6-7 Interview with Kristjan Eerik Kaseniit

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Kristjan Kaseniit course 6-7 student

What were your interests as a high school student and how did you come to choose Course 6 when you came to MIT? and once you decided to major in Course 6, what led you to choose 6-7?

My interests in high school were all over, but mostly centered around chemistry and programming.

Here I took the intro biology class, 7.013 and started going to different talks and seminars. One of these lectures was by Randy Rettberg -- founder and director of the synthetic biology competition iGEM at MIT. He talked about his life, how he worked at Apple and Sun and how he later became interested in the engineering aspects of biology. The next day (!) the new 6-7 program was announced and things just clicked.

I had wanted to do computational design of compounds as I applied to MIT -- now I could do computational design of organisms! I didn't hesitate to declare 6-7 and augment it with Course 20 classes that I find interesting. The fact that 6-7 is not 2 majors but more like 4/3rds of a major allows me to still have time to explore interesting courses outside of the curriculum.

What are the aspects of 6-7 you liked the best and how have you found your interests grow or change as you've gone on?

Even though 6-7 is called Computational Biology, it does not mean just analyzing data that biologists from labs give you -- it can actually mean coming up with new biology. I view the "6" part as giving me a tool and "7" a field in which to apply these tools.
People like Randy Rettberg have come from a EECS background and later learned the Course 7 stuff. I figured I'd get a head of the game by getting a good foundation in both areas!
If I ever decide to move on from biology, I can always fall back to the "6" skillset and still be a competitive candidate anywhere.

Where do you envision yourself headed next and how do you think 6-7 has prepared you?

I have already done a UROP relevant to 6-7 and am currently a member of MIT's iGEM 2012 team. I plan on continuing doing research after I graduate -- I will have a skillset that allows me to design something new, say a genetic circuit of interest, analyze it using computational models, and later try it out in the lab. By having the best of two worlds I believe I have a lot of roads open in my future.