Get to Know WIC: Erica Tsai

Erica is a fourth year grad student in the Buchwald Group at MIT and a member of WIC. Originally from the East Bay Area in California, she’s been on the East Coast for nearly 8 years now, after having migrated to Princeton for her undergrad. She’s an avid amateur dancer, Animal Crossings fanatic, experimental baker, and people lover.

Why did you pick MIT?
I chose MIT for a number of reasons! Beyond the research, I felt a connection with the people I met here, and really loved Boston/Cambridge. I also really appreciated the infrastructure that the Institute provides.

What are your favorite things about the Cambridge/Boston area?
I’m a big fan of how easy it is to get places via public transport! While the T isn’t perfect, it’s a big step up from the sparse system available in the suburbs of San Francisco. I also love all of the local small restaurants.

What’s something that surprised you about life here?
I’ve never been in such a cerebral city as a whole, and it’s been awesome to just be going about my business off campus (before COVID-19 of course) and hear so many conversations about quantum physics, drug development, etc.

Real Talk: What’s been your biggest challenge since coming to MIT?
I’ve always been involved in a bunch of different things and divided my time between research, classes, friends, clubs, and more, so concentrating on focusing my time on one thing was (and still is) definitely a point of improvement!

What was your favorite part of your first year at MIT?
I really enjoyed living in the dorms and getting to know my cohort that lived there too! A bunch of us would walk to class together in the mornings, which is something I miss now that we all live throughout the city.

What is your favorite thing about your cohort?
I love how communicative and supportive we all are. I’ve never felt any significant tension among our entire year. I think this was something established really early on; we (the Organic division) were all very transparent about which groups we were interested in, and effectively sorted ourselves and all got our first choice. We also all met up this past winter after our 4th year proposals to celebrate, despite it not being an “examination.”

Why did you join WIC?
I’ve always wanted to give back to the communities I’m in, and I really respected the drive of the members in WIC. Beyond hosting events and socials for the women in the department, WIC has been exceptionally proactive about talking to the administration to improve/expand upon programs (such as being a major player in the [Statement of Values]).

What’s your favorite WIC program or event?
I really love the Mentorship Program (which is now department-wide)! It was really helpful to me to have someone I could go to for anything as a first year, and I love meeting members of the new class each year as a mentor.

What’s your go-to for self-care in quarantine?
I’ve been playing an unhealthy amount of Animal Crossing, but I’ve also been cooking and reading a lot more now that I’m at home!


Our series “Get to Know WIC” was inspired by MIT CADI, who did a similar series for their members. Thanks for the idea!