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Life at MIT

Life at MIT

I’m a senior at MIT, one of the top engineering institutes of the world. In this article, I would like to share a few snippets of my life and provide a glimpse of what it’s like being a student here.

Casually getting dinner with the CEO of the world’s most innovative technology companies

During my sophomore (second year) year, I was one of the fortunate students taking a discrete math course taught by Professor Thomson Leighton. Professor Leighton, we learnt, as the semester progressed, is an accomplished Professor of Applied Mathematics with important contributions to network theory. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, he is also a co-founder and the current CEO of Akamai Technologies, which is one of the biggest content delivery networks on the Internet. While his role at the Akamai headquarters, right down the street from MIT, keeps him busy, he occasionally makes time to teach a course or two. Being in a classroom with him was an incredible experience – his lectures were engaging, and I learnt so much practical application under him.

One day after a lecture, a couple of fellow classmates and I asked to grab dinner with him sometime. He not only agreed but ended up inviting us to Akamai’s offices for pizzas and drinks! We talked about his early research work, life as CEO of a public company, and what technological developments he was most looking forward to. We also learned that he co-founded Akamai with one of his graduate students in 1998. These are the kinds of opportunities you get only at US colleges.

Discovering my passion for computer science

I’m a computer science (CS) major, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I had very little experience with CS before MIT. To be more specific, I hated whatever CS I had done before college; MIT helped me discover my passion through its culture of academic exploration. It all goes back to my freshman (first) year, and a period called Independent Activities Period (IAP). IAP is essentially a four-week period in January when there are no official classes but instead, there are tons of cool activities, workshops, and unofficial classes taught by other students. On a whim, I ended up registering for a three-week-long Python programming workshop. It turned out that I loved the workshop, and it prepared me to take a full semester CS course in the spring. And then that led to me taking real CS courses next semester, putting me on the trajectory that has shaped my academic and professional career so far. As of now, I am done with my department requirements and have taken a wide variety of courses in theoretical CS, web applications, math, software engineering, and systems design.

Ayush Sharma is a guest blogger for The Red Pen and final year computer science student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

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