS.A21 Choosing Problems Wisely

  • Prof. Kevin Esvelt
  • Media Arts & Sciences
  • Schedule TBD

Which problems are so important that you should devote years of your life to solving them? It’s easy to say important, tractable, and neglected, but hard to determine whether any of those is true of a particular field or idea. We will explore evolutionary game theory, cognitive heuristics and biases, the history of technology, and various ethical frameworks to provide a toolkit for answering this critical question in time for you to do something about it. Finally, we’ll choose and conduct in-depth analyses of topics relevant to the future of technology and civilization.

Kevin Esvelt leads the Sculpting Evolution Group at the MIT Media Lab. Recognizing that gene drive systems based on CRISPR could alter wild populations of organisms, he and his colleagues chose to break with scientific tradition by revealing their findings and calling for open discussion and safeguards before demonstrating the technology in the lab. An outspoken advocate of open science as a way to accelerate discovery, improve safety, and build public trust, he hopes to use gene drive as a catalyst to reform the scientific enterprise. Apart from ecological engineering, research interests include molecular evolution, biological information transfer, and the neurogenetic bases of suffering and euphoria.