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and even dipped into the world of music theory. Defying exp

edit:casino time:2019-02-07

In his native Puerto Rico, Vázquez Martínez says, Switzerland was viewed as a sort of near-perfect country, which he only dreamed of visiting. Two previous summer internships had also left him feeling uncertain about what he wanted to do with his future. When he received an email about a departmental exchange between MIT and ETH Zurich, he knew it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

Defying expectations

He started with the group as a beginner four years ago, and now leads some of the advanced sessions. Through dedicated practice, he says, “I found a love for the dance, the music, and how it allows me to communicate with other people. I am continually challenged by our practices and the other dancers, and feel a new rush of adrenaline with every choreography and performance.”

Vázquez Martínez has taken up music as a hobby, and recently completed 21M.051 (Fundamentals of Music). In the class, he learned introductory music theory through playing the piano. While he says he’s still at a pretty basic level of knowledge, it helps him to communicate with his younger brother who has been studying music from a very early age. They exchange pieces of theory that they’ve learned, show off songs they’ve picked up, and have even tried to compose a piano piece together.

By his own admission, Héctor Javier Vázquez Martínez was underprepared to move to Zurich for a semester during his junior year. His cell phone plan didn’t work, he’d forgotten to change his money, and he didn’t know German. However, it didn’t take him long to find his way. Soon, the electrical engineering and computer science major was working in a lab at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich’s Institute of Neuroinformatics, developing a computer model of how mice learn.

Spending a semester in Switzerland is just one of many opportunities at MIT that the adventurous senior has seized. During his four years as an MIT student, he has taught underprivileged students abroad, joined the crew team and the Cuban salsa group Casino Rueda, and even dipped into the world of music theory.

Thinking on the brain

Vázquez Martínez also became involved that year with neural network research by Glen Urban, the David Austin Professor in Marketing, Emeritus, in the Sloan School of Management. Basically, a computer would be fed thousands of descriptions of customers and lists of credit cards they applied for, and the program would predict which credit cards people with certain demographics would apply for. Vázquez Martínez took over the work from a student who graduated, and enjoyed having his own project. But come fall of his junior year, he decided it was time for a change of scenery, and he was off to Switzerland.

Vázquez Martínez is also a member of the dance group Casino Rueda and averages about six to seven hours of dancing a week.

His research at the Institute of Neuroinformatics in Switzerland was related to a previous experiment, in which mice were taught to recognize different sandpaper surfaces using a system of positive and negative rewards. The way mice identify their surroundings is through neurons in their whiskers that relay information to their brains. Vázquez Martínez was assigned to make a computational model of three clusters of neurons in a mouse’s brain, and to teach the model to distinguish between different types of sandpaper the way mice do.

“The time that followed more than made up for the first rough couple of weeks. I would do it all over again if I had the chance,” he says.


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