Home to several nuclear reactors, both fusion and fission. If you walk down Mass Ave in Cambridge, you'll see the fission reactor on the corner of Albany Street, opposite the Paradise, a seedy gay bar. The big green dome is the reactor containment vessel, and the small adjacent structure is the cooling tower. Look out for the mist that drifts out of it...

If you walk south down albany street, you'll pass the Plasma Fusion Center (PFC) on the right (under the pedestrian bridge that spans the street), and in two inconspicuous on the left, you'll find two fusion reactors. The PFC was also home to some important plasma rocket research.

The irony is that Cambridge, affectionately nicknamed the People's Republic of Cambridge, has declared itself a nuclear-free zone.

MIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Summary: if you're looking to learn, and learn a LOT about math/science/engineering, MIT is up there with the best of the best. Nobody's party school, but an academic and research powerhouse. If that's what you're looking for, MIT is where it's at.

Out of commuting distance for Wisconsinites, MIT is located in Boston, Massachusetts. (The academic buildings are all on the Cambridge side of the river, but to most normal people that translates roughly to "Boston.") Boston is a pretty nice city, although the transportation system leaves something to be desired. Road signs seem to be optional, traffic is not. Biking seems to be the answer. Other colleges (Harvard comes to mind) are located nearby, as well as many museums, and an Ocean.

MIT is basically a cream-of-the-crop type engineering school. Admission to application runs about 15%. So it isn't easy to get in. Oh well. Life is rough. A MIT diploma will, however, basically get you any engineering/technology job you want. (Warning: that was a gross oversimplification/generalization.) But it will.

MIT is also famous for being very high stress. Yep. That's the way life goes. Quote from tour guide: "We went through everything I knew about chemistry in a day and a half." It isn't supposed to be easy. To make it a little more peaceful, however, freshman year is spent with a pass or no credit system. This means that if you get an A, B, or C, it shows up as a pass, and if you get a D or F, it doesn't show up at all. You just take it again if you want credit.

On the campus, cool architecture is all over the place. The chapel and performing arts center are particularly striking. There are a lot of buildings. One negative of MIT is that because of the heavy math/science core curriculum, many freshman classes are taught in big lecture halls, to large class sizes. Many people will not appreciate Calculus 2 as taught in lecture format to a class of 300. Small group study also takes place, of course.

Dorms? I didn't see them. Oh well. A large percentage (35-40%) of students live in fraternities/sororities. (Yes there are girls... 55% male - 45% female.). Freshmen are required to live in M.I.T. approved housing, whether that be a dorm, fraternity, sorority, or "community house". After that you can leave to an apartment or whatever, but very few people choose to do so. 95% of students are still living in their freshman lodgings when they graduate.

MIT actually does have sports teams, but let's face it... you don't go to MIT for the sports. That's life.

As for financial aid, MIT has a fairly simple policy, really. You use FAFSA etc. to find out how much your family should pay, then they have a flat amount the student should contribute ($7600 when I was there), and then they just cover the rest for you. So althought the tuition is really extravagant on paper, they help you out. Nothing wrong with that.

Of course I couldn't write about MIT without mentioning the cool toys they have. They've got a nuclear reactor on campus, for goodness sake! Massive computing resources, equipment for everything from robotics to playing with DNA, etc. The tour guide actually told us that the school had just received a grant for 350 million dollar towards a new brain research/AI/etc. facility. (Interestingly enough, the donor is an MIT alumnus and publisher of the "Blank for Dummies" series of books.) Cool stuff.

Also known as MIT, the Institute, the 'Tute, and Hell.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was founded by William Barton Rogers, and chartered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1863. Its first buildings were in Boston, where "Technology" offered degrees in Chemistry, Medicine, Metallurgy, and other applied sciences of the time. In 1911, using money from an anonymous donor later discovered to be George Eastman, the Institute purchased land (or at least landfill) across the river in Cambridge. A new set of buildings in the neo-classical style were constructed, and MIT formally moved into its new setting in 1916.

The Institute was one of the first universities in America to accept women. The first female graduate, Ellen Swallow Richards, was Class of 1873 in the Chemistry department, and became part of the Chemistry department's faculty shortly thereafter. Although it was certainly male-dominated until the last decade or two, there were consistently small classes of women receiving their engineering degrees throughout this century.

In World War II, MIT set itself up as one of the United States' research powerhouses. Radar was first developed in the now-demolished Building 20, and Draper Laboratories (home of the Ground Zero Cafe at the default coordinates for all US nuclear bombs) was established together with the Department of Defense. The Institute was considered such a tempting target for Nazi raids that the skylights of the dome were covered to prevent enemy pilots from using them for navigation.

Today, MIT is one of the premiere scientific and engineering schools in the country. A brass rat, the Institute's distinctive class ring, is sufficient to at least get a graduate into most job interviews. and is occaisionally enough on its own to guarantee a position. The workload is tremendous, and a common saying at MIT is "A Harvard education is like growing flowers; an MIT education is like forging steel." More than a few students have broken under the pressure, but the intense environment tends to produce close-knit communities of students, and graduation is usually considered a tremendous accomplishment.

In large part as a result of the high-pressure environment, MIT has developed its own unique culture. Visitors to the Institute are frequently confused by the ever-present numbering schemes: both buildings and courses are referred to by number more often than name, and a sentence such as "I'm off to 18.03 in 54-100" makes perfect sense. The Institute also has its own brand of specialized humor known as hacks, and a strong tradition of storytelling surrounding hacking history. There is also a specialized vocabulary at the 'Tute: words such as "punt" "tool" and "eit" are commonly heard in student (and sometimes professor) conversation. Alums frequently remain part of the community, and houses full of recent graduates are common sights in the Cambridge area.

There is a movement (unfortunate or fortunate, depending on your point of view) by MIT's current administration to change the old patterns. The freshmen on campus movement, bitterly protested by residents of the East Campus dorms and FSILGs, seems to be a step towards randomized housing as opposed to the current system which allows students to choose their own housing. Professors who graduated and got their doctorate from MIT are becoming rarer, although they still exist, and the administrators in higher positions are more frequently unfamiliar with life at the Institute from a student's perspective. There are, however, countermovements from students and alumni, such as ILTFP, which are fighting to preserve the best parts of MIT culture, so perhaps the future is not as bleak as it looks.


If you're considering attending the Institute and want more information, try visiting the How to GaMIT node. Outside of E2, How to GaMIT is a guide to life at MIT, and I'm working on noding up an equivalent here with help from other members of the community.

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