Monday, December 19, 2011


It's rather hard to believe, but I just finished my second semester here in graduate school at MIT.  Half of the semesters where we will be taking classes (as opposed to traveling and working on our internships) are done.  My last final, Accounting, was on Friday and now all that's left to do before the new year is bid for next semester's classes.

Sloan, unlike the rest of MIT, has a bidding system for course registration.  You're given 1000 points and then told to allocate them among the classes you want to take based on how popular the class is, the professor who's teaching it is, when it meets, etc.  Our bidding round closes Tuesday the 20th at 5PM, so I need to make up my mind soon about which classes are getting what points.  What's hard is that you can have an ideal schedule in mind, but there's no guarantee you'll get those sections or even that class.  It's a strange system and I hope to perfect my technique as time goes on.  Other than that, the past few days have been filled with sleeping in, cleaning up, going to parties and Christmas shopping.  Not a bad deal.

Next semester, my classmates doing off-cycle projects will not be with us in classes at MIT and that will be strange.  A few of them will remain in Boston working on projects with the local hospitals - Mass General and Beth Israel, but others will be scattered throughout the country and others still will be overseas.  10, maybe 11 of the 50 LGOs in the class of 2013 will be doing off-cycle projects.  I say maybe 11 because we had a last minute off-cycle project offering and they're working on assigning it as I write this.

Friday afternoon after my last final felt AMAZING.  Having never taken this many classes at once (six classes, plus I took a seminar as a listener), and having had fewer finals in undergrad, finishing three exams in the four days !right after my birthday! was a big accomplishment.  To celebrate, the LGOs (whom a guy on my Sloan Core team now refers to as LeGOs) had a well-attended house party Friday night and now probably don't know what to do with ourselves.

Well, now that finals are done for us and applications are in from prospective 2014s, let's all take a nice, deserved break and enjoy the rest of 2011.  I might put up another post before 2012 comes around, but if not, look forward to updates about Plant Trek coming in January!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Countdowns of all kinds

Countdown for applications - LGO '14 applications are due in five days!

Countdown to the end of term - my last final of the three I'm taking is December 16th and then I'm done for the holiday break.

Next big thing for LGO - Plant Trek!

We had an informational meeting this morning where the all but final schedule was handed out to everyone and we met the two Sloan Ops Club members (regular MBAs) who will be joining us on the trip.  Each year Ops club gets to add a few people onto the contingent of LGOs who go.

This year's trip will take us to see CAT in Peoria, IL; GM and Ford in greater Detroit, MI (multiple sites); Boeing in Seattle, WA; Amazon in Phoenix, AZ; Dell in Austin, TX and Amgen in Juncos, Puerto Rico.  I'm part of a group that has decided to stay longer in Puerto Rico as a mini vacation.  This should be a great trip and one that is incredibly packed with things to do.  I'm really looking forward to it.

To help learn about out partner companies, one thing I've done since LGO started is set up Google alerts for them.  Google alerts are custom searches for keywords and when they are found in news articles, it delivers the article to your email or RSS feed.  While searching for "GM" in the news sometimes brings up articles about pro sports, the filter has been useful, even if I cannot read all the stories, I try and scan as many headlines as I can.  Sloan's CDO (Career Development Office) has recommended this as a way of doing research on companies to help in writing cover letters and interviewing.

Speaking of interviewing, when we get back from Plant Trek, we'll be beginning our On-Cycle interviews for the projects that will be the foundation for our theses.  Lots of things are happening and that's good.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Field trip, thanksgiving and warmth

This afternoon, one of my engineering classes, Mechanical Assemblies (MIT # 2.875 - Mechanical Engineering is course #2, so all their classes are numbered 2.*.  Sloan is #15) went on a field trip with another Mech E class to Instrumentation Laboratory in Bedford, MA, a medical device company.  Our professor has been working there on and off as a consultant for the past year and so we were able to see their manufacturing floor and testing areas.  This was relevant to our Mechanical Assemblies class because throughout the semester we've been analyzing a consumer product (our team's choice was a NERF gun that shoots foam suction cup-tipped darts).

For Mechanical Assemblies, we've had weekly projects where we've modeled the parts on the computer, drawn exploded views, written assembly instructions, explained dimensional tolerances and key characteristics that need to be present in order for the NERF gun to function properly, as well as defined other process parameters, like how long we think the assembly would take, how much our materials and labor costs would be, how we would layout the factory, etc.  Today we were able to see a real world example of how this is done and got to see ways that assembly stations, or work cells (as IL called them) are arranged in-person.

I'm still getting used to being on a school schedule again, after taking some much needed time off over Thanksgiving.  Break was filled with food and naps, some TV or a movie and then more food and more naps.  Comfy clothes, nice people.  All was good.

This week and November in general have been abnormally warm.  Besides the small amount of slushy snow we got in an oppositely freakish manner right at the end of October, this week has hit 60 degrees multiple times.  Because the leaves on the ground aren't yet snow covered or frozen stiff, I can't tell whether this means that I'm actually getting sick now or just having super late fall allergies.  The weather is definitely different from last year...though the giant snow that I remember was actually in January, when I flew out for LGO Interviewfest, not November.  Since the photo below is of the unusual January 2011 snowfall, I would NOT expect ::crosses fingers:: something like that in 2012.

The snow in Cambridge IN 2011, note the car mirror sticking out of the snow bank in the middle
Related to thinking about Interviewfest and coming to campus, applications are due 12/15 for the LGO class of 2014, so finish up those essays and please apply - I hope to see you next year!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Snapshots (without pictures)

Ok, I've been delinquent for too long here.  Been focusing mainly on the ray of hope that is Thanksgiving break.

Over the past two weeks though I:

Saw Google Chairman Eric Schmidt speak at Sloan's Innovative Leaders Series
(I even got to ask him a question! which he unfortunately misinterpreted...)

Attended a LGO Proseminar given by Apple
(I can say no more because that's what they asked, ahem, told us to do)

Gave two campus tours and met many cool people at LGO Ambassador Day!
(thank you to everyone for coming and please apply to be a part of the class of 2014)

Attended the Ambassador Day Proseminar given by Novartis
(nice to have an alum presenting both about her company but additionally about her experiences as a student)

Played in two more IM hockey games
(both losses, but I think I still improved)

Consumed more Halloween candy than I would care to disclose
(bought on sale, after Halloween)

Learned more about partner companies through their recruiting week receptions
(as well as saw the second years go through interviews and get some offers!)

Took two more guitar lessons
(though I should practice much more)

Received team feedback that I think differently in a good way, using alternate ways of reaching the same conclusions, and that I need to challenge them more with these different approaches
(overall, pretty intriguing comments and I will try and take them to heart)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

SIP, Recruiting Week and Ambassador Day Update

SIP, Sloan Innovation Period, has come and gone.  It's the week after midterms when all you have is a mandatory ethics module (along with any other Sloan mini courses you sign up for). The LGOs also have engineering classes.  The regular Sloanies just have their mini courses and so there are more shanigans going on that week than most.  Highlights of SIP fun this semester included Korean BBQ, a trip to the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut, Sloan's Oktoberfest and a performance by a fellow Pacific '13 Philip Cohen at a local club called T.T. the Bear's Place (

I went to Oktoberfest and out to support my fellow Pacifican Phil.  It was nice having just engineering classes and only having to show up for three days that week.  Especially with nothing the previous friday (due to just having finished midterms), having a five day week now after a four day and three day one seems rough.  Back to real (school) life!

This week, the LGO lounge has been hoppin' 'cause the '12s are back from their internships for their job interviews and partner company recruiting (Three apostrophes in one sentence!! :-).  Although the second years are the focus this week, many receptions the partner companies have been hosting have welcomed us first years and so I've had some good opportunities to deepen relationships with partner companies that have been on campus before as well as meet some new ones that haven't been to campus yet.

Speaking of being on campus...I don't know how many of you who are reading this will be coming to Ambassador Day next Monday, but if you do, I will be leading tours of campus - one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  I'm sure I'll be around other times, too, but if you want to chat about LGO, the application, or MIT in general, I will try and fit that in or talk to you before or after.  Also, if you have comments about the blog - what you'd like to see more of, are sick of hearing about or still want to know - let's have a conversation.  The comments section on the blog itself hasn't done much, but I'd be happy to get in person feedback :-)

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Our first IM Hockey game was last Wednesday and, even though we lost rather gloriously (7-1), it was not a shutout and we had a lot of fun.  My personal success was that I won a faceoff!  I also brought some fans to the game in the form of my roommates.  They were super excited to see us play something hockey-ish - something I appreciated but didn't fully understand :-)

Since we're newbies and ice time is limited (we went on right after a C-league game - we're in D-league) each of the three periods in the game was 11 minutes instead of 20.  During warmups many of us tested our pads by diving on the ice and then repeated the dive at the end of the game.  Maybe that will become our signature move.

My roommates not only acted as a great cheering section, they also took quite a number of photos.  I would like to share some of those with you.

Mid-game action
Our opponent - Delta Upsilon
I've got the puck!

Checking out what's going on, ready to get back into the ice
Our next game is versus the LGO '12s on Tuesday night, so it will be interesting to see how we do then.  No matter what it should be time for some good trash talking and bad hockey.  Woohoo!

Monday, October 17, 2011

MIT Quirks and Extracurriculars

Hi again.  I had to share this.  One more vestige of undergraduate life.  In order to graduate, each undergraduate needs to complete a certain number of PE classes.  I had heard people refer to this PE class combo using this particular title (see screen shot below), but hadn't seen it officially acknowledged by the MIT's department of athletics, physical education and recreation before.  This is a screen shot from their website:


In a related note, Winter IM sports are almost here and I've signed up for the LGO D-League Ice Hockey team.  I still need some gear (some you can rent from MIT and some things, like sticks, our upperclassmen have passed down some) and probably need hockey skates rather than figure skates, but it should be a lot of fun.  D league is the most basic level you can play at (some people don't know how to skate yet!!) and so I'm not really worried.  I can skate okay, I can't stop too well and I've watched but never played hockey.  Given that history, I should be in the middle to middle-front of the pack.  There's a practice/intro session tomorrow night so I'll have to see what I can scramble together.  Oh, and we also have three mid-terms this week.

Besides IM sports, I'm taking beginner guitar lessons through the MIT Live Music Connection (, an undergrad club (but open to all) formed in 2008 for people who play less classical instruments.  They have these "open source" music lessons, hold jam sessions and help MIT bands put on shows on campus.  

We meet on Monday evenings from 8:30-10 for "lecture" and then there's expected recitation (practice on our own).  Even though there's tons of music on campus, these guys still found a niche to fill and it's been pretty cool.  I need to keep practicing through!  Our first songs were Mary had a Little Lamb, the opening to Stacy's Mom, the opening to Welcome to the Jungle, a Bon Jovi intro, part of the Rolling Stones' Paint it Black and...the opening to the Super Mario Brothers theme.  As I said, I just need to keep putting in the time.  We'll see how I do in class tonight :-)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Reaching Out

One of the recent advances I've made in getting the word out about LGO is having my blog added to the MIT Sloan Student Blog (  In our early New Student Recruiting Committee meetings (yes, I'm documenting my experience for my benefit AND yours), some current students had mentioned that LGO is hard to find from both the Sloan and Engineering pages, so my goal is to make it more visible than it was before, no matter how small that change may be.

A fun surprise from working on getting cross-posted on the Sloan blog was that I "met" (through the phone) my summer probability professor's wife!  Turns out, she works for Sloan admissions and is the person coordinating the blogs.  Hi Harriet!  Thanks for getting this coordination effort rolling.

Besides just getting rolling, the cool thing is that it looks like things are starting to take hold.  From looking at my 'Stats' page I've already started getting referral/link traffic from the Sloan blog page and have added a few more hits to my total.  A next step I'm looking at would be to approach the general MIT admissions blog ( and see if I could have even one guest post on their site.

I know quite a number of undergraduates post and read the MIT Admissions blog, but I don't know how much the blog interfaces with the incoming grad population since it is usually focused at applying to specific departments rather than learning about MIT as much in general.  Engineering departments here generally don't have student blogs, and you can't apply to LGO straight from undergrad, so it's hard to know how to best reach potential applicants (Hey applicants, if you're reading this and have some ideas, let me know!).

I seem to have a funny relationship with social media.  I have a Facebook page and I have a Linked In profile but I don't use twitter.  I haven't posted any of my own photos on Facebook and yet I write this publicly available blog.  Overall, I guess I like the casual prose of blogging versus the sentence or two that are status updates.  I took four writing classes while an undergrad at MIT and Writing ended up being my humanities concentration (all undergraduates need to have a humanities concentration, but it could be music or history or economics as much as it could be writing).  It's just something I like doing.

As a final aside, if you want to know anything about MIT in general, with a 95% service level, I probably know about it or can get you information on it.  Honestly the more fun and legend-like the better.  Having been an undergrad here for four years and then worked with alumni while I was employed out in Michigan there are a lot of things that have passed my ears in addition to the things we've been learning about as LGOs.  Feel free to ask me questions over email or come talk at Ambassador Day (11/7/11 - be there!).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Weekend in Michigan

Wow, October is already almost half gone.  Other students and I have decided that days might seem to go on and on but weeks disappear like nothing.  How are we over a month into term already?  While we've had over four weeks of classes, this post is going to at least start out not about classes.

For our long Columbus Day weekend (MIT gives Monday and Tuesday off!), I went to Michigan.  I flew out on Friday, landed at DTW around 4:30 and went to the Red Wings home opener at 7PM (Wings beat Ottawa 5-3 -Yay!).  On saturday, I went back to one of my favorite restaurants out there, The Forest Grill, which is in a town called Birmingham (right by the Law Firm of Victoria - not kidding!) and then on Sunday, went to a cider mill for cider and donuts...
Filling something like cheesecloth with apple chunks to be pressed into yummy cider! Another press is on the left
...and then out in a boat on Lake St. Clair all the way down to the Ambassador bridge connecting Detroit to Canada.  Turned out that the weather was as nice out in Michigan as it was in Boston this weekend - mid 70s and bright sun.  Best weekend of the fall for sure.
Ambassador Bridge - Canada's on the left, Detroit Rock City is on the right
There, we could see the GM Renaissance Center and the Red Wings' home - Joe Louis Arena - from the water.  I waved to Canada and was reminded that this weekend was their Thanksgiving.
GM's Headquarters, the Renaissance Center or RenCen for short :-)
On Monday, since they did not have the day off, I visited my old workplace, got to see changes that had been made, hear a little about what was going on as well as share what I had been busy with "out east".  People seemed really pleased that I stopped to see them.  I'm pleased that they were pleased!

All in all, an AWESOME weekend, but one that felt much shorter than it actually was.  I flew back Tuesday morning and was doing reading for class while waiting to board the plane.  Seems like you're either in work or fun mode, there isn't much in between and you've got to maximize both.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Applications are coming! (and my application story)

I discovered the LGO program at the end of last summer.  I had recently found and been looking at the MIT 1-year MEng in Manufacturing (, but then found Leaders for Global Operations.  LGO is like that program plus an MBA with a longer internship.  From my perspective, I wanted to apply for the engineering degree and the MBA would come as the bonus.  I used the engineering application and applied through ESD (Engineering Systems Division).  The program homepage became research central, to try and learn as much as I could.

You might be one of those people who leaves things to the last minute and so will find what I'm about to write crazy.  I know people have different styles, so take this with a grain of salt.  I started writing my essays in September.  I started writing my essays from the 2009 questions (the 2010 app hadn't been finalized yet!).  I had five full drafts written (one of each question) when the 2010 application came out and, to my dismay, one of the questions had changed!  So, first word of advice.  Don't do anything until you've got your year's application.

Now for less crazy, everyone applicable advice.  Especially if you start with enough time, have as many people read the essays as you can.  I had professors, work colleagues, friends and all kinds of people read it. I felt that the essays were really important because they would help explain my unusual story.  Some of you who already majored in Industrial Engineering or worked for partner companies might have a little less explaining to do.  So, back to writing.  At one point, each of my essays had gone through about three drafts and then one former professor just tore them down.  I was blown away; I was dismayed; I was a combination of confused and sad and completely indignant that someone could think that these paragraphs that I had already spent so much time on could be improved that much.

I took a lot of his advice but not all of it.  In the end it's you who's writing these essays, hopefully interviewing with the program, and who admissions has to see is a good fit for the program.  Your personality and drive need to be there.  Disclaimer: As far as I know I'm one of the people in 2013 who spent the most amount of time on their essays, so it is possible to be much less rigorous and get in.

Besides my application, I went to Ambassador Day (Nov 7th, 2011 this year!), and a Sloan on the Road event in Detroit, MI.  Ambassador Day is when you come to MIT and spend a day going to classes, meeting students and going out in the evening.  It's busy and it's a lot of fun.  Sloan on the Road events are mostly MBA focused, but especially if there are LGO alumni in your area, there will often be a quick Q&A with them as well.  Some Sloan on the Road events have already occurred, but here's the page to get more information about them.  They're usually held in the evening so you can go after work:  Disclaimer: these events are meant for you to learn more about the program and see how well you fit with other students and the school.  They have no bearing on your admission status.

Other than the essays, most of the application is the same as any other business school or even college application - tell us about yourself, include recommendations, and, since it's partly a business program, include a resume as well.

If you're wondering about your fit with LGO and even MIT here are some adjectives for you to mull over.

LGO students and the program:
Leaders ( the L in LGO matters a lot )

Never sleeps - not necessarily because of class work, something's just always going on
Networked - tons of connections of the Cambridge community and MIT alumni, also awesome wifi ;-)
Encouraging - lots of program and campus resources to help you do what you want to, whether that's start a business, start a club, etc.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Internships - Appearing on the edge of the horizon

Even though it's just a few weeks into the fall semester of our first year, we received an extra early reminder to think about internships when clothing company Zara (part of Inditex) asked to interview students early while their employees from Spain were in the US on business.  To back up a bit, here's a quick explanation of how internships play a role in the LGO program.

Every LGO student will spend six months, either from February to August (Off-cycle) or from June to November (On-cycle) working with one of our partner companies on a project that the company has proposed. This project will become the basis for the student's thesis.  Luckily, even though we will graduate with two degrees, MIT allows us to write just one thesis that will count for both.  So, even though Off-cycle internship interviews won't mostly begin until next month, Zara kicked things off last week.  It's gotten people to start thinking about when they want to go and what they want to do.

I am interested in doing Off-cycle for a number of reasons:

1) If you do an off-cycle internship, you have one remaining fall semester and one remaining spring.  On-cycle leaves you with two springs.  I like off-cycle because if you have more than two elective classes that looked interesting and were only offered in the fall, you will have that extra semester to get to take them.  The one fall everyone has (this one) is pretty full with the four required Sloan classes and so isn't very customizable.  There are at least two other classes only offered in the fall that I'd like to take, therefore, I'd like to be around campus for Sept-Nov 2012.

2) If you're here for the entirety of your second year, you can join and really commit to a Sloan club - you can follow a leadership role through.  This is actually true for On-cycle internships for LGO committees, so I'm more on the fence about this reason.  If I did off-cycle, I wouldn't be here to help out with the LGO Admitted Students Open House in March/April.  Maybe I could participate via Skype...

3) Two semesters of school, two "semesters" of internship and then another two semesters of school.  MIT classes can consume a lot of your time and brain power.  Having six months in the middle doing something with a completely different structure (focusing completely on one thing), gets you re-charged to tackle six of seven different commitments.

4) Other silly reasons: I like Boston weather from September to November  more than the weather from February to May.  Also, my birthday is in December and it would be nice to be "at home" then, after living in Michigan and not seeing my family for my birthday for three years.

5) Finally, for better or worse, you have more time to write your thesis!  Could be good but could be painful if work expands to fill the time allowed for it.

Everyone's got their own reasons for choosing what time they choose (including what companies are offering internships when), but right now this sounds good to me.

Monday, September 26, 2011


One thing I felt like I was missing in my undergraduate experience at MIT was mentorship and a smaller sense of belonging.  I felt very attached to the school as a whole and to my dorm, but within my department, I didn't feel like I was given much direction.

I know as future leaders, we should have to be able to lead ourselves first and should be able to give ourselves direction, but I didn't even feel always like I had someone to check my direction with - to bounce ideas off of and see if I was on to something.

Therefore, besides the many obvious benefits of LGO, I have been extremely pleased to have a community of staff, faculty and alumni that is very accessible and who care about my success.  What I'd like to write about today is an optional aspect of the program that was started a few years ago and that's alumni mentorship.

We have a great resource in Jan Klein, who has taught the LGO leadership course for years and years.  Due to her tenure with the program, she knows many many alumni well.  At a student's request, she will pair you with an alum mentor based on anything you might request - industry, gender, age, background, engineering major, etc.  My mentor is Melinda Manente, LGO '95 (back then is was Leaders for Manufacturing, so she's actually LFM '95).  She is local and has worked for Intel for the past 16 years.

This past Wednesday, she was part of an alumni career panel available to all students and then we went out for dinner afterwards to talk a little more one on one.  Having not done the formal mentor thing before, I had a few ideas for my first talk, but things went pretty organically.  We talked about my interests, her own career and family development, what she looks for from the perspective of a manager and how my background and preferences might fit with various companies.  We talked about questions I might ask to gauge a company culture, and then started coming up with a plan to help me get those internships or ultimately, full-time jobs.  My action plan from the meeting was to work on mock-interviews.

From discussion with Melinda and a one-on-one with Bill Hanson, another long-time LGO staff member, I'm getting closer to understanding what would be good in the long run.

I'd like to work for a company that makes a product that is on a human scale.  I want to be able to look at a production step and be able to see or measure that something's wrong.  I think this is why aerospace is less appealing (so big!), but also why, even though my work experience includes medical devices, pharma is not as exciting as I think it should be.  I would have a much harder time assessing what's wrong or making changes or manipulating things when the product is a vat of microbes or even a computer chip.  The spatial orientation and awareness that drew me to architecture is what makes these fields less exciting.

Finally, I don't want to work for a company whose products hurt people.  As much as I think America being safe is a good thing, I think that that coming at the expense of others dying is really hard to stomach and so I can't work for defense in good conscience.  There are so many good opportunities that will come out of this program so I'm not worried about finding something that will work.

It feels a little bit odd to, as Professor Spear often encouraged us, "put my stake in the ground" but this should provide some good initial direction and help me focus my efforts.  The more I think about what will get me excited, the better results I'll have in the long run.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Overdue - More cool stuff from the summer

One thing I was remiss in mentioning that I did over break at the end of the summer was go to Boston's GreenFest 2011, which was held on City Hall Plaza.  Earlier in the day it had poured rain and so many of the tents and smaller exhibits were partly dismantled, but one exhibit remained intact and stood out from the rest.  This was a set of high MPG cars that their owner/creators had driven in for the occasion.  All of these vehicles had motorcycle license plates since they were non-standard cars, and they each got over 80 MPG.

RooPod was the vehicle that I looked at the most and it's owner/creator Roo Trimble was very nice in explaining the thinking that had gone into the vehicle.  His day job is architectural metalwork and so not only was this car cool from an eco perspective, but it looked very polished and well done.  My one concern was safety, but he replied that it was safer than a motorcycle.  Can't have everything at once I guess.  His goal is to get sponsorship to further trick out this vehicle, to develop a second version of the car or to possibly expand production.  Here is his website explaining more about the RooPod including technical specs, etc.

Roo has been putting in tons of his own time and money to see this vehicle become a reality.  It's been an incremental process, but he's really passionate about the vehicle and knows tons about all the individual components that had to be customized and come together to make it comfortable, functional and street legal.  We had a fun chat in August and I wish him success in pushing this project forward.

Owner Roo trimble, drying off from the rain, talks about his vehicle the RooPod (3 wheels, and the door is the roof!)
Besides the RooPod, there were two other custom high MPG vehicles in attendance, the Moonbeam and another car whose owner didn't leave much information about.  It had more of a throwback look and a fiberglass top.

Moonbeam - looks like a space-y cousin of a Volkswagen beetle
The fiberglass high MPG car, I was thinking if Moonbeam was 60s inspired then this would be 70s and RooPod would be some kind of 80s/Modern combo

Friday, September 16, 2011

Club lecture - BioChem, Patents and Hair Care

Over lunch today I went to a talk Dr. Robert Langer gave to the Sloan Healthcare club.  Dr. Langer is an MIT Institute Professor (the highest title for a professor at MIT reflecting both depth of research an accomplishment at the institute as well as exceptional teaching and commitment to students).  There are fewer Institute Professors at MIT even than Nobel Laureates so this was definitely a treat.  He has a research group named after him, the Langer Lab, and many of his graduate students have used their work to start up companies from advances they've made in the field of chemical engineering.

His talk today reviewed a number of these theses-turned-companies and explained more about his strategy of filing for blocking patents (those worded vaguely so they must be acknowledged for development of many different products rather than just one).  His name is on over 800 patents and many of these have been licensed by large companies.  His list of accomplishments and contributions is amazing (he is the most cited engineer in history!).  Many of the products he and his students have developed have been in relation to drug delivery but my summary of his work would take too long.  For more information on Langer and his lab, go here.

The final item he discussed today was a product I've seen not at doctor's offices or medical journals, but on the shelves of personal care and cosmetics store Sephora.  His team has applied their research to develop a molecule more hydrophobic (water averse) than silicone, for use in anti-frizz hair care products to counteract humidity.  Silicone is what all other hair care manufacturers use but it can weigh down hair.  The Langer molecule has equivalent effects without the build-up and their line is called Living Proof.  I had vaguely heard before that the brand had MIT connections, but did not understand the depth of pedigree until today.  The reviews on Sephora, for those of you who are curious, give the line about 4/5 stars.

So, for lunch today I had the privilege of listening to an engaging talk by a MIT professor who has accomplished much and affected many people's lives - both patients, his students, and people with bad hair days.  It was one of those moments when I appreciate how accessible people are at MIT and what fantastic things have come out of this plot of land in Cambridge.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's September and we've been oriented again

While it was wonderful, break has ended and we've been inundated with Sloan and regular MIT graduate orientation events since the end of August.  It's been fun and nice to meet new people, though nothing will be as zany and awesome as MIT undergrad orientation, but it's already confirmed before fall has even begun that the MIT's firehose, not just of classes but clubs, committees, C-functions, etc. will be turned on full bore this coming semester.  I'm someone who likes sleep.  It will be interesting to see how those interests play out.

During Sloan orientation we were assigned to oceans and new teams (only one LGO per team this time - we're all split up).  I'm in the Pacific (F) Ocean (cohort) and have a team of seven people.  We are the Puffins.  All the teams within an ocean are named after seabirds.  We have two people from Massachusetts originally, two from Florida originally, one originally from France, one from India and one from Korea.  Funny how there's a greater diversity in countries than there is in states for our team with regards to where we grew up.  We've got our email list, Dropbox account and Google calendar all set up and ready to go so hopefully we can be effective from the very start.

Sloan orientation had more class type events than I expected, lots of catered food (about half of the orientation events were in the Marriott hotel right nearby) and then a fun day off campus at a place called the Warren Center doing team building activities.  I think it helped a lot to get our team loosened up and more comfortable with each other.  We've met up at subsequent orientation events, too.

Today was Registration Day, but we had a class.  I've never had that happen before at MIT but Sloan continues to play it's 'we'll do things our own way no matter how the rest of the institute does it' role, so I shouldn't be all that surprised.  Engineering classes and a relatively standard schedule start tomorrow.  I need to be on campus starting at 8:30 again.  Given the classes I wanted to take there was no way to avoid it.

In addition to the Sloan Core (four classes), I'm taking Logistics Systems (15.770/ESD.260) and Mechanical Assemblies: Their Design and Role in Product Development (2.875).  I've also been assigned to the Sloan Marketing elective this fall, but might choose to drop it and take it another semester.  It's offered every term and we just need to take it before we graduate.  I also then have to do work for committees (which I need to do more of) and general fun/outreach/interaction stuff.  As I said before, I'm wondering how this will mix with my need for sleep :-)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Alternate Plant Tour

On Friday, I went on the factory tour at Taza Chocolate ( in Somerville, MA.  I got tickets for their tour through the MIT Activities Committee (  The MIT Activities Committee sells tickets to various local events, museums, etc. at a discount to the MIT community.  Taza is a walk from the Central Square T stop and was started by some people who worked at Zipcar actually.

Taza is one of 20 bean to bar chocolate factories in the US.  All of their chocolate is dark chocolate.  There is no dairy at the facility and their bars are primarily cocoa beans and cane sugar.  Taza is fair trade, organic, kosher, vegan, etc..  The only issue is for people with nut allergies since they roast the nuts they use in some of their chocolate in the same roaster that they roast their cocoa beans in.

We got to see the beans themselves and machines that roasted the beans and separated from their shells.  They showed us the stone grinding machines that they use to grind the chocolate and all the piping that the liquified chocolate gets moved around in (the room is 85 degrees F!).  At the end, we saw employees putting chocolate into molds and then moving it into a room for cooling (50 degrees F).

The stone grinding methods came from Mexico and the chocolate recipe is traditional, too.  Most of their chocolate is disks and has a gritty texture from the minimal stone grinding, but the chocolate in the bars is ground further and is a little smoother.  They add cocoa butter to those bars.

The red machine in the background is the bean and nut roaster.  The one in the front is the shell separator.  What looks like dirt on the floor is actually cocoa powder, shell and nib bits.

Granite grinding wheels, about 20 pounds each are used to grind the chocolate
An employee adds a giant yellow chunk of cocoa butter to the big white vat in the background while watching liquid ground chocolate flow from the plumbing in the foreground
Filling the molds before they are passed into the cool room.
The majority of their chocolates are hand wrapped, though they recently got a machine to help them wrap some of the round ones.
Shelved boxes of their Mexican style round disks
Taza states that their chocolate has a shelf life of a year and that their busy season is from fall until about Valentine's Day.  They sell individual bars, but also sell chocolate in bulk to bakeries and restaurants.  During the tour there were all kinds of samples along the way, which made things even more enjoyable.  They have a few kinds of the smoother bar chocolate and then about 11 different flavors of the coarser Mexican disks, such as orange, coffee, salted almond, vanilla, salt and pepper, yerba mate and some ones with chili in them and others I can't even remember.  All in all the tour took about an hour and it was a fun short excursion for break.  I'd recommend a visit if you're in the area.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The end of the summer which is why I last posted 8/4

The final weeks of class (there are only ten in the summer, as opposed to a normal semester which has more like 14) were crazy, full of projects, papers and tests.  While many classes were ramping down, 15.064, our probability and statistics class, seemed to grow in the amount of our time it took up.  It had  the problem set that was due latest in the term, our only official final exam, and a final project.  The final project was a paper helicopter drop to see which team could get the best combination of hang time and accuracy.  For photos and video of our drop, see Steven's blog post here :-)

In 15.066, our Optimization class, teams presented their final projects where they had to both formulate and solve a complex problem of their choice.  Team 7, my team, presented a real world application of how to distribute oil, given that a company just found a new well, but Team 1 presented something more tasty: how Friendly's Ice Cream should distribute ice cream and other food supplies to their franchises.  To appease us all, they brought in snacks for the class.  David was one of the servers (as well as a presenter).
I picked the black raspberry and chocolate chip cookie dough  combo cup - now that's what I call breakfast!
In our leadership class, 15.317 (all classes that begin with the #15 are offered through Sloan), we had an art session of sorts and drew out what each of the teams wanted to leave behind from our summer work and experiences and also what lessons we had learned and skills we wanted to  bring forward.  Each group had a mix of serious and silly.
Artwork!  Drawing was one thing we didn't do much of this summer
Excited about the end of term, and curious about what other teams had drawn, most of us were out of our seats for the presentations
Finally, done with the stats exam and leadership summer wrap-up (leadership is a class we'll be checking in with throughout the two years), we gave out certificates with superlatives and nicknames for each person and then had a celebratory lunch outside of Redbones BBQ.  It hit the spot and the setting under the trees was really nice.  It kept threatening to rain, but we were able to stay dry.
End of the summer - we made it!
As lunch ended we all dispersed almost hesitatingly, kind of feeling like, what are we going to do now?  What is this free time that is now available to us?  A number of people were going home, a number of people were getting married over break actually and a bunch of people were staying in Boston.  I'll be eager to hear stories when we all reconvene in a few weeks.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New month, new topic

This will be short since the work load has only been ramping up lately.  The end of our summer term is just over two weeks away and it promises to be a marathon finish.  Group projects, a group paper, individual projects, problem sets and a final exam.  After that we've got two weeks to spend as we please and it's going to be WONDERFUL!

Now a little about a feature of our industry partnerships - Plant Tours!

In the summer of the first year, LGO students go on plant tours.  These initial ones are usually local (in-state) and the class of 2013 has kept it up.  So far I visited National Grid, New Balance, and Raytheon.  Some of my classmates visited Amgen with the CLGOs while they were here.  We have one tour left for the summer with Genzyme. All the facilities were wonderful to host us and show how everyday operations occur.

Here are a couple of my takeaways from these plant visits...

One thing that surprised me was all the inventory that National Grid had to manage.  When I originally thought of the company, I pictured routing electricity and telling it where to go, but you forget all of the equipment that is used in doing that.  Lots of transformers, meters to read what power is used and lots and lots of cable to fix/splice/form.  One of the facilities we went to with them was a training center where we were reminded of the fact that not only do they have meters at the buildings of their customers, but these meters are of many different ages, manufactures and types, and they still need to service each one.

At New Balance it was cool to see a product made so completely in one place.  We saw everything from the bolts of fabric stage to fusing the shoe to the sole in a final assembly operation.  All of the machines were closer together than I expected.  Some were automated, but many were the equivalent still of a person and a robust sewing machine.  New Balance has existed now for over 100 years, but the current owners took over in the 1970s.  The employees seemed very happy with the owners and I have to say that their factory, set up in a carefully renovated mill building from 1909 was very nice.

Ok, the architect is talking here...they kept the original hardwood floors and left much of the exterior brick wall exposed on the inside.  Also, old mill buildings have HUGE windows so there was plenty of natural light. I enjoyed the building in addition to the tour and presentation they gave us.

Raytheon...the main thing I can say was that the scale of everything surpassed what I had imagined - building size, product size, testing area, number of employees, price tags - it was all larger than life to me.  It was also interesting to learn a little about how they had implemented lean processes and systems for products that are made in relatively small batches.  I worked for a completely different industry, but we also had issues of low demand and small batch sizes.

Now...back to work!  I did finally order a camera, so once I have that in hand and things get less busy, I'll be sure to get back to posting more frequently complete with pictures.  Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 22, 2011

A good thing to do on a summer night

On Tuesday night I went to a concert at the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston.  It's very close to the water and easily accessible by the T.  The Pavilion is basically a giant tent that seats 5000 people.  It's open to the warm summer air and so it's great to go hear some music, see the sky change color as the sun sets and to feel the air get cooler as night descends.

For this particular show, I went to see Parachute and Michelle Branch open for the Goo Goo Dolls.  Overall, the concert wasn't as good as I had hoped it would be, but the Goo Goo Dolls are a band I've been interested in seeing live for a while and now that curiosity has been satisified.  They were good and it was nice to hear many of their familiar hits.  They did, however, also play songs from their CD that came out last summer, too, so this wasn't a total washed-up tour, but the biggest audience reaction was from the classic favorites.

One of the problems with playing the old and new songs together was that, to generalize, the old songs are harder punkier rock whereas the newer ones are more acoustic alternative radio listening so it made for a sort of bi-polar set list.  Besides the occasionally strange song juxtaposition, I guess it just felt like some extra spark was missing compared to other bands I've seen.  As I said before though, I'm still glad I saw them.

Summers to me recently have begged for a concert or two, especially ones at venues where you can enjoy the weather at the same time.  Last summer, in Michigan, I saw Colbie Caillat and Sheryl Crow at an open air venue and that was fun.  Getting a ticket last minute on Craigslist for $15 made it even better.  Alternatively, I also saw the Scorpions that summer, so don't go making too many generalizations about my music tastes...even I've tried and it's pretty hard...

As far as summer, it has been incredibly warm here this week and a bunch of last week, too.  Boston, yes, is usually humid during the summer, but I don't know if there's been this long of a spell that has been this hot in quite a while.  Today (Friday) the high is supposed to be 99F.  I wonder if we'll make it into the triple digits or not.  It seems as if we're certainly not alone in the heat department though; on Facebook, a Detroit radio station posted that it hit 100 there for the first time in fifteen years on Thursday.  Wow.

There won't be many photos on the blog until I get another camera.  I accidentally knocked mine off of a table here at Sloan and turned it into a camera shaped paperweight.  Does anyone have recommendations for inexpensive but good digital cameras?  I've been looking at the Panasonic Lumix series...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Team 7 Satellite Office

This weekend, Team 7 spent a day and a half on the south coast of Massachusetts, chilling out by the pool and on the beach and...reading Copenhagen and discussing a little stats.  Yes, we did some work.  But that wasn't our priority.  Priority #1 was taking some time to get our group and SOs together for a short break in the middle of our summer term.  It was GOOD.  LGO, can you just forward our mail here? :-)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Joint Venture: China LGO and LGO Meeting and Sharing

Background: LGO has a sister program with Shanghai Jiao Tong University that was started in 2007.  It is referred to as CLGO and is also focused on manufacturing and operations.  CLGO students visit LGO every summer and, every other spring, the LGOs go to China during their International Plant Trek.

This year, at the beginning of July, almost 30 CLGO students came to the United States to tour east coast cities (they visited Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York) and visit MIT.  Before Boston, the CLGOs had their own tour guides, but once they got to Boston and Cambridge, we were their hosts.

We had a welcome event at the sailing pavilion with introductions.  There, we first got to speak with the CLGOs in depth.  Their English is very good - they said that the cases they read for class are the same ones we do.  Even though the cases are written in English (which is definitely impressive), the class discussion is still usually in Chinese.  We shared dinner and they presented us each with a lovely gift - a business card case and key ring set with traditional chinese designs.

Meet and greet and gift sharing at the Sailing Pavilion
The CLGOs also came to a number of our classes and saw how we learned about leadership, lean/six sigma principles and high velocity organizations.  The Lean/Six Sigma class was probably the most interactive because were were doing our airplane building simluations.

Siwen (Sterling), Si (Steve) and Sam work on lego organization

The CLGO synergy committee, made up of LGO students, did a great job at planning meals and activities for our Chinese guests, many of which we could also attend.  I had an Italian dinner in Boston's North End with CLGO students on Friday night (helping decode the menu and choose representative Italian dishes for them to try) and went on a Whale Watch out of Boston Harbor with them on Sunday.  We saw many humpback whales that afternoon, feeding and diving all around the boat.

The group waiting on the docks to go on the whale watch
An awesome whale tail!!
Other activities we shared were many other meals and a trip to go berry picking a little outside of Boston.  We had received feedback from the previous year's visit that our Chinese guests wanted to see more non-city life, so berry picking seemed like a nice, sometimes literal, taste of nature!  During the berry trip, besides picking the fruit itself, the farm owners gave a tour of the processing facilities they had so we got some operations experience as well.
Talking about how things work on a farm

Transportation for the day

Xiaoming (Tina) looks really happy
Zach is also competing for the "really happy berry picker" prize.  He was the one who bought many pints of blueberries at Haymarket a week or two earlier...

The day was a tremendous success

The visit was informative for students from all countries.  I felt like I was able to learn a little more what actual life was like (the students with families reminded us that they just had one kid and couldn't have more) and how the US is really perceived (very independent rather than community oriented, ex. many Americans move away from home and into their own homes relatively early in life). We got to share things as well such as "No, there are no outlet malls accessible via subway."

But seriously, we shared America with the CLGOs by answering many questions, besides just where they could get "good stuff cheap."  Although, yes, the CLGO students wanted to buy luxury brands for people back home since things like Coach purses are less expensive here than they are in China, they also came to group events excited to see us again and get to share more experiences.  We talked about everything: from habits in class to the American police heirarchy (local/state/national) after we saw some cops on the street after we left a restaurant. 

Overall, they CLGOs were very congenial and eager, open to trying all sorts of foods (though some types were definitely preferred more than others, Mexican did not seem to be popular) and doing all sorts of things. They were very courteous and thoughtful, too (I was offered a seat on the subway multiple times, one got me a drink at the welcome party, etc.).

At our farewell dinner, rather than say goodbye, the CLGOs said "Welcome to China!".  I thought that this was a nice way to finish because it spoke of another beginning rather than just an ending.  I would like to go on the international plant trek next spring and am looking forward to seeing them again soon.

I hope this can be us sitting together on the other side of the world next time

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Back to go forward

While I'm organizing pictures from the CLGO visit to go with my official long post, I'll share another shorter and sillier event that happened earlier this month.

For our leadership class, we watched most of the film '12 Angry Men'.  In it, 12 men are jurors for a murder trial and basically all of the movie is shot in the room where they're trying to decide if the person is innocent or guilty.  Summary: lots of evidence of different leadership and communication styles appears and then we talked about it.

So, a core group of people decided that, shortly thereafter, we should wear polos and ties (if we had them) to leadership class in reference to the movie.  Most people participated, however, Jan Klein our professor didn't immediately notice.  Thinking about one of my previous posts, most of the guys wear collared shirts anyway and so our professor had no real reason to think that much was unusual.  She probably just didn't know what to think about the ties.  Since our plan wasn't obvious to the person who had shown us the movie, we ended up having to explain our scheme.  It didn't seem as clever then, however, it was still fun and it gave us an excuse to take another class photo.  Hi world!

More like 50 not so angry men and women

Old and New

Building E60 reflected in building E62
I really like this picture I took during one of our study group meetings in the newest Sloan Building, E62.  This building, just dedicated in May 2011, has many study rooms, meant specifically for group work, outfitted with whiteboards and computer monitors (the low tech and high tech ways to share ideas). 

Since, over the summer, we do the majority of our assignments with our LGO teammates, we spend time after class often in spaces like this.  I just thought the view was appropriate.  The building reflected in the window is probably at least 75 years older than Sloan's newest acquisition and it's cool to think of the people who went here decades ago before there were things like the internet and computers and whiteboards and... must have been very different.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July 4th! (Wow, it's July!)

Yesterday many of us set aside the afternoon to carry on an LGO tradition.  BBQ and relaxing at the MIT sailing pavilion up until the Boston Pops Concert and "Fireworks Spectacular".  The MIT sailing pavilion is right on the Charles River, almost exactly in front of the barge where they shoot off the fireworks (yay unobstructed view!), and they have grills where you can cook.  Students and SOs started coming around 2-2:30 and we ate and drank, talked and played games...for hours and hours...but time went by pretty quickly.  The day was hot (mid-80s), but by 4 or 5 the sun started going behind a few taller buildings and some clouds gathered.  There was threat of rain, but none actually came down, which was great.  Instead the breeze picked up and made things even more pleasant.

Sun still high and hot over a 4PM not-as-crowded-as-I-expected Sailing Pavilion, you can see we were literally right on the river
By 8PM though, the sailing pavilion was packed, both with LGOs and other MIT students and friends
(Sorry about the candid, guys!)
A great spot for sailing and grilling

Leading up to the concert they had lots of smaller patroitic things going on.

They shot off canons on the Boston side of the river, hence all the white smoke

Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam and other American icons went boating past
The top of the Prudential Center was decked out in Red, White and Blue lighting
(same building that did MIT 150 in its windows)

They had a jet flyover (sorry, I don't know what kind)

The concert started at 8PM with patriotic music and sing-alongs.  Our international friends might not have known what to think of this whole display, but they seemed to enjoy themselves and take in the moment nonetheless.  They, along with us, noticed that just when everyone started singing, the flag at the pavilion started waving.  Awesome!

Representatives of Australia and Canada

Our high flying flag
At 10PM the local coverage went national, so we got to hear that transition.  The fireworks went from a little after 10:30 until 11PM. 

This was the giant barge where all the fireworks were launched from.  They synchronized the launches to music that played over speakers on both sides of the river.
Since many people took photos of the fireworks, I thought you might want to see some of our happy, in-awe faces instead.

Happily taking in the glow of the show
Happy, belated 4th everyone!  Hope Tuesday was manageable :-)
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