Get to Know WIC: Stephanie Smelyansky

Stephanie is a first year graduate student and member of WIC. Originally from the suburbs of Chicago, she went to undergrad at Yale University, where she double majored in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and Chemistry. Here at MIT, Stephanie is part of the Kiessling lab.

Why did you pick MIT?
I picked MIT because I felt a really good rapport with the faculty and other students here, plus I was incredibly excited about the research going on.

What are your favorite things about the Cambridge/Boston area?
I love the Charles River. I run along the Charles at least four times a week, and regardless of the weather, the view is always beautiful.

What’s something that surprised you about life here?
I’m pretty good at navigating, but even after living here for seven months, I still get lost! Boston is a pretty old city, so there are tons of tiny streets and alleys, and the streets don’t follow a predictable grid pattern, so it’s pretty hard to get to know the city without Google Maps.

Real Talk: What’s been your biggest challenge since coming to MIT?
The biggest challenge has been balancing school, research, teaching, and my own sanity. Trying to do research while still taking classes and teaching an undergrad course is really time-consuming and I was definitely quite sleep deprived for the first few weeks of grad school while I was trying to figure out how to navigate my different responsibilities.

What was your favorite part of your first year at MIT?
The people! I’m usually really self-conscious so I have a hard time making friends, but I felt an instant connection with so many people in my cohort and we quickly became good friends!

What is your favorite thing about your cohort?
We can switch from talking science to getting lit in a matter of seconds.

Why did you join WIC?
I joined WIC because I’m passionate about creating a space for women and minorities in STEM to connect with one another and support one another. When we support one another, we are uplifting everyone in our community, including ourselves.

What’s your favorite WIC program or event?
Galentine’s day!

What’s your go-to for self-care in quarantine?
I’ve been FaceTiming with my grandparents a lot. We usually FaceTime every Sunday, but since I have *slightly* more free time now, I’ve been talking to them every other day. I miss them a lot, and seeing that they’re happy and healthy makes me feel much better about being so far away from my family.


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