Monday, October 8, 2012

Play the Game.

You know what? 

I've been thinking more about whether the activities and classes I'm taking at MIT are really helping me get to where I want to be post-graduation. Which leads to me having to remember what I imagined for myself after college.

Don't worry, I still remember why I decided on MIT, which is a good thing to have in the back of my head during late nights like these.

Energy. That's where it all started.

When I was applying to colleges, the post-graduation picture I had in mind went a little like this:

After graduating from x college with a smashing (think Austin Powers) B.S. in Engineering, I am going to work on a start-up in energy conversion or energy storage. During my undergraduate years, my interdisciplinary interests in Materials Science and Electrical Engineering gave me all the tools, intel, and contacts to start a game plan for designing my own approach to the energy problem.
My start-up might help with building architecture to reduce energy consumption, or work into photovoltaics and focus on energy conversion, or invent a new technology for more efficient and powerful energy storage.
It's going to be hip and cool. And it'll be a cozy start-up with a few employees but we'll all work hard and bond. And sooner or later, people will start to realize what we're doing works. And then we'll start helping people. And we'll be happy.

I've realized that the problem (well, one of multiple) with that image is that the gap between any research and industrial applications of those research topics is GINORMOUS. Like bigger than the ass of the world's largest elephant (sorry, dude).
And so to do what I want to do, I'd be going into some PhD program, working on some really obscure technology that my friends will politely nod and smile about, and try and fail and occasionally succeed on a ton of experiments and publish (hopefully) papers describing a finding that will contribute to publicly familiar technologies 5-10 (optimistically) years from now. Scratch that, 5-10 years for it to be viable for or seriously invested by R&D in industry. Let's be real, it'll take more than 30 years for consumers to actually start hearing about what you did.
Call me immature and naive (if you do - email me so I know!), but that's a hell of a long time. Isn't there a faster way?

I could be a CS major and just get a software job that will have gratifying results in months versus decades. A lot of my friends are going that route and it's so tempting sometimes...
But it's not the same. And I really want to be on board this energy thing.

Why must life be hard. But in all honesty, it's not too bad. I got a research project that I like. And people that are driven by similar thoughts around me. My friends are awesome and we laugh at the weird stuff each of us say. And we have the time and resources to be thinking about our own ambitious post-grad plans. We're sophomores with actual major-related courses. And getting considered for internships and all that fun stuff. The things I stress about are upcoming tests and presentations. Which is pretty normal and good stress.
And I have all my limbs. So life's not bad at all.
In fact, the game's going all right. I may not be cruising, but I'm moving.

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