Before Splash @ MIT, I really felt like going to M.I.T. was no more than a far fetched dream of mine. I had the very stereotypical MIT student locked inside of my head (obsessed with computers, awkward, high IQ, pocket protector, etc.). Despite me not meeting many of these criteria, I still felt it would be an experience of a lifetime.
One of the classes I thought was super interesting and exciting was Quantum field theory story time. It contained content of basic principles of quantum mechanics, and a general overview of field theory itself. As this class was labeled “Quantum field theory story time”, our opening line was, instead of “Once upon a time” was “Everything is made of something”. Then the professor introduced the “Scientific food chain”, which talked about the order of magnitude of the major scientific fields (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics). He told us to have the correct mindset of equating all (valid) scientific fields equally, and not to assume physics as the greatest scientific field, as many physicists do. He then introduced to us one of the most complicated theories in Quantum Physics: field theory. We were told that particles, such as electron, are just waves/ripples on a Quantum field. He used the analogy of springs with balls attached to the top of them, and rubber bands attaching all of the neighboring ball-springs together. That means that if one of the ball-springs is hit, the entire field ripples in response (it also means if we make the field ripple, particles will be created, hence the Great Hadron Collider). This is an analogy for a disruption occurring on a quantum field, and the waves on the field (though it doesn’t account for antimatter, which would act as a negative ripple on the Quantum field).
Another class that I took was about Designer Genes, and the study of DNA itself. We learned about alleles, unravelling the double helix structure (nondisjunction), phenotype, XX and XY chromosomes, reciprocal translocation, and multiple different methods of sequencing and modifying the Genome, all in just three hours! The class was being taught by an M.I.T. student working on her masters degree in microbiology, and had a profound interest in modifying the genome. She had genuine intellect on the very complicated topic, and somehow made sense to us the processes required to understand genetic modification, and what natural genetic selection looks like. She even stated that she had the desire to enter into the GM profession, and even suggested the idea of convincing the body to unravel the desired piece of the DNA helix structure for easier access to the information inside.
After absolutely enjoying a multitude of classes over the course of two days, I felt my idea of the stereotypical M.I.T. fleeing me quickly, as I had just witnessed otherwise. Of course, M.I.T. students are very intelligent, but they take courses other than mechanical engineering seminars and aren’t that awkward after all. I also never had the privilege to see a single M.I.T. student with a pocket protector, further proving that the M.I.T. stereotype is almost completely untrue! Overall, I really enjoyed the experience, and am definitely going back next year (I recommend you do the same!).
By: Michael Hanson, Class of 2021