MIT-Imperial Exchange: Points, Colors, and Math

July 25th, 2017Undergraduate Student Life

By Abby Harvey This year, my summer revolves around points, colors, and math. In the morning, I take the train from point A to B on the red line, and each night before bed, I calculate the extra few minutes of sleep I can afford to eke out before being late to work. At work, I plot points in ArcGIS based on population, colored by anything from population density to concentrations of deadly amines to lifetime cancer risks. I’m working at Imperial College in London, my desk one amidst rows of grad students and cups of coffee. My project’s goal is to calculate lifetime cancer risks for populations around three coal plants which use a set of amines to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) pre-emission. While these amines limit CO2 emissions at the source, they can actually cause cancer even at very small concentrations, so my research will help coal plants choose the right amount of amines to use. London isn’t all work, however, and with the approximately 30 International Research Opportunities Program (IROP) students here at Imperial College, we get the chance to go out and explore London and the surrounding countryside. During the first two weeks, I tried fish & chips at a local pub, watched Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theatre, and tried the traditional British Afternoon Tea. A statue honoring William Shakespeare near Leicester Square. Last Saturday, I travelled to Brighton, a small coastal town in the UK. I visited a royal pavilion and learned about [...]

By Abby Harvey

This year, my summer revolves around points, colors, and math.

In the morning, I take the train from point A to B on the red line, and each night before bed, I calculate the extra few minutes of sleep I can afford to eke out before being late to work. At work, I plot points in ArcGIS based on population, colored by anything from population density to concentrations of deadly amines to lifetime cancer risks.

I’m working at Imperial College in London, my desk one amidst rows of grad students and cups of coffee. My project’s goal is to calculate lifetime cancer risks for populations around three coal plants which use a set of amines to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) pre-emission.

While these amines limit CO2 emissions at the source, they can actually cause cancer even at very small concentrations, so my research will help coal plants choose the right amount of amines to use.

London isn’t all work, however, and with the approximately 30 International Research Opportunities Program (IROP) students here at Imperial College, we get the chance to go out and explore London and the surrounding countryside.

During the first two weeks, I tried fish & chips at a local pub, watched Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theatre, and tried the traditional British Afternoon Tea.

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A statue honoring William Shakespeare near Leicester Square.

Last Saturday, I travelled to Brighton, a small coastal town in the UK. I visited a royal pavilion and learned about British history. Also, I got the chance to practice my geology skills at the pebble beaches at Brighton, and explore the arcade, food, and festival rides on the Brighton Pier.

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The Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

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A photo from the Brighton Pier showing the ocean & pebble beach.

On Sunday, I went to a Country Festival on the outskirts of London, where there were real baby farm animals! I pet llamas, cows, goats, sheep, and watched some chickens, turkeys and ducks strut around their enclosures. I also headed over to the main stage and listened to a live performance of Jamaican music. Like a classic American, I ordered some “cheesy chips” from a stand, and I was happily surprised when I was given my very own compostable bamboo fork to eat with!

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Japan Adventures: Structures

July 25th, 2017Undergraduate Student Life

By Eric Wong The Japanese aesthetic is unmistakable: minimalistic, functional, and balanced. And the ambience it creates equally distinct: calm, peaceful, and soothing. The parts of Kyoto built in the new millennium represent a nod to styles of the past with a modern flair. The ancient Kyoto lives on today as it did in its earliest days, with some twenty-first century additions. In place of the internationally recognized rock garden found at Ryōan-ji and humble window shades, modern renditions of these features are dry gardens and façade accessories. These serve their original functions but at a different setting or scale. As an aspiring engineer and architect, Japan has provided an age-old tested and proven source of inspiration for purposeful design. Zen rock garden at Ryōan-ji, widely considered as the world’s greatest dry landscape. The Old What drew me to Japan in the first place was their attention to detail and unyielding pursuit of precision, especially when it came to their woodwork. What I was able to experience was exactly the famed seamless connection details and minimal inclusion of metal that I had expected. From simple dovetail joints to strategic plugin replacements for knots, I was truly in my structural engineer heaven. Every element clearly reflected a great amount of thought to its purpose locally and within the overall structure, and all of this was out for anyone to see. For me, that is the greatest beauty of the sea of temples and shrines I had the opportunity to explore all [...]

By Eric Wong

The Japanese aesthetic is unmistakable: minimalistic, functional, and balanced. And the ambience it creates equally distinct: calm, peaceful, and soothing.

The parts of Kyoto built in the new millennium represent a nod to styles of the past with a modern flair. The ancient Kyoto lives on today as it did in its earliest days, with some twenty-first century additions.

In place of the internationally recognized rock garden found at Ryōan-ji and humble window shades, modern renditions of these features are dry gardens and façade accessories. These serve their original functions but at a different setting or scale.

As an aspiring engineer and architect, Japan has provided an age-old tested and proven source of inspiration for purposeful design.

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Zen rock garden at Ryōan-ji, widely considered as the world’s greatest dry landscape.

The Old

What drew me to Japan in the first place was their attention to detail and unyielding pursuit of precision, especially when it came to their woodwork. What I was able to experience was exactly the famed seamless connection details and minimal inclusion of metal that I had expected.

From simple dovetail joints to strategic plugin replacements for knots, I was truly in my structural engineer heaven.

Every element clearly reflected a great amount of thought to its purpose locally and within the overall structure, and all of this was out for anyone to see. For me, that is the greatest beauty of the sea of temples and shrines I had the opportunity to explore all over Kyoto.

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Goei-dō or Founder’s Hall Gate at Higashi Hongan-ji. It is considered one of the largest wooden structures in the world.

But what is equally impressive and worthy of praise is the impeccable restoration and renovation that preserves these structural wonders to their original glory. What I’ve come to realize is that what allows these carefully crafted structures to remain as they were built is the complete and thorough understanding of the buildings.

Ancient Japanese architecture is an intricate 3-D puzzle with every beam and column playing a pivotal role with little wiggle room. But temple after temple and castle after castle, Japan’s rich history is perfectly preserved for structural engineers like me to marvel at and admire.

The New

The most exciting and interesting of the new structures that I’ve seen in Japan are what I see as abstractions. The differences are stark, but the inspiration is undeniably singular and the result, I would argue, is even more entrancing. Like its predecessors, modern Japanese architecture continues to pursue balance through deliberate design choices but what the biggest difference is the humbleness in the design.

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Ryokoku Museum, a comprehensive Buddhist museum, featuring a distinctive wooden facade.

What remains of the old is associated with the other worldly, the royal, and the craftsmen. The buildings that were constructed to house these aspects of Japanese society had to inspire those visiting and elevate those using them. Whether this is achieved through grandeur in size, decoration, or surrounding the old induces a sense of admiration through its intricacies.

Why I consider modern structures as humble abstractions of the old is because there are clear design connections between the two styles. Remnants of the past are reimagined in a simple and pure form to highlight the effect that they had in their originators. From the formwork used during the casting of the concrete on interior walls leaving behind their wooden imprints, to unobstructed views into their surrounding areas, there is a distinct Japanese feeling to these structures without the intricate engravings or decorations. The same feeling of inspiration and mindfulness is achieved with minimalism.

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Byodoin Museum, Uji. First hallway from the entrance featuring one of Japan’s national treasure, a temple bell, through latticework.

The Forgotten

There’s no city where there aren’t these areas, but there was something magical about the one that made me do a double take and back up a dead-end just for a picture. The cracked windows and dirt caked concrete remains of what may have been a residential building seemed to be living. It looked like a scene taken straight out of a Studio Ghibli animation, and maybe that was what captured my attention. The sight reminded me that the people come and go but the design remains. What we create will last and how it will incorporate itself into its surrounding is just as important to consider.

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Abandoned building on a side street off Imadegawa.

Eric is a rising junior at MIT in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering with a focus on the intersection between structural engineering and architecture. He’s interested in the power and process of design in creating sustainable, captivating structures. This summer Eric is researching structural optimization under Professor Makoto Ohsaki at Kyoto University through CEE and MISTI (MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives).

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Professor Xuanhe Zhao designs smooth gel coating for medical materials

July 18th, 20172017 News in Brief

Robert N. Noyce Career Development Associate Professor Xuanhe Zhao recently designed a new soft and slippery yet tough coating that can be applied to plastic and rubber materials such as surgical tubing. The coating makes medical materials more comfortable for patients. The method was recently published in Advanced Healthcare Materials. More information is available on MIT News.

Robert N. Noyce Career Development Associate Professor Xuanhe Zhao recently designed a new soft and slippery yet tough coating that can be applied to plastic and rubber materials such as surgical tubing. The coating makes medical materials more comfortable for patients. The method was recently published in Advanced Healthcare Materials. More information is available on MIT News.

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MIT-Imperial Exchange: Living and working in London

July 18th, 2017Undergraduate Student Life

By Milani Chatterji-Len This summer I am working in a research lab at Imperial College of London through the MIT-Imperial Exchange. The program, which strengthens the relationship between Imperial and MIT, sends students from across many departments at MIT to Imperial, and vice versa, every summer. The other 17 MIT students and I are part of a larger International Research Opportunities Program (IROP) at Imperial, with participating students from Korea, Singapore, Brazil, Canada, Germany and other countries. Along with being an amazing research experience, the program allows us to explore life in London and travel around Europe. Some of the MIT-Imperial Exchange students at the IROP Welcome Afternoon Tea after week one of the exchange. I’m working in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the Environment and Water Resources section. My project, under the direction of Professor Wouter Buytaert, improves flood early warning systems in the Himalayan region. For the past few weeks, I have been creating a hydraulic model in MATLAB to attempt to precisely predict river flow during flood events. The project has been a great way to apply MATLAB and fluid mechanics knowledge from classes at MIT to real-world problems. It’s also been exciting working at a university with a different work culture and lab structure. Students from MIT, Imperial, Oxford, and University of Michigan on the pier in Brighton, England. In addition to exciting research, London also offers great travel opportunities. I intend to explore London and travel through the UK and Europe every [...]

By Milani Chatterji-Len

This summer I am working in a research lab at Imperial College of London through the MIT-Imperial Exchange. The program, which strengthens the relationship between Imperial and MIT, sends students from across many departments at MIT to Imperial, and vice versa, every summer.

The other 17 MIT students and I are part of a larger International Research Opportunities Program (IROP) at Imperial, with participating students from Korea, Singapore, Brazil, Canada, Germany and other countries. Along with being an amazing research experience, the program allows us to explore life in London and travel around Europe.

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Some of the MIT-Imperial Exchange students at the IROP Welcome Afternoon Tea after week one of the exchange.

I’m working in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the Environment and Water Resources section. My project, under the direction of Professor Wouter Buytaert, improves flood early warning systems in the Himalayan region.

For the past few weeks, I have been creating a hydraulic model in MATLAB to attempt to precisely predict river flow during flood events. The project has been a great way to apply MATLAB and fluid mechanics knowledge from classes at MIT to real-world problems. It’s also been exciting working at a university with a different work culture and lab structure.

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Students from MIT, Imperial, Oxford, and University of Michigan on the pier in Brighton, England.

In addition to exciting research, London also offers great travel opportunities. I intend to explore London and travel through the UK and Europe every weekend, because there are so many exciting places to see in and around the city.

Plus, train, bus, and plane tickets tend to be less expensive because of the advanced European transit systems! This past weekend, I traveled to Brighton with a group of IROP and UROP students at Imperial. Brighton is a beach town on the southern coast of England, with a beautiful (albeit rocky) shore and tons of cute shops and restaurants.

In the following weeks, I will continue working on my research, traveling around Europe (Amsterdam and Paris!) and meeting new students at Imperial. MIT CEE’s participation in programs like this one is great, as it allow us to have amazing new research and living experiences abroad.

This summer, MIT CEE undergraduates Abby Harvey and Milani Chatterji-Len are working in research labs at the Imperial College of London as part of the MIT International Research Opportunities Program (IROP).

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Japan Adventures: Transportation

July 18th, 2017Undergraduate Student Life

By Eric Wong In my two months in Japan, the one aspect of Japanese culture that seems to permeate into everything is the pursuit of perfection. Life in Japan, as seen in transportation, is inseparable from the influence of that goal. Growing up in New York City and relying on the MTA to get back and forth to school every day has left me with a jaded view of public transit. Frequent delays and failing infrastructure are traits that I have come to associate with taking the subway. As for the bus, it was a necessary evil that was to be avoided at all costs. Fast forward to just seven weeks conducting research and exploring Japan, I now see how efficient and effective a well-run transportation network can be. Any branch of public transit, whether it is the upscale Shinkansen, the humble local train, and most surprising for me, the buses all are held to the same degree of professionalism and expectation of promised service. With timetables that are actually followed and orderly stations I find myself excited to take public transit and now see a car as a luxury rather than a necessity. Shinkansen pulling into Shin-Kobe station. Time tables are strictly followed in Japan. The trip from Kobe to Osaka took only 12 minutes (about half the time of a regular train on just a 25 mile trip)! However, as with any system, not everyone can be satisfied. There are always changes to consider. For one, the strict [...]

By Eric Wong

In my two months in Japan, the one aspect of Japanese culture that seems to permeate into everything is the pursuit of perfection. Life in Japan, as seen in transportation, is inseparable from the influence of that goal.

Growing up in New York City and relying on the MTA to get back and forth to school every day has left me with a jaded view of public transit. Frequent delays and failing infrastructure are traits that I have come to associate with taking the subway. As for the bus, it was a necessary evil that was to be avoided at all costs.

Fast forward to just seven weeks conducting research and exploring Japan, I now see how efficient and effective a well-run transportation network can be. Any branch of public transit, whether it is the upscale Shinkansen, the humble local train, and most surprising for me, the buses all are held to the same degree of professionalism and expectation of promised service. With timetables that are actually followed and orderly stations I find myself excited to take public transit and now see a car as a luxury rather than a necessity.

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Shinkansen pulling into Shin-Kobe station.

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Time tables are strictly followed in Japan. The trip from Kobe to Osaka took only 12 minutes (about half the time of a regular train on just a 25 mile trip)!

However, as with any system, not everyone can be satisfied. There are always changes to consider. For one, the strict accordance with published timetables would leave trains that arrived earlier than expected waiting at the station until their scheduled departure that, at times, meant sitting for minutes on end until father time finally caught up. Personally, that extra time spent in the stations was further dampened by their overly utilitarian-based design. While they were effective in directing passengers to their respective platforms, the stations left me uninspired and wanting more. For a space that see thousands of users walk through its gates and under its cover, train stations represent a great opportunity to showcase the local area.

Hats off to you, Japan, for showing this Brooklyn kid what public transportation can really be.

Eric is a rising junior at MIT in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering with a focus on the intersection between structural engineering and architecture. He’s interested in the power and process of design in creating sustainable, captivating structures. This summer Eric is researching structural optimization under Professor Makoto Ohsaki at Kyoto University through CEE and MISTI (MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives).

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Japan Adventures: Kyoto

July 12th, 2017Undergraduate Student Life

By Eric Wong Kyoto is known for its seemingly endless number of shrines and tranquil natural sights. While this is undoubtedly true, it is also very much a city and that’s where the charm of the once imperial capital of Japan comes out. From my apartment in the northern neighborhood of Yoshida, Kyoto there is a seamless mix of a concrete jungle and a literal jungle. Depending on which way you walk, you’ll find yourself lost in two different worlds. A short trip north and you’ll find yourself in front of the Shimogamo-Jinja and transported into ancient Japan with a forest and shrine almost unchanged save for a few security cameras or towered over by Mount Daimonji whose name directly translates to reference the prominent kanji for “big” on its face. View from Ginkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Silver Temple. Looking towards the main entrance of the Konkai-Komyoji Temple complex. As quickly as you can find yourself looking into the past, going in another direction can lead you straight to the heart of a modern city. While it is no New York, the Shijo area reminds you that there is more to Kyoto than mementos of the past. Whether it’s giant panchinko stores, costume renting karaoke, or name brand shopping, there’s a place for that here. Shijo-dori (4th Street), a covered street lined with shops. Street off of Shijo-dori with plenty of food options. For people who, like me, need the proximity of a bustling metropolis but prefers to [...]

By Eric Wong

Kyoto is known for its seemingly endless number of shrines and tranquil natural sights. While this is undoubtedly true, it is also very much a city and that’s where the charm of the once imperial capital of Japan comes out.

From my apartment in the northern neighborhood of Yoshida, Kyoto there is a seamless mix of a concrete jungle and a literal jungle. Depending on which way you walk, you’ll find yourself lost in two different worlds.

A short trip north and you’ll find yourself in front of the Shimogamo-Jinja and transported into ancient Japan with a forest and shrine almost unchanged save for a few security cameras or towered over by Mount Daimonji whose name directly translates to reference the prominent kanji for “big” on its face.

Picture 1

View from Ginkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Silver Temple.

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Looking towards the main entrance of the Konkai-Komyoji Temple complex.

As quickly as you can find yourself looking into the past, going in another direction can lead you straight to the heart of a modern city. While it is no New York, the Shijo area reminds you that there is more to Kyoto than mementos of the past. Whether it’s giant panchinko stores, costume renting karaoke, or name brand shopping, there’s a place for that here.

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Shijo-dori (4th Street), a covered street lined with shops.

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Street off of Shijo-dori with plenty of food options.

For people who, like me, need the proximity of a bustling metropolis but prefers to relax by a river, Kyoto is an absolute gem of a destination. Experiencing the seamless integration of relics of its golden days as the capital with the modern city that it has become is worth the trip.

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The Kamo River runs right through Kyoto and provides a relaxing stroll or destination with a gorgeous view.

Eric is a rising junior at MIT in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering with a focus on the intersection between structural engineering and architecture. He’s interested in the power and process of design in creating sustainable, captivating structures. This summer Eric is researching structural optimization under Professor Makoto Ohsaki at Kyoto University through CEE and MISTI (MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives).

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