Get to know the LGO Class of 2023! We checked in with Onyinyechi “Ukay” Ukaire from the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department as the class was settling into their first Fall semester to learn more about what he values about LGO and his advice for those thinking of applying.
What were you doing before attending LGO?
Prior to LGO, I wrote code to understand the biology underlying how less than 1% of HIV-infected individuals control, even in the absence of medication, at the Ragon Institute. Knowing how these individuals control is critical to informing HIV vaccine strategies.
Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, where I spent my years prior to LGO, is situated at the edge of MIT’s campus. Fortunately, I wasn’t far from the area. In fact, Terry Ragon who founded the institute and Intersystems—which is the engine behind MGH’s patient electronic healthcare record—was an alumni of MIT. So in many ways, what I was doing before LGO lured me into considering MIT and thus LGO for graduate school.
What factors informed your decision to attend MIT LGO?
There were three reasons why I applied to and ultimately accepted my offer to MIT LGO. First, I imagined deepening my interests in Management and Computer Science in a dual-degree program with a long history and strong record for academic excellence. The network of top faculty and classmates — who can become teachers, mentors and friends — promised both a high standard and strong support network that was virtually impossible to rival. Besides, I knew I would be routinely challenged to learn, grow and contribute to the Sloan, Engineering and larger MIT communities I would join.
Second, having roughly fifty students per cohort, the program seemed to have a close-knit community I could get to know very well, with people who could be more than classmates to become family. Given that these are also exceptional individuals with backgrounds in engineering disciplines that I certainly did not find at other notable schools, I was bound to find value within the school, as a student, and beyond, as an alumni.
Third, relative to other schools, the partnership with LGO companies offered exciting practical internships that also substantially subsidized tuition fees. The internship was six months: long enough to learn something meaningful. The opportunity of a practical experience to augment my academic training, juxtaposed with financial support, had a big sway.
Why did you choose your specific engineering department?
To advance my interests in computer science, I chose the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, or Course 6. Since 2014 when I first moved to the United States, I have witnessed the immense power of building stuff via writing code. It was a practical skill of immense importance, whether early on in my undergraduate research labs/courses, or more recently, in my past job. For example, I can hardly imagine making sense of the enormous genomic data surrounding HIV vaccine research; it would be onerous to complete such work. Moreover, in my personal life, writing code has enabled me to better handle my finances, since I can easily abstract the math surrounding budgeting. Thirty percent of income can go to rent and housing fees, twenty to commuting and other expenses around work or student life, thirty to having fun, and twenty to my coin wallet or the stock market or whatever I fancy. And I can change it all very easily—computer science made that obvious.
With the plethora of internet devices surrounding us, and the ever-rising use of technology, it is difficult to ignore computer science. In fact, I think everyone needs to take one or two core classes in Course 6 at some point, especially if you surf the web say via Google or care about privacy or want to just learn more — like everyone else — about Artificial Intelligence.
Even the weekly COVID test we do at MIT is powered, at least in part, by computations of various sorts. The EECS department is paramount.
Do you have any advice for future applicants?
If you’re considering LGO, you’re likely the kind of person who will succeed here. By now the grades and testing are all done. It’s time you applied.
Don’t overthink it. Pondering if you’re the right fit, or stressing about a hypothetical rejection, is common. You have a compelling story. While finding your voice and the right way to convey that story is important, it is even more important to communicate an imperfect story than none. With one, you have a chance. Without one, you don’t.
Open the application, pen down your name, phone number and email. Then copy the prompts and write down an answer, just a word or two. Then one or two or even three sentences, splitting your time, until you have a draft. Share your draft with those you love, and seek feedback. Later share with others who can say the truth, even if it hurts; hopefully their feedback also strengthens your voice. See you on the other side, we want you!
What is your favorite memory from the LGO Summer Core experience?
Reflection Day. My classmates hosted an optional group-reflection one morning, and nearly everyone showed up. It was a testament to how we valued each other’s candid opinions about the events of the summer that was winding down. We exchanged highlights, the things we liked about the program, what really went well, and what we’d love to continue. We also traded lowlights, the things we loathed, what about them we did not appreciate and the opportunities for growth.
In a fast-paced summer with tight schedules, episodes of deliverables, more deliverables, and many more deliverables, intertwined with bouts of pure joy – coffee chats, dinners or banters at our program’s lounge — I was happy to digest some of my teammates’ experiences in ways I otherwise might not have. That we exchanged real thoughts, appraisals and disavowals alike, felt refreshing. I left that room, among others, feeling “damn, I am so glad I ended up in LGO.”
In truth, selecting a favorite memory among many top options was hard. See the pictures and notice how too many beautiful moments occurred over the summer.
How is the LGO experience so far different from what you expected when applying?
It is more fun than I imagined! Seriously!!
Everyone I talked to before the program stressed how intense it was to complete two degrees in two years. No wonder I couldn’t help but feel anxious about the program. Therefore, when I arrived, I was expecting really tough moments to be the norm. Surprisingly, it wasn’t quite that.
Yes, there’s lots of work to do, because MIT’s management and engineering schools know how to keep one’s brain working. Indeed, it’s this somewhat unyielding environment that brings out the best in us. But that’s not all. Interestingly, I have had some of my fondest moments in life in the past few weeks playing croquet, singing karaoke, or having a BBQ party under Cambridge’s infrequent sunshine. Just yesterday, I played an intramural soccer game with my LGO classmates, and we had a blast just practicing teamwork on the field. Though hard, LGO has allowed room for ample student life!