6-3 Interview with Carine Abi-Akar


What were your interests as a high school student and how did you come to choose Course 6 when you came to MIT?

As a high school student, I was interested in a myriad of topics. I always enjoyed my computer science, literature, history, and math classes. I was one out of two girls in my AP Computer Science class, and spent a lot of my time working (or even just discussing my thoughts) on mini-projects with the other students outside the classroom. Through my involvement in CS in high school, I realized how much I enjoyed this collaborative field, and hoped to spend my time in university developing my CS skill set. I was incredibly excited when I got into MIT (and overwhelmed) because I knew that the best Engineering school in the world believed that I could make it as a Engineer. As a 17-year-old, this was very heartening news and, although I knew being so far away from home would be a struggle, I was committed to learning, developing myself, and returning back home with problem-solving techniques and experience, intellectual know-how, and a yearning to make a difference.

Once you decided to major in Course 6, what led you to choose 6-3?

I have always leaned towards computer science and computer engineering. Fortunately, it was 6.01 and 6.02 that made me certain that I would be 6-3. 6.01 and 6.02 are great classes that cover a little bit of everything in the spectrum of EE and CS, and through them I was able to discover what topics I enjoyed learning and implementing. Also, my UROP experience had a significant effect on my decision to be 6-3. While UROPing with Professor Missy Cummings at the Humans and Automation Lab, I realized my love for coding and designing human machine interfaces. I worked on projects such as MAV-VUE, a project that controlled a micro aerial vehicle (quadrotor) with an iPhone, and MIILO, a project that alleviated the complexity of train operator cabins by introducing control through a single iPad. These projects were super exciting for me as they taught me how to code in Objective-C, gave me both research and industry experience, linked the classroom learning with real-world application, and helped confirm my decision of being 6-3.

Also, it's a well known fact that 6-3 is the coolest of the 6-x's.

What are the aspects of 6-3 you liked the best and how have you found your interests grow or change as you've gone on?

I believe it is very important to connect research with classroom learning. 6-3 is amazing because we learn how to develop the next phases of current cutting-edge technologies by studying past milestones, present accomplishments, and areas of future contribution in specific areas. We really study at the nexus of research and implementation, and it is very apparent in our classroom discussions. Professors pose to us questions in their current research, and we provide them with our fresh thoughts and insights. Also, one of the best parts of 6-3 are the group projects that require collaborative efforts. Collaboration, especially in this domain, is a beautiful thing. Incredible ideas and solutions have evolved out of my group discussions, and have translated into innovative project submissions. In addition, I have come to understand my interests even more as a result of the classes that I have taken. 6.005, my UROP, and 6.813 allowed me to realize my passion for HMI and front-end development, and the potential applications of it. My classes have helped defined the career I plan to take, and have given me the tools to accomplish my goals.

Where do you envision yourself headed next and how do you think 6-3 has prepared you?

I envision myself working on the intersection of computer science, technology and education. I want to apply my knowledge to create low-cost educational tools for children with disabilities. 6-3 has prepared me for this because I now understand the challenges this goal, and the difficulties in its implementation. 6-3 has also equipped me with tools, a network of friends and potential collaborators, and both industry and research experience. All of this will make the difference. I hope to impact future generations, and picking 6-3 has pushed closer to realizing this goal.