Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Apparently, it is Possible to be Too Supportive

Gearing up for the start of the spring semester, it felt like this was finally the beginning of my time at MIT as a full-fledged Course 20, rather than a confused freshman taking GIRs. Upperclassmen had already warned me about the huge time sink that is 20.109, but also described it as the best way to launch into Course 20. I anticipated learning all about what it means to be a bioengineer in the lab, working more closely with the Course 20 staff, and finally getting to know some of the other Course 20 undergrads in my year.

When it came time to choose lab partners, Ada and I jumped at the chance to work together in our first foray into the bioengineering curriculum. It seemed like the perfect situation. I’d only have to travel a few feet from my door to hers when we “met up” to work on assignments. We already knew each other’s schedules and work habits. We are comfortable enough with each other to speak our opinions freely. And, eight hours of lab a week (plus however long it took to do the homework and Mod1 summary) becomes significantly more bearable when spent with someone you enjoy working with.

Thinking about it more, though, is it really a good idea to be lab partners with your best friend and suitemate, who is also in two other classes with you?

Through all the uncontrolled procrastination and desperately late nights, Ada and I learned a couple important lessons that, hopefully, will carry us more smoothly through Modules 2 and 3.

- Set the time and date. Somehow, what I thought was one of the best advantages, proximity to each other and therefore absence of need to walk any distance outside in the cold weather (I am lazy), turned out to be one of our biggest sources of procrastination. Rather than needing to set times to meet up    “Ada, let’s meet in the Stud at 6 tomorrow and start on the Mod1 summary many days ahead of time so that we will not suffer the day of!” – we managed to avoid ever planning times to work, and opted to just start whenever one of us brought it up. This is not ideal. In the future, we will be keeping our Mod1 Protein Engineering summary experience in mind as we plan out our work schedules.

- Do not encourage each other in our many procrastination methods. “I think we need to eat a snack before we begin our assignment”; “What if we both take naps in the lounge and then we can wake each other up in 30 minutes to work again”; “We need to do laundry right now, and then you should take a shower and then I will take a shower and then we will start”. Even on the plane back to MIT from spring break, trapped in seats next to each other for seven straight hours, the perfect opportunity to work on our Mod1 project revision, we managed to convince ourselves we had plenty of time together later. Knowing that our deadline was not limited by the time we would need to separate and no longer be able to work together, we definitely felt less urgency. We had all the time in the world, until the assignment was due.

Overall, I learned a lot from Module 1 – lab techniques, presentations, writing, working with partners – and going forward, Modules 2 and 3 will be just as educational, if not more.

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