Thursday, October 3, 2013

Welcome New Students!

Perhaps the most important annual event at the Media Lab is the infusion of new talent each September. As a new semester gets underway, new students bring to this Lab a rich and vibrant set of experiences and ideas that renews our spirit of possibility. This year, we welcome one of the largest contingent of masters' students in the history of the Lab—47 bright individuals who will be embarking on a journey of unleashing their creativity and smarts during the next two years. We couldn't be more thrilled for them.

If you're a new student settling down at the Lab, initially you can feel a lot like a child in a candy shop at one end and also feel a teensy bit overwhelming at the other. A dazzling array of courses, spellbinding research across MIT, and an enthusiastic community on campus can be both endlessly interesting and daunting at the same time. But we have not a shred of doubt that you are going to do great things while you're here. It's sort of like a convex optimization formulation in machine learning—you are positioned to succeed by converging on your objectives. So, as you begin your journey here at MIT, we thought we'd share a few snippets with you.

  1. Reject the impostor syndrome | Your admission to the Media Lab was not by accident. You were selected from hundreds of competent and competitive folks. Please do not doubt your abilities. It can feel intimidating to be surrounded by extraordinary people, but never second guess your own abilities and talents.
  2. Focus on super health | Being a graduate student at MIT is a bit like being an athlete, where health and fitness are of paramount importance. Please triple down on positive habits that elevate your well-being. We want you to conquer the diathesis-stress model by optimizing healthy diet, exercise, and sleep. You'll find it only amplifies your creativity and the effectiveness of your research trajectory.
  3. Talk to the polymaths | The Media Lab is filled with faculty members who are not only pioneers in their own fields, but also have deep expertise in other fields. It is a function of our antidisciplinary approach to things. Some of our best experiences have been deep and astute discussions with our brilliant faculty.
  4. Spread your wings further | One of the most powerful aspects of being a Media Lab student is that there are very few required classes. You are free to take any class at MIT and can cross-register at Harvard as well. It's resulted in some long-lasting collaborations for many former and current students. If you are on the cusp of a spin-off, the world is at your command in terms of mobilizing resources here at MIT.

There are few places on this planet like MIT—from the invention of single-electron transistors to formulating information theory, the scientific acumen, gravitas, and impact that has emanated from this great campus still gives us goosebumps. We're all so lucky to be here. MIT's capacity to inspire and lead is perennial. Now you are a part of this family and every magical attribute of it, and we couldn't be more excited about you and the work that you will be crafting during your stay here.

Karthik Dinakar is a PhD student in the Media Lab's Software Agents and Affective Computing groups.
Birago Jones is the president of the MIT Media Lab Alumni Association
Joost Bonsen is a lecturer in the Media Lab's Human Dynamics group