Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Zisk, Alyssa Hillary. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Zisk, A. H. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Thursday, March 24, 2016

MIT Candidates Visit

I applied to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Health Sciences and Technology (HST) program for my PhD. I made it to the interview stage, which was cool. (Spoilers: I did not, in the end, get accepted to the program.)

And now I am blogging my visit, about a month after said visit because that's how I roll with remembering to do things I wanted to do.

My roommate for the visit was great. We're totally staying friends after this. I made friends with a few other candidates too. We got time for one on one visits with faculty whose research interests were similar to ours, and both of the people I talked to about autism stuff jumped in the direction of "personal insight is useful!" instead of the "but you can't know anything meaningful about autism because of the impairments caused by autism!" nonsense I sometimes see. Yay!

Also, on the initial application, there was a gender question that had check boxes including "nonbinary" and "other." That was cool. (They also had a legally designated sex question, which... erm... at least they get that those are different questions but actually why do we need to ask?)  Despite the nonbinary and other options on the application, and despite my checking said boxes, they totally assumed I was an Ms. and a woman. Nope! I am not, I am not, I am not. And I wound up telling them so, because seriously no. They're ditching the "Ms" and "Mr" on the name-tags at the dinner next year, too, partially due to my feedback. Also on the gender front, they totally said they were pairing us with roommates of our same gender. This... is not what happened. My roommate and I do have the same legally designated sex (and why are those even a thing ugh) but we are not the same gender.

The formal interview process was a bit scary. I had a one on one interview with a current student, which was cool. A wild Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy reference appeared, with my interviewer asking me what I thought a neurotypical (hearing) person would hear if they had a Babel fish in their ear and an Autistic person were doing the flap-grunt thing with the occasional word that sometimes happens under stress. And I'm not actually sure what they'd hear, but since people can learn to interpret such communication, I figure machine learning+machine translation can eventually reach a point of interpreting it. Also, I want to encourage it to get to that point, because people affect research priorities and do research. Which is what I told him. (I totally brought up the cognitive interpretation software idea.)

Then I had two panel interviews. That's the part that was actually intimidating, because I was getting grilled by four people at once: generally two professors, an alumnus, and a current student. I don't remember much of what I was asked in these, because forgetting things that happen in high stress is a thing. I know I got asked a bunch of times and a bunch of different ways why I wanted the health sciences and technologies program in particular (as opposed to brain and cognitive sciences was one of the ways I was asked.)

After that current students took us to dinner, in a few different groups. My group went to the same place Splash and Spark tend to have the teacher dinners, so I knew the place. It's one of those Chinese places that also has an assortment of other (mostly East or Southeast) Asian food, and I got to try stingray! Yum.

Long story short, the candidates visit was mostly good and I totally wish I'd gotten in. I'm excited for the program I'm going to join (yay Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program) but do wish I'd gotten in at MIT or Berkeley.

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