Mariana Gomez del Campo ’20: Pioneering a New Course

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Mariana Gomez del Campo ’20: Pioneering a New Course


Tristan Davies
At home over the summer, Mariana Gomez del Campo ’20 (left) enjoyed improving her culinary skills, learning Mexican recipes such as tortilla soup from her mother. Image courtesy Mariana Gomez del Campo.

In only its second year, Course 6-9, Computation and Cognition, has attracted more than a hundred students—one of the main reasons the number of BCS majors doubled between fall 2019 and fall 2020.

One of the first students to graduate from the program this spring was Mariana Gomez del Campo. Mariana was born in Mexico City but has lived most of her life in the U.S. She first declared a major in Brain and Cognitive Sciences with a minor in Computer Science, so when the new 6-9 major was announced she found it a better fit with her interests. We asked her about the experience.

Q. What are you interested in and why? How did that lead to you choosing 6-9?

A. I’m fascinated by the human brain. It’s an incredibly powerful and complex organ, and yet it’s so poorly understood. Intrigued by this mystery, and by the fact that every single human on this planet has one of these supercomputers inside their skull, I was drawn into MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

But as a student at MIT, it’s impossible to not feel a sense of curiosity for computer science. The interaction between these two fields is multidirectional. We can build computer systems inspired by the human brain and these neural networks are capable of solving all sorts of problems. But we can also use tools from computer science to find out more about the brain. And the more we know about how the human brain functions, the closer we’ll be to building machines that can think, sense, and act as humans do. That’s what led me to choose 6-9, rather than just studying cognitive science on its own.

Q. How does it feel to be one of the first 6-9 graduates?

A. I always say I’ve had the best time of my life at MIT. I’ve encountered a lot of challenges for sure, and it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve loved my experience here. It feels unreal to be one of the first students to receive receiving a degree in such an exciting and evolving field from an institution that is a leader in advancing human and machine intelligence research.

In August, Mariana began her first post- graduation job remotely, as a data scientist for the Advanced Analytics and Artificial Intelligence team at General Motors.