In the summer of 2016 I spent 8 weeks undertaking a research project in the Chemistry department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The knowledge I gained through the research and simply chatting to group members over coffee or at chemistry volleyball matches was invaluable. It was an amazing experience to be immersed in an environment where everybody is truly passionate about their research.
My project was a new field for me but the postdocs and PhD students were always happy to explain difficult topics to me when google didn’t have the answer! There was a very steep learning curve and as a result I gained a huge amount of knowledge very quickly. I was soon presenting my work in group presentations and being trusted with more and more challenging tasks. By the end of the project I felt confident in the field and my research skills had greatly improved. It was apparent that this self-development process is something that MIT is great at facilitating.
There was so much more to my IROP than research; the sports facilities at MIT are fantastic. We spent the evenings sailing, playing basketball and football, at the gym or at the swimming pool. All of these activities are free and meant that we could keep fit with all of the sugary American food around! There is also a huge amount of things to do in Boston and Cambridge, such as going to pubs, watching the Red Sox, learning about America’s history and going to the beach. Boston is also a short flight or bus journey away from New York, Washington DC or New Hampshire. I spent a 3-day weekend in DC, which was a nice break from the busy atmostphere of MIT and Cambridge. After the project ended many of us headed to various other places in the US for holidays to make the most of our time this side of the Atlantic.
Spending a summer undertaking a research project at MIT was an invaluable experience. I would highly recommend undertaking an IROP to anyone who is considering graduate school in the UK or abroad as it gives you huge insight into the life of a PhD student and adds an edge to your application.