I would like to start with a mind-ingrained conversation at my 7th birthday party on the 4th of May, 1992, between my late grandfather and myself:
Grandfather: Canan, canim (my dear), you should start managing your time wisely.
Me: Grandfather, what does managing mean?
Grandfather: It means creating a robust but yet flexible habit to succeed in your target aims even at the most extreme conditions, against internal and external resistances.
To me, managing is exactly what this is.
The best things in life are never achieved easily. They take passion, compassion, vision, diligent and cooperative work, patience, and endurance. In my previous essay,Launching a Lab, I explained the development of my lab, which now consists of a team of graduate and undergraduate researchers; postdoctoral associates; a lab manager; an administrative assistant; our cleanroom, the YellowBox; and the systems and procedures, methodically developed, which help bind all this together. Our first year was filled with new challenges and lessons that have made us stronger both individually and as a research group. Our motivation is to build upon our successes using our group’s culture of safety, efficiency, and passion for impactful research, assuring the longevity of our work and the lab.
As a new faculty member at the Media Lab, I had the opportunity to begin a research group from scratch and develop my own research direction—but sometimes it can be extremely difficult to determine where to start. A wealth of resources exists, but accessing them can seem impossible if you do not know who to contact and when to contact them. This was particularly true in my case, as not only was I starting a lab by bringing in students/researchers and developing a research plan, I was also physically building the facility that would forward our research: our cleanroom, the YellowBox. This meant interfacing with a multitude of groups including architects, contractors, facilities management, finance, and the Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) Office, which have helped us to determine the safety and compliance of our lab. In order to manage all of these moving parts, being organized was an absolute necessity, as was determining what resources on campus and within the Media Lab were available to us.
It took more than nine months to design and build the YellowBox—a lot of time for a research group. Once the YellowBox was ready, it was important that it be precisely maintained and that research was conducted carefully and efficiently, in order to maximize resources and time during the creation of our novel mechanically adaptive microfabricated devices.
What is the YellowBox?
The YellowBox is a state-of-the-art microfabrication and characterization facility, the first-of-its-kind cleanroom built inside the MIT Media Lab. Its purpose is for the exploration of novel device design and fabrication strategies to create microscale systems with mechanically adaptive features that allow intimate integration with the objects of interest.