Most of MIT’s buildings are known not by name or by address, but by number. Building 10 is the iconic dome with the large grass courtyard stretching to the Charles river. Building 54 is the 295-foot tall, I.M. Pei-designed concrete block that looms over campus and from which pumpkins are dropped at Halloween. Building NW12 is the nuclear fission reactor.
At the end of an earth science lecture last year, an undergraduate student leaned over and started asking me about my fellowship. She was curious how it was a middle-aged guy came to be in her science class. The more I told her, the more questions she had.
So you can take any classes you want?
Pretty much, I answered. So long as the professor approves. Of course, some courses aren’t appropriate — like labs where there is limited space.
And you don’t have to do any of the work?
I couldn’t tell if her question harbored jealousy or concern. Either way, that’s mostly right, I told her. Oh, I do the readings (usually), but not the problem sets or the papers or tests. Except in some rare cases.
And they pay you?