Originally from Lisle, IL, Kayla received her B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her A.A.S. in Operations Engineering from Joliet Junior College. She worked as an R&D technician before joining the Swager (Chem) and Smith (ChemE) labs at MIT in 2019 to pursue her PhD in Chemistry/Polymers and Soft Matter.
Why did you pick MIT?
The people and interactions are what drew me to MIT. There is such a large and welcoming community among the graduate students at MIT and there are numerous opportunities for collaborations in and out of the Chemistry Department. There are also many social and professional events that make MIT feel like much more than home for me.
What are your favorite things about the Cambridge/Boston area?
The people in this area have a certain energy that is almost unmatched anywhere else. There is also beautiful architecture around the city and a lot of history worth exploring. I also enjoy the walkability of both Cambridge and Boston!
What’s something that surprised you about life here?
Even though it is a small city, there are always people outside exploring or enjoying time with friends. Its very easy to meet people and most people I have met are open-minded at MIT and when I’m out exploring the city.
Real Talk: What’s been your biggest challenge since coming to MIT?
Figuring out where each building is. I’ve been in many of MIT’s buildings for classes, research, or other reasons–but I still haven’t been to/know all of them. I doubt I’ve been to half of them.
What was your favorite part of your first year at MIT?
Finding my own community with the many people I interact with. One of the most positively emotional days during my first year was Thanksgiving, when I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner in my on-campus apartment and nearly 20+ people (friends and friends of friends) showed up to enjoy dinner and fun games. I intend to do it again this year!
What is your favorite thing about your cohort?
I can talk to anyone in it, despite our backgrounds, and they feel comfortable talking with me. I feel like everyone in my cohort wants to see me succeed and I want to see them do the same. If I’m having a bad day, I can lean on any of them for support and I am comfortable returning the favor to them when they need it.
Why did you join WIC?
I believe in the goals of WIC and have experienced times in my past where I needed support from women in similar positions as myself, but I did not have any. I believe it is important to maintain this student group for the networking and resources they provide women in the department and I wish to contribute my time to help in doing so.
What’s your favorite WIC program or event?
I really enjoyed Galentine’s Day 2020, but, overall, I appreciate the mentor program WIC has established. I get along really well with my WIC mentor, I can talk to her about anything, and she gives some very spot-on advice whenever I ask for it. She is also from Illinois, so we have some things in common to reminisce about, too!
What’s your go-to for self-care in quarantine?
Making sure I go outside (if it isn’t raining or snowing) at least once a day for 15+ minutes.
Our series “Get to Know WIC” was inspired by MIT CADI, who did a similar series for their members. Thanks for the idea!