What do you do at LIDS?
I'm the Systems Administrator for LIDS, which means I'm responsible for the computing infrastructure at the lab. A lot of my job involves providing IT support for the professors, researchers, and students working here.
What do you most enjoy about working in LIDS?
This sounds like a cliché, but my favorite thing about LIDS is the people who work and study here. This lab often operates like a large family of people who share similar intellectual interests, and I enjoy being part of that dynamic. I remember we used to hold more social events, things like movie nights or lab lunches that gave the students, professors, and staff members the chance to get to know each other in a more personal way. We still have award banquets, conferences, and student socials, but I would like to see LIDS host more social activities for the entire LIDS community. I have been lucky enough to develop relationships with different professors and students in the lab, and I would like people who join LIDS in the future to have the same opportunities to build friendships that I had.
What were you doing before you came to LIDS?
I came to LIDS in 2006, when they needed some extra help with IT. I worked in both CSAIL (the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab) and LIDS for several months, and eventually I was offered a full time job in this lab. Before I started working at LIDS full time, I worked at CSAIL in a similar capacity. There is a lot of collaboration between CSAIL and LIDS, so I still see many of my former colleagues and sometimes work with them on various projects.
I also did quite a bit of traveling before I joined LIDS. I went to Reno in 2003 for six months with the idea of becoming of a professional poker player. That turned out to be much harder than it sounded, so I came back to Massachusetts to work in CSAIL. In 2005, I spent six months in China sightseeing, practicing my Chinese, and trying to cook traditional Chinese food.
What made the biggest impression on you when you were in China?
Before I went to China, I didn't know much about regional cooking. Chinese cuisine has so many different styles, and the food varies widely from region to region. Many dishes that Americans think of as authentic Chinese food have been modified to accommodate Western palates. I ate spicier food in China, and I ate snake, camel, and scorpion for the first time.
What career did you envision yourself having when you were in college?
I went to Penn State where I studied Economics. At the time, I didn't really know what I wanted to do professionally, but I thought I might become an actor. I originally moved to Boston to become a stage actor. I didn't have any friends in New York City, and I didn't have enough money to live on my own, so I came to Boston because it seemed to have more opportunities for acting than Pennsylvania, and I knew people who would let me sleep on their couch.
How many plays have you been in?
One. It was a really small role, but I was very excited about it.
What do you like doing in your free time? Do you still act?
No, but from time to time, I've volunteered to work behind the scenes for some local plays and film productions. I helped build sets for a play produced at MIT, and I was the boom operator for a film in the 48 Hour Film Project. I spend a lot of my free time cooking, primarily Chinese and Indian food, although recently I've been trying out a lot of recipes from Mark Bittman's new cookbook How to Cook Everything: The Basics. I am also interested in the history of cocktails and bar culture, so I like to read about different classic cocktails and then try out my own variations.
What are your plans for the future?
I am not as restless as I used to be, so I feel more content in my life and my work. I can easily see myself staying in my current field for the foreseeable future. I have developed a sense of ownership here at LIDS, and I want to make some tangible contributions to the lab and to the LIDS community. On a more personal level, my plans for the future include taking more foreign language classes, possibly Japanese or Chinese, perfecting my version of the Corpse Reviver Number 2 (a classic gin-based cocktail), and learning how to cook fish.