Poet, pupil advocate, and math/physics double-major Catherine Ji resides boldly at MIT.
Rising up in Idaho, Catherine Ji discovered herself with loads of time to jot down.
“Idaho is a good surroundings for writing as a result of it’s remoted and there’s a bunch of nature,” says Ji. “I wrote a lot poetry — loads of actually messy poetry. I simply cherished it a lot. It actually outlined my childhood.”
Now a senior majoring in physics and arithmetic, Ji finds time to jot down regardless of a heavy class load and a wide range of different actions. She has taken quite a few literature and poetry courses throughout her undergraduate profession, and has been acknowledged for her work as a winner of the Ilona Karmel Writing Prize in poetry and essay classes.
Past writing, Ji has completed analysis in math, physics, and economics, sung in an a cappella group, co-chaired advocacy teams and math mentorship initiatives, and taught as a TA, volunteer mentor, and MIT-Italy GTL teacher.
Nonetheless, Ji needs she might extra completely discover MIT’s choices. “There are simply too many cool issues to do right here, and by no means sufficient time,” she says.
Within the city the place she grew up, which was 40 minutes exterior of Idaho’s quickly rising capital, tensions between the left-leaning metropolis and its extra conservative environment had been usually on show. Ji says experiencing that contributed to her means to adapt in a wide range of environments.
“I believe Idaho has additionally taught me loads of abilities that I’m grateful for. Due to the extreme politics, you get good at adapting and actively coexisting,” she says. “How do I work together with individuals who have completely completely different worldviews? It’s one factor when such discussions on connectivity are theoretical or far-removed and there are buildings in place to simply disengage. It’s one other if you’re speaking about most of your loved ones, neighbors, associates, and lecturers.”
The wide selection of opinions and beliefs taught her the way to advocate for herself and others.
“On some degree, I simply needed to determine, ‘That is what I imagine about all this stuff, and stand by it,’” Ji says.
She carried these abilities along with her to school. For instance, as co-chair of the Council for Math Majors, an advocacy group targeted on enhancing the undergraduate expertise in MIT’s math division, she has labored on range, fairness, and inclusion efforts for the division in collaboration with school and employees.
At MIT, “I needed to be taught a totally new toolbox of language and interacting with others, in addition to establishments,” Ji says. “An enormous query is the way to self-advocate in an establishment that helps DEI however is tremendous decentralized. It’s ‘mens et manus’ [MIT’s motto of “mind and hand”] in that now we have to be the change we wish to see; nonetheless, greater connectivity on all ranges would make life simpler.”
These classes additionally helped her discover her place within the Logarhythms, MIT’s oldest a cappella group that was traditionally all-male till accepting its first non-male member in 2018. Ji was the second.
“As with all establishment that experiences one of these change, it’s a course of. At first, I felt very difficult about being within the group, however I’m extraordinarily blissful that I caught with it,” she says.
Ji didn’t solely keep it up; within the fall semester, she ran rehearsals and arranged concert events as co-director. She additionally served as president and is now an historian going into her ultimate undergraduate semester.
Pursuing interdisciplinary pursuits
Whether or not exploring poetry, scientific analysis, or difficult historic norms to make pupil life at MIT extra inclusive, Ji is deliberate about doing issues her personal means.
Navigating MIT with a big selection of pursuits, Ji jokingly describes her school expertise to be “like gradient descent,” referring to the best way a machine-learning algorithm tries completely different paths to an answer and “descends” every time because it will get nearer to the proper reply. “I ask myself: What do I take pleasure in most within the second? After which I transfer in that route,” she says.
These steps have led Ji to biophysics, the place she has studied the mechanics of polymers to the dynamics of starfish embryo crystals. “The identical math can mannequin something from the glug-glug of a draining bottle to photo voltaic flares to epidemics,” she explains. “All of those techniques in nature are related via math, which is absolutely cool.”
Contemplating her roles as a scientist, poet, and neighborhood member, she says: “These realms of my life are carefully intertwined, and that is the kind of life that I need.”
“In a means, all of us attempt to make which means and pleasure via connectivity, from mathematicians to writers,” she says. “It is a lesson felt maybe most strongly throughout a pandemic. On the danger of being overly theoretical, I see literature, making a cappella music, advocacy, mentorship, and bodily utilized math analysis as all contributing to the identical function of prescribing which means.”
For her ultimate undergraduate semester, Ji has many issues to look ahead to. There are thrilling courses to take like 18.212 (Algebraic Combinatorics), a possible tour with the Logs in Tokyo, and an upcoming poetry publication in Electrical Lit, a digital literary journal. In between, she’s taking time to breathe and benefit from the individuals who have made her time at MIT so particular.
“I believe MIT college students strongly imagine that placing your all into each space of life, from being an excellent housemate to a jazz ensemble participant to a fire-spinner, naturally results in higher innovators or ‘makers.’ They do their greatest. And I actually admire that.”
Following commencement, Ji plans to pursue a PhD in physics or utilized math. In parallel, she desires to search out avenues to advise science coverage in addition to lead advocacy and outreach efforts. And she or he hopes that her publication in Electrical Lit is one in all many.