An MIT Alumni Association Publication

For Ankur Chavda SM ’16, a resident grad student at Westgate apartments, the MIT campus encompasses work, family, and community. MIT Spectrum spent a day experiencing life through his eyes. Photo: Sarah Bastille

6:34 am
Ankur Chavda SM ’16 [pictured above] fumbles for his glasses and rolls out of bed. He yawns a good morning to his wife, Sarah Andries. He exits the bedroom and bumps into his four-year- old son. Leonidas usually gets up first, but he’s not supposed to wake his parents up prematurely (or else he can’t watch his TV show about cars). The 40-year-old Ankur—a PhD candidate in the Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management Group at MIT Sloan School of Management—gets dressed and tidies up. A few minutes before 7, he knocks on the kids’ bedroom door to rouse his eight-year-old daughter, Dido. She groans.

Sarah is Belgian, and considers eating chocolate anytime, all the time, to be her cultural heritage—so it’s no surprise that her daughter dusts her bowl of Cheerios with chocolate sprinkles before wolfing it down. Once Ankur runs Dido to the school bus stop across the street at 7:20, he’s back in the kitchen pouring cups of coffee for Sarah and himself.

Ankur appreciates the community in this building…The families in this building rely on each other.

Ankur, Sarah, and Leonidas sit down for breakfast, and as Ankur eats his eggs, he looks around the apartment. Toys and books are everywhere. The kitchen is decorated with Dido’s drawings of mermaids and ponies and a page from Leonidas’s Hot Wheels coloring book. This is the third floor of Westgate, an MIT residence for graduate students with families. Ankur appreciates the community in this building—the fact that, say, the parents here babysit each other’s kids. The families in this building rely on each other.

Sarah drops Leonidas off at Westgate’s childcare facility before heading up to Salem, Massachusetts, where she works as a public defender. Ankur grabs his backpack, unlocks his bike, and starts pedaling.

8:31 am
Ankur lowers himself into the pool at MIT’s Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center. He’s taking a beginner’s swimming class, and today the instructor is reviewing the forward crawl.

9:35 am
Ankur hops off his bike and enters E62, MIT Sloan’s newest building. He grabs the elevator to the fourth floor and walks into the office he shares with two other graduate students. Ankur has the spot near the window. On his desk, scattered notebooks and papers intermingle with books like Statistical Inference and Mostly Harmless Econometrics. Next to his computer screen is more of his kids’ artwork and a framed family photo in which he and Dido are competing for the biggest smile.

Ankur sifts through his emails from the night before, and then opens a statistical analysis program on his computer and tumbles headfirst into his dataset—a sea of information he thinks about all the time. These are the casts, crews, and ratings of many of the pilot episodes and full seasons aired by major television networks from the 1940s until the present. Ankur’s interested in how innovation happens, broadly, and he’s using these data from the entertainment industry to figure it out. A recent discussion with his advisor got him thinking about a different way to organize his data, so he’s shifting the numbers around now, getting them in place to answer a new set of questions.

Excerpted from “A Day in the Westgate Life” in the spring 2017 Spectrum. Read the full article.

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