Making it through a pandemic senior year with curiosity and community

Miles Johnson ’21, a recent graduate in mathematics and EECS, employed a strong dorm network and personal interests including rock climbing and jazz to complete a rich MIT experience.

Alumni/ae, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), Mathematics, Physics, Community, Student life, Students, Undergraduate, Profile, Sports, Athletics, Arts, Music, Covid-19, Pandemic, Learning, Algorithms, Residential life, Quantum computing, School of Science, School of Engineering, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), Burton Third Bombers, AIAA Design/Build/Fly, SolidWorks, Love & a Sandwich, Live Music Connection, Math Learning Center, SPUR+ summer research program, Roman Bezrukavnikov, Introduction to Functional Analysis, Richard Melrose, Digital Systems Laboratory, MIT Awards Convocation, Ronald E. McNair Scholarship

“I honestly have no idea what my [pandemic] experience at MIT would have been like without such a strong community behind me,” says Miles Johnson ’21. Photo courtesy of Miles Johnson.

Alumni/ae, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), Mathematics, Physics, Community, Student life, Students, Undergraduate, Profile, Sports, Athletics, Arts, Music, Covid-19, Pandemic, Learning, Algorithms, Residential life, Quantum computing, School of Science, School of Engineering, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), Burton Third Bombers, AIAA Design/Build/Fly, SolidWorks, Love & a Sandwich, Live Music Connection, Math Learning Center, SPUR+ summer research program, Roman Bezrukavnikov, Introduction to Functional Analysis, Richard Melrose, Digital Systems Laboratory, MIT Awards Convocation, Ronald E. McNair Scholarship

Miles Johnson, in bottom left corner, poses with his Burton Third Bombers crew. Photo courtesy of Miles Johnson.

Miles Johnson graduated this June with degrees in mathematics and electrical engineering and computer science, and a minor in physics. But if he could add another concentration to his degree, then Johnson would add pandemic survival, which he passed with flying colors thanks to solid friendships formed during his time at MIT.

At San Francisco University High School, Johnson relied on a support network of teachers, program leaders, and friends that made it easy to push himself. Later, as an intern at the NASA Ames Research Center, he largely pushed himself. Among other accomplishments, he created a functional model in Architecture Analysis and Design Language for managing aircraft in the national airspace, picked up Java skills to develop an autonomous operation of the “Flappy Bird” game and to construct graphs of the Mandelbrot set, and used Python to program a simulation of a Stirling engine.

Moving to MIT as an undergraduate, he longed for an experience that married technical and social exploration. He was not disappointed, finding it was easy to make friends at the Institute. He settled into the Burton-Conner dorm, where he joined the Burton Third Bombers, serving as floor treasurer and weight room chair, and playing on its dodgeball and flag football teams.

“I didn’t join an exclusive clique of a couple friends. I joined a group of 50 interesting and exciting people who could make friends and have a good time wherever they went,” Johnson says. “Whenever I was burnt out from work, I just walked outside my room and inevitably found a couple people lounging about Burton Third to talk to. Before quarantine, there was almost never a week where I didn’t have a social event to look forward to. It was a huge part of my life and we’ve stayed close-knit and active, even virtually. I honestly have no idea what my experience at MIT would have been like without such a strong community behind me.”

Johnson was also active as a sprinter on the track and field team before injuring his knee, but that didn’t keep him off the Latin Dance Troupe, or rock climbing at Brooklyn Boulders. For the Design/Build/Fly club, he developed aircraft for the annual AIAA Design/Build/Fly competition, using foam wings using laser cutters, buzz saws, and SolidWorks CAD software.

Miles also played tenor saxophone with a jazz combo and with Love & a Sandwich, a soulful fusion band that’s part of MIT’s Live Music Connection.

“I would go play jazz at the end of every stressful Monday, and jam with friends on Saturdays. It was always nice to take a cathartic break from schoolwork to scream a sax solo.”

He tutored undergraduates in the Math Learning Center, graded problem sets for Course 6.046 (Design and Analysis of Algorithms), and helped adults attain high school credit at Just-A-Start Corporation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Summer internships included gaining Secret Level Clearance as a systems intern with Northrop Grumman in 2018, where he researched collision predictions and developed analytical functions in MATLAB to predict the orbital paths of satellites.

As part of the 2019 SPUR+ summer research program offered by the Department of Mathematics, he wrote a paper titled “Some Graphical Realizations of Two-Row Specht Modules of Iwahori–Hecke Algebras of The Symmetric Group,” with Natalie Stewart and mentored by math graduate student Oron Propp, in a project suggested by Professor Roman Bezrukavnikov.  

“This was my first time doing research in pure mathematics,” he says. “Our project was to prove an isomorphism between a fairly abstract group representation and a graphical one — in other words, to prove that two mathematical objects, one easy to work with and the other difficult, are mathematically equivalent. We ended up proving only part of our desired result, and afterward found a paper which proved it completely, but I still found the experience quite valuable, and it definitely gave me a taste of what math research is like.”

His first Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) project was to implement an algorithm on a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) computer with the Condensed Matter Theory Group, to see whether it could compete with state-of-the-art optical networks and quantum computers. The group’s findings, Heuristic recurrent algorithms for photonic Ising machines,” were published in Nature Communications.

During the pandemic, his other UROP was inspired by 18.102 (Introduction to Functional Analysis), taught by his academic advisor, Professor Richard Melrose. Johnson’s goal was to prove the Atiyah-Singer theorem for Dirac operators using A.P. Calderón’s formula. “It was, admittedly, a bit advanced for me, but I am happy I was introduced to differential geometry, a subject I would otherwise not have had the chance to take any classes on.”

But what kept him sane during the pandemic was his support system. He worked remotely from his San Francisco home, where he credits his moms and his dog Holiday with boosting his mental state. He went on socially distanced walks with close friends, and spent a month in Vermont with some fellow Bombers, before moving into an apartment in Cambridge last fall, including with his roommate’s dog, Raisin.

“While living at this apartment I’ve consistently had a group of around 10 friends to hang out with regularly, and it was definitely nice to have access to regular testing and worry a bit less about infecting my parents. Pretty much the only time I left my apartment was to travel to the climbing gym, so climbing has become a pretty central part of my pandemic experience.”

For his final project in 6.111 (Digital Systems Laboratory), Johnson built an FPGA-controlled sound-interactive LED display that flashed in time with music stored on an SD card, and graphically realized the frequency spectrum of music on stacked LED strips.

At the MIT Awards Convocation, he received the Ronald E. McNair Scholarship, established in McNair’s honor by the Black Alumni/ae of MIT, to recognize a Black undergraduate who has demonstrated strong academic performance and who has made a considerable contribution to the minority community.  

“At MIT, I was definitely challenged, but not exactly how I thought I would be,” he recalls. “For me, most of the difficulty came because everyone around me was pushing hard, so I kept adding more things until I was pushing as hard as I could, too. I will never forget the many long nights working on an absurdly hard pset [problem set] with my classmates, drinking an energy drink for the first time at 4 a.m., or ordering Dominos to the Math Lounge. Even when I would pset alone, the class group chats were ripe with people willing to work with me when I was stuck. Probably the most important thing I’ve learned is how to approach new and unfamiliar tasks methodically, and how to persevere when everything doesn’t go perfectly.”

Johnson says that MIT totally prepared him for his next step, the applied physics PhD program at Caltech, where he’ll study quantum mechanics. But he plans to continue leaning on his MIT support system.

“I have met a huge variety of other undergrads entering diverse fields in research and industry, and whose knowledge I might need to draw on when I encounter hard problems in the future,” he says. “My time here has left me with a large network of people whose expertise I might be able to draw upon in the future, not to mention all the old class materials I have on my computer to reference when my memory fades. I’m excited for the journey!”

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related


Pfizer vaccine: Benefits outweigh risks for children as young as five, says US drug regulator

The benefits of giving young children the Pfizer vaccine against coronavirus outweigh the risks, scientists from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have said. A panel of outside experts ... Read more »

Facebook whistleblower warns ‘dangerous' encryption will aid espionage by hostile nations

Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen speaking before a Senate Committee – Drew Angerer/Reuters Earlier this month, Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a short video on Instagram ... Read more »

Some colleges are practicing 'affirmative action' for boys, since more girls apply, education experts say. It points to a bigger problem.

Togi, an 11th grade student at Wakefield High School, sits at his desk in Arlington, Virginia, on June 3, 2021. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images Some US colleges are accepting a higher ... Read more »

Satgas Soroti Tren Peningkatan Daerah yang Tak Tertib Prokes Covid-19

© Disediakan oleh Katadata Satuan Tugas Penanganan Covid-19 mengingatkan masyarakat terus menjaga protokol kesehatan. Hal ini lantaran kedisiplinan warga mulai mengendur seiring pelonggaran Pemberlakuan Pembatasan Kegiatan Masyarakat (PPKM). Dari data Satgas, ... Read more »

Addiction isn't shameful – so why aren't more universities offering students the support they need to recover?

© Getty Images University life can perpetuate addiction if the right support systems aren’t in place. – Getty Images As a mature student in recovery from addiction, the heavy drinking ... Read more »

Harrison Ford reunited with credit card thanks to Good Samaritan tourist

Watch: Harrison Ford's lost credit card returned in Italy Harrison Ford received the assistance of a Good Samaritan when he lost his credit card in Sicily. The 79-year-old actor was ... Read more »

France launches state-of-art military communications satellite

France has successfully launched a military satellite on Saturday, designed to allow all of France's armed forces across the globe to communicate swiftly and securely, witnessing among others that geopolitical ... Read more »

Fireworks Lit as Fans Celebrate Atlanta Braves Advancement to World Series

The Atlanta Braves defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the National League Championship and advance to the World Series for the first time since 1999 on October 23, local ... Read more »

Kasus Covid-19 Indonesia Bertambah 623, Terbanyak Berasal dari Jakarta

© ANTARA FOTO/Adiwinata Solihin/foc. covid Pemerintah melaporkan kasus Covid-19 bertambah 623 orang pada Minggu (24/10). Sumbangan terbanyak berasal dari Provinsi DKI Jakarta yakni 131 orang positif. Kasus di Jakarta kembali ... Read more »

Covid-19 Renggut Lebih Banyak Nyawa di AS daripada HIV/AIDS dalam 40 Tahun

© Copyright (c) 2016 TEMPO.CO foto TEMPO.CO, Washington – Covid-19 telah menjadi pandemi paling mematikan dalam sejarah Amerika Serikat (AS), merenggut lebih banyak nyawa ketimbang HIV/AIDS, menurut situs web berita ... Read more »

‘Years lost and millions wasted': How HS2's eastern leg came to hang in balance

© HS2 Ltd Vast swathes of the planned HS2 route seem certain to be mothballed – HS2 Ltd For Boris Johnson, it is a transport scheme that appeared oven-ready to ... Read more »

Ugo Monye condemns 'vile and criminal' abuse aimed at his 'Strictly' co-stars

Watch: Who is Strictly Come Dancing contestant Ugo Monye? Strictly Come Dancing contestant and former rugby player Ugo Monye has hit out at the “vile and criminal” abuse his co-stars ... Read more »

Bergerac 2.0: Jersey detective's return is a remake too far

Photograph: News UK/Rex/Shutterstock Rebooting a popular entertainment franchise can look like a strong plan. For a start, producers and investors are more easily persuaded that there is an audience for ... Read more »

Update Covid-19 Per 24 Oktober: Tambahan Kasus 623, Meninggal 29 Orang

© Copyright (c) 2016 TEMPO.CO foto TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Jumlah kasus positif Covid-19 di Tanah Air masih terus bertambah. Berdasarkan data pemerintah hingga Ahad, 24 Oktober 2021, pukul 12.00 WIB, ... Read more »

France successfully launches cutting-edge military communications satellite

France has successfully launched a state-of-the-art satellite into orbit, designed to allow all of France's armed forces across the globe to communicate swiftly and securely. Paris created a space force ... Read more »

Nigella Lawson lasted just two weeks on vegan diet and confesses she doesn't 'see the point'

Nigella Lawson says she tried a vegan diet, but couldn’t stick to it. (David M. Benett/Getty Images) Nigella Lawson only managed two weeks of a vegan diet and says she ... Read more »

Strictly Come Dancing Fans Are All Saying The Same Thing About AJ Odudu And Kai Widdrington's 'Phenomenal' Argentine Tango

Whilst it is undoubtedly a fan favourite, the Argentine Tango can be a notoriously difficult dance for the Strictly Come Dancing celebrities to get right. Not only to they have ... Read more »

Prawie 90 proc. więcej zakażeń niż przed tygodniem. Nowe dane o pandemii

© Shutterstock (zdjęcie poglądowe) Prawie 90 proc. więcej zakażeń niż przed tygodniem. Nowe dane o pandemii Koronawirus w Polsce. W niedzielę 24 października 2021 roku Ministerstwo Zdrowia potwierdziło 4728 nowych ... Read more »

Koronawirus w Polsce: liczba zachorowań, zalecenia. RAPORT 24.10.2021

© Shutterstock Koronawirus w Polsce: liczba zachorowań, zalecenia. RAPORT 24.10.2021 Ile osób w Polsce jest zarażonych koronawirusem SARS-CoV-2? Ile osób choruje na COVID-19? Tutaj znajdziesz bieżące informacje dotyczące sytuacji epidemiologicznej ... Read more »

Raab's negligence over Kabul is now clear. If he had any honour, he'd quit

Dominic Raab is a clever man, but not perhaps a wise or especially honourable one. Chronic misjudgments over Britain’s withdrawal from Afghanistan necessitated his sacking as foreign secretary. Yet Boris ... Read more »

Będzie powrót do nauki zdalnej? Przemysław Czarnek: Nie ma ku temu podstaw

Nauka zdalna Dr Paweł Grzesiowski Przemysław Czarnek Przemysław Czarnek powiedział w Polskim Radiu 24, że nie ma planów, by w najbliższej przyszłości zmieniać tryb nauki w polskich szkołach na niestacjonarny. ... Read more »

The small but effective plug heater to snap up for winter

Looking for a small at-home heater? We may have just found the solution. (Russell Hobbs) Yahoo Lifestyle is committed to finding you the best products at the best prices. We ... Read more »

Why Are There Christian Crosses in Jewish Graves From Ancient Rome?

Realy Easy Star /Toni Spagone/Alamy The most pervasive and well-known symbol for Christianity is, of course, the cross. If you walk into a place of worship and there’s a cross ... Read more »

Giant owl not seen for 150 years pictured in wild for first time

A giant owl that has gone almost unseen in African rainforests for 150 years has been photographed in the wild for the first time by British scientists working in Ghana. ... Read more »

Lily Collins and Robert Pattinson play host for GO Campaign fundraiser

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo Lily Collins and Robert Pattinson served as hosts of the 15th annual GO Campaign Gala on Saturday, which is the organization’s annual Hollywood fundraiser. ... Read more »

Gujarat: Over 2,000 people get COVID-19 vaccine at home in Ahmedabad

Representative image. More than 2,000 elderly and differently-abled people have so far received their COVID-19 vaccine doses at home in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad city, as part of the local civic body’s special drive ... Read more »

Pemilu Uzbekistan Dimulai, Petahana Diprediksi Tetap Berkuasa

© Marcheilla Ariesta Presiden Shavkat Mirziyoyev diyakini akan menang dalam pemilu Uzbekistan dan melaju ke periode kedua. Tashkent: Masyarakat Uzbekistan memberikan suara mereka dalam pemilihan umum presiden yang digelar hari ... Read more »

Have you got a cold or Covid? A 23-point checklist to tell the difference

Chances are you, or someone you know, has been struck by the dreaded cold by now. It seems that practically everyone is battling with it as (what was once a ... Read more »

100 crore vaccination doses claim 'false': Sanjay Raut

Sanjay Raut (File image: PTI) Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut has alleged that the claim of administration of 100 crore vaccine doses against COVID-19 in the country was “false” and ... Read more »

Judi Love pulls out of Strictly Come Dancing for health-related reasons

Photo credit: Eamonn McCormack – Getty Images Comedian and panelist, Judi Love, has had to pull out of Strictly Come Dancing this week after testing positive for COVID-19. Her partner, ... Read more »

Jamie Laing explains why he is one of Spencer Matthews' only friends

Jamie Laing and Spencer Matthews attend the “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” UK Premiere at in 2019. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images) Yahoo Entertainment's editors are committed to ... Read more »

New IPL teams: BCCI expecting anything between Rs7,000 crore-10,000 crore with Adani, Goenka, Aurobindo in fray

The Indian cricket board will be expecting the two new IPL franchises to go for Rs 7000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore each after the bidding process begins here on ... Read more »

Success of COVID-19 vaccination drive shows India's capability: PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 24 said the success of India’s COVID vaccination drive shows its capability and noted that the country is moving ahead with new energy after ... Read more »

Melbourne ends one of the world's longest lockdowns


Selain Rusia, Kasus Covid-19 di Jerman Capai Rekor Tertinggi

© Copyright (c) 2016 TEMPO.CO foto TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Kasus Covid-19 di sejumlah negara di Eropa tak terbendung. Setelah Rusia, Jerman kini mencatat insiden infeksi virus corona tertinggi sejak pertengahan ... Read more »

Mummy's older than we thought: new find rewrites the history books

The ancient Egyptians were carrying out sophisticated mummifications of their dead 1,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to new evidence which could lead to a rewriting of the history ... Read more »

COVID-19 active cases in India decline to 1,72,594

India added 15,906 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total tally to 3,41,75,468, while the active cases declined to 1,72,594, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Sunday. The ... Read more »

Drone Footage Captures Four Active Vents at La Palma Volcano

Four active vents on the Cumbre Vieja volcano were visible on October 22, spewing lava and other volcanic material over La Palma, in the Spanish Canary Islands. The following morning, ... Read more »

Marvin Vettori overcomes a 'massive' Paulo Costa, who blamed an injury for weight issue

LAS VEGAS — Paulo Costa entered the Octagon at Apex on Saturday, his grudge match with Marvin Vettori only moments away. In 90 seconds, maybe two minutes, he’d be able ... Read more »

Bendera Merah Putih Sepanjang 100 Meter Dibentangkan di Sungai Kapuas

© Copyright (c) 2016 TEMPO.CO foto TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Bendera Merah Putih sepanjang 100 meter dibentangkan di kawasan Waterfront Sungai Kapuas dalam rangkaian acara peringatan hari jadi Kota Pontianak di ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic