Campus Life student spotlight

Thorburn’s Suppers

Meet Craig, a Scottish senior at MIT who has stayed true to his heritage!

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Craig Thorburn '19 is the founder of Burns Supper at MIT.
Andrei Ivanov

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

Name & Class: Craig Thorburn, Class of 2018

Areas of Study: Double Major in Course 24 (Linguistics) and Course 9 (Brain and Cognitive Sciences); Minor in Course 21G (German)

Living group: Simmons

Home country: Scotland



What prompted your academic choices?

I was originally going to major in physics, but I chose to take an introductory linguistics class for my freshman fall HASS requirement and took another next semester. I remember during spring break, someone said: “You know, you talk a lot more about linguistics than physics.” Realizing it was true, I declared it as my major, still planning on double majoring with physics. After I while, I started thinking minor, and then realized I didn’t actually like physics anymore…

During my sophomore summer, I did MISTI Germany at the Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt. I learned German in high school (in Scotland), and so I thought I would continue it here. My project was based on studying the differences in sounds between different languages, but it was in the neuroscience department. Having already done 9.00 (Intro to Psychological Science) at MIT, I discovered I was interested in a combination of the two fields — how language works in the brain. I went back for IAP to continue my work.


What do you like about Simmons?

It’s a really great community. I’ve got a lot of really great friends there that have stuck together. It’s also a really cool building… I had 39 windows during freshman fall! Right now I only have 18, but I have a huge curvy wall that I love!


Why did you join the Cross Products?

I had never done a cappella before I came here — I’d done a lot of music but not so much singing, bar a couple of things in the choir and a senior year musical. The Cross Products sounded interesting because my faith has always been important to me, and they say that they are a ministry group that happens to sing rather than a singing group that happens to be Christian. We have weekly Bible Studies together, and our setlists are chosen to spread a certain message. Every spring break, we go to someone’s hometown and sing in churches, nursing homes, schools, hospitals, homeless shelters… once, we performed at a prison. In sophomore year, we went to Scotland! I’m so glad to have been part of it for four years.


How did Burns Supper start?

In my freshman year, I organized a little lounge event in Simmons for about 20 people to share a bit of my culture. The next year, it grew into a dorm wide event, held in the dining hall, although we cooked all the food ourselves. It was a nightmare! In junior year, I wanted to scale it up even more, so held it in Walker for all of MIT, with a live Scottish band, and actual catering…It was amazing standing there and seeing 100+ people doing the Scottish dances I had learned in my high school PE classes — social dances that basically everyone in Scotland knows.


What do you like best and least at MIT?

The best part of MIT is definitely the people. Everyone is incredible and has done so many amazing things in all different areas. I’ve made so many friends, and everyone is curious about a variety of things. I can talk about my major, and people are actually interested, and they can talk about they’re doing too. The worst: the stress. My friends and faith are the things that have gotten me through it!


What are your plans for the future?

I’m looking into graduate schools right now. Eventually, I want to go into academia: psycholinguistics. I see research as learning, except you are the first person to learn it. That’s obviously a real honor, and I love learning, so I want to keep on doing that. Teaching as a professor would also have its own rewards.


Looking back, do you have any regrets or advice for younger years?

I went through a period of time during sophomore spring that I was doing far too much, and so had to completely rearrange my life and priorities. For example, putting sleep and people over psets! It was a learning experience, so I don’t really wish I hadn’t gone through it, but I still get worried when I see other people at MIT making the same mistake. Yet, when I was in that situation I wouldn’t have listened to anyone, so I know they won’t either!


Would you rather break your arm or break your leg?

I think my leg, because then I’d still have my hands free!


If you lost the ability to see one color, which would it be?

I feel like black would be the best color to lose because you would still have all the colorful colors.


What one thing would you want to have with you on a desert island?

I’m going to be cheesy and go for a friend. I don’t know who, though…


What one value do you prize above all others?

Respect. In today’s society there is a lot going on, so I think we all need to just remember to respect everyone.