Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Thou then wert our parent, the nurse of our soul... (A thank-you post)


To my parents, in whose footsteps I couldn't be prouder to follow.

To my grandmother and late grandfather, who have been working for this moment for the past fifty years.

To my grandmother, who sewed my dance costumes.

To Lucian, the first friend I met here, without whom I would not have found the path I did. I'm so glad we're doing this next thing together.

To Christina, without whom I would not have survived with sense of humor intact. Thank you, friend.

To Ava, who was always there to lend an ear and set my heart true. You're still a klutz and a derp.

To Julia, who could be counted on to be in the audience whenever her blockmates were sweating under the lights. I can't say in words how much I appreciated it.

To Miriam, the stalwart rock of our blocking group.

To Grace, who lit up the room. Smartypants.

To Claire, who had the kindest words. I'm glad I got to know you in the end.

To Joy, who kept being there when I turned around.

To Michael, for wonderful conversations.

To Ben, who set me on the path to make the world better.

To Keno, who weathered the absolute worst with me.

To Rob, who I have liked more the more I've gotten to know him, and who has more than repaid any debt between us with fast friendship.

To Olivia, who put up with my shit for so long, as we struggled and grew together as dancers and leaders. Harvard Ballroom is going great places under you.

To Cyndia, who is the best single thing that happened to me these past two years.

To Margo, who's seen me flawed and broken and gave me second, third, fourth, and fifth chances. I wouldn't have done half of the things I have if not for your constant faith in me.

To Daniel, who selflessly poured out his own knowledge until I understood enough to dare to add to the canon of computer science. I don't think I'll ever stop being in your debt.

To David, who's far kinder than he lets on, and who took me in first as a student, and later as a colleague and a friend.

To Harry, who didn't always have the answer, but was willing to hear the question anyway.

To Benedict Gross, who gave me the gift of an enduring love of math.

To Scott Aaronson, who showed me the beauty and meaning of the quest to quantify epistemology.

To Josh, who saw me as the poet I didn't yet believe myself to be (and sometimes, still don't).

To Scott, who believed I was special -- until I began to believe it to.

To Kay, whose fire can move universities.

To Radhika, whose sense of joy in her work is troublingly infectious.

To Doug and Gail, who gave me a home these three years.

To Alex, my moral support in the most hellish week of my thesis.

To Aaron L. and Aaron M. and Albert and Amelia and Anastasia and Anatoli and Anne and Aran and Chris and Colin and Connor and Craig and Dan and Diane and Duncan and Emily and Eric and Evan and Fernando and Gio and Heather and Helen Vendler and Howard Georgi and James Mickens and Jao-ke and Jim Waldo and Joe and Jude and Kat and Kim and Layla and Leila and Li and Marie and Mariko and Mark A. and Michael Mitzenmacher and Ore and Patrick and Ravi and Ray and Roman B. and Serena B. and Serena W. and Sierra and Sophie and Spencer and Todd and Vanessa and Vicki and Violet and Zoe.

To everyone else who touched my life in uncountable small ways that have made the past four years the most amazing years of my life so far.

To Valerie Bielensen, who admitted me.

To those from outside this school's walls: Bailes and Binder and Bradley and Brian and David and Eric and Leah and Malcolm and Michael and Nick and Sam and Sandor and Yiming.

To those who brought me here: Daryl Burch and Russell Cain and Misha Chkenkeli and the late Lynn Collins and Janet Doherty and Frank Eastham and Rick Ewart and Gabrielle Galvez and Phil Hale and Bruce Milligan and Mark Ralkowski and Mike Rock and Rebecca Sandler and Don Shea and Joshua Weingarten.

To Vincent James, who was the first one to see me at my worst and believe in me, regardless.

Thou then wert our parent, the nurse of our soul;
we were molded in our time by thee,
’till freighted with treasure thoughts, friendships and hopes,
thou didst launch us on Destiny's sea.


For those of you who haven't been keeping up these past four years, here's a quick rundown of how it's gone for me:

  • I found the absolute best friends, and they've become as good as family. I've been living with the same seven roommates (Ava, Christina, Claire, Grace, Julia, Lucian, Miriam) for the past four years, and I'd choose in a heartbeat to live with them for another four if our myriad dreams weren't scattering us across the Western Hemisphere. And beyond them, I've made amazing friends -- from my classes in physics, math, and computer science, but also as I spent my time dancing, or in the theater, or teaching. (But more on those later.)
  • I graduated with an AB cum laude in Computer Science and Math...and an SM in Computer Science! (This was something of a surprise to my parents, who had no idea that I was enrolled in a dual-degree program until today.) Along the way, I took courses in everything from number theory (Gross) to the history of K-12 education in America (Merseth), from poetry (Vendler) and composition (Bell) to market design (Kominers), from relativistic mechanics (Yin, Georgi) to quantum computation (Aaronson) to operating systems (Seltzer) to computer security (Mickens) to biorobotics (Nagpal).
  • With the generous mentorship of Daniel Margo, the sage guidance of Prof. Margo Seltzer, and the quiet support of David Holland, I wrote a senior thesis on the mathematics of social connection, which received unanimous High Honors from the CS department.
  • I started a blog, which got a few tens of thousands of hits last year. I had editorials published in the Harvard Crimson (twice) and the Harvard Political Review.
  • I gave up fencing to join the Ballroom Dance Team, which has been my family for four years. I served as its Secretary, Travel Coordinator, Rookie Captain, and President, traveling (and leading the team) to New York and Montreal. For the past two years, I've been dancing with the lovely and long-suffering Olivia Campbell -- this spring, we took fifth in the Silver-level Viennese Waltz at the Harvard Invitational and performed in the opening act of the Harvard Arts First Performance Fair.
  • Along the way, I served as lighting director for countless ballroom showcases -- as well as one real play, ART, directed by Todd Jones. I was also Props Manager for Les Phys, directed by Roman Berens.
  • In the classroom, I've served as a teaching fellow for both the first CS class in the department (50; Malan, with a teaching staff of more than a hundred) and one of the most challenging (161; Seltzer, with Anne Madoff, David Holland, and Keno Fischer). I taught in Beijing and in a Boston middle school.
  • For this summer, I'll be staying in Cambridge to develop my thesis research on network structure into applications for the economics of moneyless matching markets (like school admissions or medical exchanges) as an Economics Design Fellow at the Harvard Center of Mathematical Sciences and Applications, with my former professor Scott Kominers and my former Ballroom teammate Ravi Jagadeesan.
  • In the fall, I'll be moving to New York to begin work as a trader for a small, mathematically-oriented trading firm that I strongly believe is one of the most honest shops on Wall Street. I've pledged to donate at least 10% of my pre-tax income to the charities that I think will most effectively make the world a better place, and if I stay in this job for the long haul, I definitely expect to revise that pledge upwards.
  • After that, I don't know what the future will hold, so please stop asking if I am planning to someday go to grad school. (The official answer, if you are my mother, my father, or my grandmother, is "maybe".)

I've found friendship and love, new intellectual horizons and new moral convictions. I couldn't be happier to call Harvard College (and Eliot House) my home these past four years. I'm sad to leave this wonderful place, but it's time to go.

The world is broken in so many ways. There's work to be done. And I'm ready to start doing my part to help.


So, to the rest of the class of 2016 that was admitted to "the fellowship of educated women and men" by Drew Faust's pronouncement yesterday, the verse that we sang together at our first and last chapel service together:

Farewell! be thy destinies onward and bright!
To thy children the lesson still give:
With freedom to think, and with patience to bear,
and for Right ever bravely to live,
let not moss-covered Error moor thee at its side,
as the world on Truth’s current glides by;
be the herald of Light, and the bearer of Love,
’till the stock of the Puritans die.

Depart, dear friends, to serve better thy country and thy kind.

I hope to see you out there in the world.