This year, our cohort includes thirty-one PhD recipients, eleven Master's finalists, and thirty-five undergraduates.
Browse photos and reflections to learn more about this distinctive and accomplished group and what advice they have for future generations of CCB students.
Our graduate students plan to pursue motley careers. We have future software engineers, pharmaceutical chemists, postdoctoral scholars, a patent lawyer, and a semiconductor researcher.
When asked to share a favorite memory from their time at CCB, two monumental life events emerged: their wedding ("building a life together") and their thesis defense. Another will remember: "Publishing my graduate research on JACS, building solid friendships and connections within my own research group and across the Harvard campus."
A portion of our PhD recipients, a few in their well-loved regalia, most not, and one in just the cap
A book given most as a gift or that greatly influenced your life:
- Organic Chemistry by Clayden, Greeves and Warren
- My Ten Years in Germany (literal translation) by Xianlin Ji
- The Wall by Jean Paul Sartre
- The Klingon Dictionary by Marc Okrand
- Travel guides
- The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters by Rose George
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
A purchase of $100 or less that positively impacted your life in the last six months:
- My tempurpedic pillow. Seriously.
- 3 lb slab of St. Louis ribs from Savenor's
- Super bright bike lights
"I genuinely thank my advisor, Prof. Jack Szostak. I learned so, so much in his group, and have matured both scientifically and personally, and he has constructed a really awesome environment for me to explore things and mess around. Thanks Jack!"
A failure, or apparent failure, that set you up for later success:
- Failure to blend in with my first-choice research group in my first year. This helped me better understand myself and what I want for the future.
- A “failed” experiment turning into a good result!
- The apparent failure of the first version of my PhD project, which I inherited wholesale from a former lab member. This gave me the freedom to come up with my own optimizations. Moreover, the optimizations were done without my advisor's initial blessings, so after they worked, my confidence in my own judgement was greatly boosted.
An unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love:
- Canvas paints of protocell and natural products
- Popcorn for dinner
- Traditional Chinese opera
A new belief, behavior, or habit that most improved your life:
- Skiing, hiking, working out (infrequently)
- Stop thinking if thought too much, stop doing if did too much
- Practicing yoga regularly
- My undergrad education in chemistry focused strongly on technical experimental skills. As my techniques matured in grad school, I'm increasingly seeing the importance of an ambitious scientific vision, for which I give my advisor and our highly interdisciplinary research group a lot of credit. This shift in focus from imminent details to long-term big picture has also spilled over somewhat to my life in general.
Advice for a smart, driven college student:
- Be in the driver's seat when it comes to choosing a group, or starting your first project. Too often, I hear first-year students fail to consider what it is they can contribute to a group (rather than simply what they can learn); and too often that young students take a passive role in defining the sort of work that they want to do from day one. Initiative and vision are more than just appealing character traits to an advisor, they're the foundation to a successful run in grad school!
- Make sure you have a good work life balance. Work is important but don't let it "consume" you and your every waking moment.
- Any problem can be surmounted given a methodical approach, appropriate expertise, enough time, and sufficient resources. In graduate school, you're only afforded two of the above.
- In the real world, it's usually not a matter of selling what you have, but more of selling what others want.
- Do what excites you and moves you forward. It’s hard to convince people of your interests if you aren’t actually interested.
- Expect and embrace twists and turns in one's career path, since the world is changing so rapidly. Ignore any advice that assumes staying in the same career path for 30 years - that just won't be your reality.
Bad recommendations you hear:
- “If you really love something, then you should be able to put up with X.” It’s usually an excuse for not changing poor behaviors or systems.
- Any recommendation that glorifies certain career paths categorically above all others is a bad recommendation.
What you're better at saying no to:
- Distractions: being honest about my time needs when others try to distract me.
- The milestones that society says people should reach at certain ages. It certainly helps that many people in my age cohort also reject these ideas. Just live your life the way you want to.
"I rotate among a few motivators: scientific curiosity; societal impact; personal ambition; and sheer self-discipline."
What you do when you feel overwhelmed or unfocused:
- Sleep hygiene! I'll go home early, go to bed early, and get back on a healthy, sustainable routine. My not-so-secret secret to success.
- Hiking and skiing: take some time off, even for a day, and it will help you refocus.
- The New York Times crossword brings me back.
- Breathe deeply and close my eyes. Extract myself from the situation.
- I rotate among a few motivators: scientific curiosity; societal impact; personal ambition; and sheer self-discipline.
If you could transform the CCB attic into anything?
- A nice sanctuary and social space: some old comfy furniture, dim lighting, a place to take naps and play board games. An honors-system cash bar might also go a long way.
- Meeting space!
- Gallery of open house posters.