A Semester in Hong Kong

January 18th, 2018Undergraduate Student Life

Hi! My name is Grace. I’m a junior studying civil engineering and this past fall I studied abroad in Hong Kong at the University of Hong Kong. It was one of the most exciting places I’ve ever experienced! Some differences that I noticed in particular were classes, cuisine, culture. Three C’s! My classes at HKU were BIG. As a Course One student I never realized how accustomed I had become to having 5 classmates and knowing my professors by their first names (shout out to Franz and Admir)! Next up, THE FOOD oh my goodness. The dumplings, noodles, and dim sum were delicious. That being said by the end of my semester I actually craved crunchy vegetables. I know right?! Who craves veggies? At the start of the semester, as a loud and proud American, it seemed impossible for me to blend into the seemingly reserved and more homogenous Chinese culture, but by the end of the semester I felt at home in Hong Kong. HKU is different from MIT in terms of the culture surrounding the schools. MIT prides itself on encouraging people to push ideas to their wildest ends through collaboration, whereas Chinese culture is much more reserved. HKU fosters like-mindedness and competitiveness as a pathway to achievement. The status quo at HKU was very much to work hard and conform, while being competitive. In China, it is considered rude to speak out of turn, and presumptuous to speak your own ideas, rather than follow the professor’s examples. [...]

Hi! My name is Grace. I’m a junior studying civil engineering and this past fall I studied abroad in Hong Kong at the University of Hong Kong. It was one of the most exciting places I’ve ever experienced!

Some differences that I noticed in particular were classes, cuisine, culture. Three C’s! My classes at HKU were BIG. As a Course One student I never realized how accustomed I had become to having 5 classmates and knowing my professors by their first names (shout out to Franz and Admir)! Next up, THE FOOD oh my goodness. The dumplings, noodles, and dim sum were delicious. That being said by the end of my semester I actually craved crunchy vegetables. I know right?! Who craves veggies?

At the start of the semester, as a loud and proud American, it seemed impossible for me to blend into the seemingly reserved and more homogenous Chinese culture, but by the end of the semester I felt at home in Hong Kong.


HKU is different from MIT in terms of the culture surrounding the schools. MIT prides itself on encouraging people to push ideas to their wildest ends through collaboration, whereas Chinese culture is much more reserved. HKU fosters like-mindedness and competitiveness as a pathway to achievement. The status quo at HKU was very much to work hard and conform, while being competitive.

In China, it is considered rude to speak out of turn, and presumptuous to speak your own ideas, rather than follow the professor’s examples. I learned that the hard way by correcting a professor in a 100-person classroom. I got a great deal of awkward stares! I was surprised, but a few of my friends told me that if I have a question next time I should just ask them. I found this directly the opposite of what I had been taught in the west about asking questions. This is just one example of collectivism in the east, which is vastly different from the individualist thinking that permeates western culture.


HKU also runs classes differently. In my experience, they emphasize one way to get a single numerical answer, whereas at MIT professors encourage multiple ways of getting to the correct answer. HKU was far more numerically and physically oriented, while MIT is much more concerned with the understanding a problem conceptually. While this doesn’t allow much wiggle room for new ideas, there was much more agreement at HKU then at MIT on how to proceed with a problem! One thing I really missed was all the TAs at MIT. There were almost never enough at HKU since the school has so many more undergrads then MIT. Another result of that is the resources are more spread out, so the students do not get nearly as hands-on as we do at MIT. As in many cases in China, HKU was hyper efficient in order to handle all of the people!

All in all, my experience was life changing. My perspective was altered and broadened on so many levels it’s difficult to put into words. I have such a sea of amazing experiences and memories to draw from that I could spend a whole week just reminiscing about all of the amazing people I met and all of the exciting things I saw. I will definitely be back to Hong Kong and I encourage everyone reading this to travel as much as possible!

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Agricultural Microbiology: Designing Microbial Communities

January 16th, 2018IAP 2018

By Mikayla Murphy '18 During IAP, Course 1 students often scatter across the globe, from TREX in Hawaii to mini-UROP in Cambridge. This IAP, six other MIT students and I are doing something new: spending two weeks in Israel taking a course on agricultural microbiology led by Professor Otto Cordero and Israeli Professor Itzhak Mizrahi of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). After numerous flight delays due to the “bomb cyclone” in Boston, we finally arrived in Israel at 4 am on Monday January 8th, and immediately dove into work at 8 am that same day. The goal of the course is to learn how to design microbial communities using microbes isolated from cows to achieve particular goals. Our challenge in the class is to use these communities to maximize or minimize the production of certain compounds, and eventually this work could lead to very cool outcomes. For example, one could design a microbial community that reduces the amount of methane produced by cows, thus reducing global warming. It’s pretty cool that working with such small microbes could have such a large global impact! Preparing microscope slides We’re taking the class along with approximately 10 Israeli students from BGU in Be’er Sheva, so we’ve been able to learn not only about agricultural microbiology, but also about Israeli culture and what university life is like here. We typically spend all day together either in lecture, in wet lab learning different protocols for culturing our microbes, or working on analyzing the data [...]

By Mikayla Murphy ’18

During IAP, Course 1 students often scatter across the globe, from TREX in Hawaii to mini-UROP in Cambridge. This IAP, six other MIT students and I are doing something new: spending two weeks in Israel taking a course on agricultural microbiology led by Professor Otto Cordero and Israeli Professor Itzhak Mizrahi of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU).

After numerous flight delays due to the “bomb cyclone” in Boston, we finally arrived in Israel at 4 am on Monday January 8th, and immediately dove into work at 8 am that same day. The goal of the course is to learn how to design microbial communities using microbes isolated from cows to achieve particular goals. Our challenge in the class is to use these communities to maximize or minimize the production of certain compounds, and eventually this work could lead to very cool outcomes. For example, one could design a microbial community that reduces the amount of methane produced by cows, thus reducing global warming. It’s pretty cool that working with such small microbes could have such a large global impact!

microscope slides

Preparing microscope slides

We’re taking the class along with approximately 10 Israeli students from BGU in Be’er Sheva, so we’ve been able to learn not only about agricultural microbiology, but also about Israeli culture and what university life is like here. We typically spend all day together either in lecture, in wet lab learning different protocols for culturing our microbes, or working on analyzing the data we’re collecting, so we’ve all gotten to know each other well by this point 🙂

Though we spend all week researching and learning, during the weekends we get to have fun exploring Israel! This weekend, we first went to a kibbutz, where we toured a dairy farm and learned about how such collective communities work in Israel. We saw many calves and even saw one in the process of being born!

otto with a calf

Professor Cordero with a calf on the kibbutz.

Afterwards, we had a group cookout in the desert and made delicious hummus and kebabs (American hummus and falafel is never going to taste the same again). On Saturday, we continued to explore the desert surroundings via a 10 mile hike through the Negev. The surroundings were absolutely stunning: chalk formations and canyons and even an oasis with small ponds that one could swim in!

hiking in Israel

Overall, this trip has been amazing so far, and we’re all very excited to find out how the microbial communities we designed did during the second week!

 

Over MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP), Professor Otto Cordero is leading a group of students on a two-week experience that allows students to learn state-of-the-art techniques used in the cultivation and analysis of the microbial communities that digest complex plant fibers in the cow rumen. The experience is part of the special subject 1.S992 (Agricultural Microbial Ecology) and was funded in part by MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives; the National Science Foundation; the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation; and the United States – Israel Binational Science Foundation.

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Research from Professor Colette Heald shows Clean Air Act saved more lives than initially estimated

January 12th, 20182018 News in Brief

Research from Colette Heald, Associate Professor and Associate Department Head of CEE, research scientist David Ridley and Professor Jesse Kroll, shows that the Clean Air Act saved more lives than initially estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The researchers studied observations of organic aerosol across the United States and showed a significant decrease from 1990 to 2012. The paper was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more on MIT News.

Research from Colette Heald, Associate Professor and Associate Department Head of CEE, research scientist David Ridley and Professor Jesse Kroll, shows that the Clean Air Act saved more lives than initially estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The researchers studied observations of organic aerosol across the United States and showed a significant decrease from 1990 to 2012. The paper was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more on MIT News.

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Graduate student Justin Montgomery speaks at U.S. Energy Information Administration Energy Forecasting Forum

January 12th, 20182018 News in Brief

Graduate student Justin Montgomery was invited to speak at the Energy Forecasting Forum, a monthly lecture series by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Montgomery and Francis O’Sullivan, the Director of Research for the MIT Energy Initiative, presented the methodology and findings of their paper “Spatial variability of tight oil well productivity and the impact of technology,” to inform the EIA about how they can incorporate the research into their modeling and forecasting of shale gas and tight oil production trends. Read the paper here.

Graduate student Justin Montgomery was invited to speak at the Energy Forecasting Forum, a monthly lecture series by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Montgomery and Francis O’Sullivan, the Director of Research for the MIT Energy Initiative, presented the methodology and findings of their paper “Spatial variability of tight oil well productivity and the impact of technology,” to inform the EIA about how they can incorporate the research into their modeling and forecasting of shale gas and tight oil production trends. Read the paper here.

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CEE IAP Photo Competition

January 8th, 2018IAP 2018

We are excited to announce the 2018 IAP photo competition, a chance for the MIT CEE community to show us how you embody the vision of the department through your IAP adventures. Whether your break is filled with research, mini-UROPs, classes, or travel, we want to experience them with you. Between January 8 and February 2, tag @MIT_CEE, use the hashtag #CEE_IAP, include a caption that explains how what you’re doing relates to the department’s vision, and share on either Instagram or Twitter. Photos will be evaluated based on the following criteria: • Creativity • Originality • Alignment with CEE’s vision of seeking to understand the world, invent and lead with creative design There will be two winners selected at the beginning of the spring semester. The person who submits the best photo will be awarded a $300 American Express gift card and another person who submits the most photos that all align with the above criteria will receive a $150 American Express gift card. Please direct any questions regarding the competition to cee-communications@mit.edu.

We are excited to announce the 2018 IAP photo competition, a chance for the MIT CEE community to show us how you embody the vision of the department through your IAP adventures. Whether your break is filled with research, mini-UROPs, classes, or travel, we want to experience them with you.

Between January 8 and February 2, tag @MIT_CEE, use the hashtag #CEE_IAP, include a caption that explains how what you’re doing relates to the department’s vision, and share on either Instagram or Twitter.

Photos will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
• Creativity
• Originality
• Alignment with CEE’s vision of seeking to understand the world, invent and lead with creative design

There will be two winners selected at the beginning of the spring semester. The person who submits the best photo will be awarded a $300 American Express gift card and another person who submits the most photos that all align with the above criteria will receive a $150 American Express gift card.

Please direct any questions regarding the competition to cee-communications@mit.edu.

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Research from Professor Markus Buehler and Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics shows spider silk can help understand how bones regenerate

December 22nd, 20172017 News in Brief

New research from Professor Markus Buehler and Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics (LAMM) shows spider silk can help understand how bones regenerate. The MIT researchers modeled how a cell membrane protein receptor, integrin, folds and activates the intracellular pathways that lead to bone formation. The research was conducted in collaboration with Tufts University and Nottingham Trent University. The paper was published in Advanced Functional Materials. Read more here.

New research from Professor Markus Buehler and Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics (LAMM) shows spider silk can help understand how bones regenerate. The MIT researchers modeled how a cell membrane protein receptor, integrin, folds and activates the intracellular pathways that lead to bone formation. The research was conducted in collaboration with Tufts University and Nottingham Trent University. The paper was published in Advanced Functional Materials. Read more here.

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