Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's been a while... (Class reviews)

Wow, it's really been a while since I last posted...
I've been very busy these past couple of weeks, trying to adjust to my new semi-masochistic schedule. Especially 8.022. So far, thoughts on courses:
7.012 (bio)
There are two lecturers, Lander and Weinberg. Lander is a very distinguished biologist, having been a key member of the Human Genome Project and is on some health panel in the government. He's an awesome lecturer, but he doesn't seem to be around all that much. Most of the time, we have Weinberg, the discoverer of the first oncogene. He's undoubtedly a brilliant researcher as well, but not so much as a teacher. We've done mostly biochemistry/macromolecules, but just also started genetics. The first test was last Friday...scores are supposed to come out today.
The p-sets and tests are very "thinking"-intensive, with some memorization as well. Good luck trying to Google answers to these questions.
Example: In one step of glycolysis, one molecule is split into two, then an enzyme converts one into the other, because only one of them can proceed to the next step of glycolysis. If that enzyme is lacking, then why can the cell only survive in aerobic environments? (Answer: 2 ATP required to start glycolysis, then only 2 ATP will be produced through glycolysis, so no net gain, but under aerobic conditions, oxidative phosphorylation means that a net gain can still be achieved.)
Another: The proteins of organisms living in Yellowstone's hot springs are high in cysteine. Why is this so? (Answer: cysteine creates covalent disulfide bonds with other cysteines (-SH HS- becomes -S-S-), which are stronger than the hydrogen bonds and van der Waals interactions that usually hold proteins together, so the proteins can withstand higher temperatures)
...yeah. But it's kind of fun?
The recitation...well, I think the recitation leader has good intentions, but she's not a native speaker of English, and I think...misunderstandings arise a lot.

5.112 (chem)
There's one lecturer so far, Professor Bawendi. I...think there's another lecturer (some Nobel laureate) who comes near the end of the course. The professor tried to be intimidating the first class, then eased up. He tries to make the subject approachable, but the stuff we're covering is really hard/confusing (whee Schrodinger's equation/wave functions)...so yeah. Well, I'm doing well on the p-sets...
The p-sets are more "standard" than 7.012's, but they still often require multiple steps of thinking and approaches, and the test is...next Wednesday. Kind of worried for that...yeah.
The recitation isn't particularly helpful, I feel, but maybe that's because I'm writing this post during it.

8.022 (physics E&M)
There's one lecturer, Professor Rappaport. Kind of like 5.112, the professor tries to make hard stuff more approachable...? It goes much more in-depth and much more multivariable-y than high school physics. It's awesome how 18.02 (multivariable) is technically a prerequisite...because unless you learn all of multivariable in the first week, it ain't going to happen.
The p-sets are also f-ing hard. Oh geez. Wow. Very math-heavy, and thinking-heavy, and stuff like that. Definitely the most time-consuming of my four p-sets.
The recitation is pretty awesome. I probably learn more from the recitation than I do from the actual class...the recitation leaders for 8.022 are actual professors who have taught the class before (as opposed to grad students), and they have no qualms about helping students with the homework (desperately needed in the case of 8.022).
Also kind of unique: the textbook is really useful. The book (Purcell's Electricity and Magnetism) is somewhat of a legend at MIT.

24.900 (linguistics)
There's one lecturer, Professor Steriade. Hm. Well, so far, the class has been really, really boring and confusing. Argh. We've been doing "syntax," which is basically English grammar split up into trees...on crack. I'm trying to switch out, but my advisor says that it's probably not going to happen. :( Well, hopefully, the other units in linguistics will be more interesting, since apparently our professor is a phonologist, not a syntactician.
The p-set is odd. Usually only "two questions" with like 7 parts each. Usually very confusing, often with material not covered in class.
The recitation hasn't been all too helpful as of now...and the leader keeps on complaining about the textbook and marking us wrong for following the textbook.
The textbook is extremely verbose and unclear. :( I guess they'll never change it since the professor's one of the authors...

Chamber music
I'm in a piano quartet, coached by (the very famous) John Harbison. We're playing Mendelssohn Piano Quartet No. 2, which Mendelssohn wrote when he was 13. It's still a very good piece of music...that crazy kid. Mendelssohn wrote his piano quartets to show off his piano skillz, though...so most of the coaching goes towards the piano.

Advising seminar
Cooking. It's good. Last week was butter, biscuits, and applesauce, and this week was...curried butternut squash and apple soup. Last week's was excellent, and this week's was very good as well, though I think we put too many sour apples, because the soup ended up a bit sour. Curried butternut squash and apple soup sounds very dubious, I know, but it tasted pretty good.

Look for a post on non-class stuff...soon. Maybe during the next chem recitation.

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