In March, as her friends and neighbors were scrambling to pack up and leave campus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Geeticka Chauhan found her world upended in yet another way. Just weeks earlier, she had been elected council president of MIT’s largest graduate residence, Sidney-Pacific. Suddenly the fourth-year PhD student was plunged into rounds of emergency meetings with MIT administrators.
From her apartment in Sidney-Pacific, where she has stayed put due to travel restrictions in her home country of India, Chauhan is still learning the ropes of her new position. With others, she has been busy preparing to meet the future challenge of safely redensifying the living space of more than 1,000 people: how to regulate high-density common areas, handle noise complaints as people spend more time in their rooms, and care for the mental and physical well-being of a community that can only congregate virtually. “It’s just such a crazy time,” she says.
She’s prepared for the challenge. During her time at MIT, while pursuing her research using artificial intelligence to understand human language, Chauhan has worked to strengthen the bonds of her community in numerous ways, often drawing on her experience as an international student to do so.
Adventures in brunching
When Chauhan first came to MIT in 2017, she quickly fell in love with Sidney-Pacific’s thriving and freewheeling “helper culture.” “These are all researchers, but they’re maybe making brownies, doing crazy experiments that they would do in lab, except in the kitchen,” she says. “That was my first introduction to the…