Bleh! I partially drafted this blog weeks ago and never got around to actually finishing it! Super bad on my part with my time organization and discipline. We’ve all been cranking out job/summer applications and now midterms are coming in hot too. All the bloggers promise to be more on point from now on out though! Follow us on Twitter! And ask us questions 🙂
One of the most common and frequent conversations you’ll hear around campus is about how fast the time flies. However, this realization is typically made in retrospect, near the end of the semester when we’re all reminiscing. The crazy-unique aspect of this semester is that me and most of the people I talk to all agree that we’re living in a fast-forward type of life; we can feel time zooming by and there’s nothing we can do about it except enjoy.
There are probably many factors contributing to the speedy sensation of my life. I felt a little jipped of my J-term (January term, winter break) because I had to study for the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). This isn’t to say I didn’t have an amazing break because I turned 21 and had the chance to catch up with my favorite old friends and family. Also after my MCAT test, some of my closest Harvard friends and I took a road trip to New Hampshire to relax and snowboard/ski. It was my first time in an East Coast state outside of Massachusetts and New York. It was awesome to snowboard for the first time on the east coast and I would definitely never have had this opportunity if I didn’t attend college on this coast (so for all those who are experiencing a little cold feet anxiety from moving to the frigid cold, if I can survive happily, you definitely can too!).
After one of the most relaxing weekends snowboarding in New Hampshire, my friends and I returned to school to shop (classes) until we dropped. Actually, I wasn’t planning on shopping too many classes because there are a ton of freshman premed requirements I have yet to take (oops?); yet my nonresident tutor and the OCS (Office of Career Services) premedical adviser managed to offer me contradictory advice about my class options. One adviser suggested finishing the premed requirements so I could have them on my transcript when I apply to medical school this summer, but the other adviser suggested I explore more global health classes. This led to a frenzy of class shopping and I entered into random lotteries for classes I was initially planning on enrolling in my senior year. In the end, I chose to take 4.5 classes – the same amount I took on last semester.
The half class can be explained by my dopamine neurobiology tutorial. My concentration is Neurobiology, which is a department which offers year-long tutorials, but credits you for a one semester class. This may sound like the worst trade off ever, but the class only meets once a week for 1.5 hours total, whereas normal classes will meet for at least 3 lecture hours a week (this excludes section and lab hours which all in all can sum up to like 9+ hours/week!!). My tutorial is about Dopamine and the concomitant disorders that come with the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons. It’s a super interesting class – we have 2 lecturers, but only one has spoken in class so far. The cool part is that our speaker will send our written assignments to the lecturer who we haven’t met yet so it’s graded with minimal bias. We had a written assignment about drugs and their effectiveness over J-term, and just to prove that Harvard isn’t ridiculously strict, my professors gave me a few days grace period because the written assignment was due the day before my MCAT. The class is awesome because the setting is a big round table discussion and the professor is one of the most knowledgeable person ever – we try stumping him about neurology/disorders every week, but still have not been successful!
This semester, most of my classes are heavily populated by freshman and my only reasoning behind that is my older friends have/will soon be graduating so I need need to be replenishing my friend pool. It was a pretty smart choice looking back 😉
LS1b – Life Sciences 1b – Genetics, Genomics, and Evolution
Word on the street is this class was terrible a few years ago. We’re talking a Q score of 1 (out of 5). Q scores refer to the Q guide which is Harvard’s version of ratemyprofessor.com. In attempts to improve, this class has been totally revamped. Last year, it was taught by the amazingly charismatic Andrew Berry and this year, as I’m taking it, there’s a great group of faculty. There’s been 2 main lecturers so far and more to come as the class progresses. Kevin Eggan kicked off the class well with his undying energy (and well-dressed behavior – he’s known in the department as best dressed!). Our second lecturer, Hopi Hoekstra, along with People like to refer to Kevin as Sexiest Genius. I’m obsessed with Hopi though. She is SUPER entertaining and puts the hard facts into a creative historical context which really motivates what you learn, making it easier to learn. I was talking to a friend the other day about one of Hopi’s lectures – I literally just felt so glad to be in that lecture hall at Harvard. My friend then teased me about high 5-ing all the freshman among me, but that’s what I wanted to do!! Her lectures are so entertaining. I can’t wait for the full rotation of faculty for this class!
This is a science course with a 3 hour section/lab component; it combines discussion section with lab, something not very common at Harvard. My favorite lab yet has to be when we swabbed our cheek cells for DNA and then analyzed it via PCR (polymerase chain reaction). My genotype says I should be a very early morning person, someone who can taste bitter, and an athletic sprinter. Some of my phenotypes would suggest otherwise…
PS 1 – Physical Sciences 1 – Chemical Bonding, Energy & Reactivity
This is the class at Harvard that mirrors Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry from high school the most – a class which I absolutely L-O-V-E-D. The professor is really enthusiastic and passionate about the material, but he’s also more of a theorist than a researcher – doesn’t influence the class dynamic too much, but it makes the demonstrations Hilarious (with a capital H) because he’ll forget some of the safety rules that other faculty try to grind into us. There has been fiery explosions and liquid nitrogen. Need to say, a lot of concomitant Oooo’s and Ahhh’s.
This class comes with a 1 hour discussion/problem solving section along with a 3 hour lab. Problem solving sections are weekly, but lab is kind of once every 2 weeks. Last time in lab, we set Cheetos on fire and measured the surrounding temperature change to calculate the caloric energy content of our snack sample. I’m not hating on the lab, but it would have been better if there were Cheetos to actually eat. Maybe we could have measured the energetic content by seeing how many push ups we could do after eating Cheetos? I’ll suggest it in the Q guide feedback I give at the end of the semester 😉
Both LS1b and PS 1 have “clicker questions” during lecture. Clickers look exactly like this. During lecture, a slide with a clicker question will come up and the professors will give you some time to respond with one of the multiple choice answers. Then the next slide will illustrate bar graphs of the percentage of students that answered to each corresponding multiple choice answers. Clicker questions are like mini pop quizzes during lecture; sometimes credit is awarded for accuracy and other times credit is awarded for participation (like a way of taking attendance). Whatever the point system is, it’s more of a conceptual checkpoint to make sure students are not only paying attention, but also understanding the way information is being presented. I’ve grown to really like clicker questions and they help wake me up sometimes too 😉
Spanish 90c – Representations of Racial Belonging and Difference in the Hispanic Caribbean
This class is taught by a visiting professor and it’s taken some time for me to appreciate and enjoy the class, but I can now honestly say that I like the class! The topic is super interesting and the class doesn’t emphasize memorization of history. There’s a lot of psychology and sociology involved because we’re examining racial tensions and various controversial issues so this would be my favorite aspect of the class. It’s essentially a history course taught in Spanish. My positive feelings towards this class were hesitant because there’s so much reading to be done every week! However, the silver lining is that some of the readings are in English. The flip side though is that a lot of the Spanish primary sources we read are in ancient dialects and there’s really no hope of me understanding that.
I think my turning point with regards to this course came when I was assigned an individual section – I’m talking one on one, me and my TF (teaching fellow) chilling in a lounge. There’s about 15 students taking the class and everyone can meet during this one time the professor suggested except for me because I have math lecture. Instead of finding another accommodating time for everyone, the TF just decided to personally reschedule with me! Thus, I individually meet with my TF every week for 35-45 minutes discussing the readings. Advantages: it’s less than the one hour section, I get to know my TF really well and she gets to see how well (or awful) I speak Spanish. Disadvantages: I have to do every single reading to be prepared for any of the questions she asks me (but by doing all the readings, I’m definitely getting more out of the class…and my tuition), I miss out on the comments and analysis by my peers. Considering all, I’m definitely glad these individual sections are happening because as intimidating as it may be, I don’t think I’ll ever get an experience/opportunity like it. Unless I get like a Spanish tutor later in life.
Math 19a – Modeling and Differential Equations for the Life Sciences
I really like math guys. So I’m not the best at it, but it is pretty easy for my to find myself enjoying matrices, phase planes, and the like. Mmm, I just took a moment and considered whether admitting that paralleled social suicide. Whatever, I do hate the Friday psets (problem sets) though. Definitely takes over my Thursdays, but the class is awesome. It’s a super well structured class! The professor has been teaching this class both fall and spring for a few years now and has it down to a T. However, he definitely does not do the exact things verbatim – i.e. he does different warm up problems, example problems, assigns different article readings and psets. More teachers need to follow his footsteps because it’s what keeps the class fresh and exciting for each group of students. He makes every math problem seem like magic because everything just feels so logical and reasonable, so much so that it simply cannot be real life. The class reads scientific journal articles and either analyzes the proposed mathematical model or creates one to explain natural phenomenons such as population growth, predator vs. prey, etc. Overall, an amazingly taught and supported class. It’ll be more amazing after the first midterm this Tuesday though…so much studying to do!!
Can’t study too hard this weekend though because it’s Junior Parents Weekend! Parents are welcome whenever, but on one special weekend during the Spring semester, parents of third year college students are invited onto campus and a lot of events take place for them to experience what Harvard life for their child/children has been like for the past ~3 years and it’s a nice way for them to familiarize themselves with the landscape before Graduation! My parents didn’t come out from California, but my best friend and roommate is from Connecticut and her parents have basically become my East Coast parents. They definitely have taken me out to dinner on consecutive nights this weekend and always make me feel beyond welcome into their family. When I was making friends here at Harvard, I wasn’t expecting to make new families too, but I’m overly grateful that the unexpected has transpired.