So remember when I said I was going to taper these posts down to once a week? I’ll give you a tip (I BROKE THAT PROMISE). Rather, I fulfilled my promise too much, in a way! Let me illustrate what is going to happen with this post:
- Admittedly, this might take longer than one post….and yes, I did just spend 30 minutes drawing this in paint! Procrastination at its finest…
A good place to start would probably be my academics, and now is a great time to talk about them because I’m caught up with all my work for classes. Isn’t it beautiful when that happens.
As you all must know already, I’m studying at the University of Glasgow, which is located on top of a big-%#$ hill in the West End of Glasgow. That must be why they call the neighborhood “Hillhead”. For reference it’s here. I’ll give you all the compulsory overdone photo of the tower of the main building (on a sunny day, to boot!).
If you think that I can take this nice of a picture, you probably couldn’t guess the age of my camera.
The workload pales in comparison to what I have at Maryland, but before everybody jumps and gets jealous, at least 60% of my grade in every class will be determined solely by the final exam. If you think about it, less work during the semester also means less study material; in fact, all we really have to study are lecture notes and past exams. Oh, and exams start about one week after spring break (woohoo…)!
Despite the workload being pretty light, I got caught in a pretty bad cycle of neglecting it, and almost giving up trying to catch up, but I made some major changes to my schedule mid-February, and I feel like my schoolwork is very manageable at this point. Again, let me give you a physicist’s simplification (I learned from the best, my grandfather!) of these changes in the form of another beautiful graphic:
Well, maybe this is an overstatement, but I’ve been trying to go to the library for at least 3 hours a day for (almost!) every day of the week, and it’s worked for me!
As far as classes go, I am taking a course in second-semester organic chemistry, a course in statistics and design of experiments, and a course in modern (post-1750) history of Celtic nations, including Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. They’re all pretty enjoyable courses. Generally, we have a course head/organizer, 2 or more lecturers in each class who teach a specific topic in the course, and a tutor who leads the tutorials (what they call “discussions” or “recitations” here). For example, in statistics, we have a lecturer for analysis of paired data, a lecturer for hypothesis testing, and a tutor.
In addition, I’m also auditing a course offered by the National Piping Centre on the historical context of the bagipipes and Gaelic music traditions . I’ll expand on that in a later post, though! For now, I’ll give you this beautiful picture of the Piping Centre:
I remember when I was a young lad taking a picture in front of this building with three piping friends. Seriously, that actually happened!
For organic chemistry, all of my lectures, labs, and tutorials are in this building:
It’s called the Joseph Black building in honor of Joseph Black, a professor at the University in the 18th century and a famous chemist who did groundbreaking thermodynamics research of the specific heat (heat required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of a certain substance by 1 degree Celsius) of various important metals and liquids and discovered the phenomenon of latent heat (heat required to change a substance from solid to liquid at its melting point) and carbon dioxide. For what it’s worth, he also was the mentor of James Watt, whose name is used as the SI unit for power (Watts). In any case, I think he wholly deserves to have this building named after him.
Chemistry labs are much different here than they are in Maryland. You have a 3-hour period for two days to complete a synthesis of a compound for your experiment, and afterwards, you write a full lab report detailing your procedure, yields, and how you identified your product(not doing it all in question format…welcome to the real world!). Every organic chemistry experiment is being performed in one of these two-day blocks, so it’s one lab technician serving 50 students in one huge laboratory and a demonstrator (similar to a lab TA) for each experiment, most of which are from continental Europe. It was quite hectic while I did it, and I’m thankful to say it’s over!
The lectures, however, are quite interesting, and I’m taking a real liking to organic chemistry as a whole (this is the point where you *gasp*). As far as industrial synthesis applications go, it’s kinda like solving a puzzle. You’re given certain ingredients or reagents, and you have to come up with an economical, safe, and relatively easy way to get from Compound A to Compound B, the product. It’s the basis for the production of any polymers (like plastics or kevlar), drugs, aerosols etc, so it’s an incredibly vital scientific field for the world as we know it, not to mention that it’s the basis for biochemistry, which is reason you exist and are sitting here reading my blog.
Moving on to statistics, it’s also a pretty interesting course. And the best part of it is that I’ve seen most of the material in AP Statistics, which I took my senior year of high school. Thanks, Mr. Hess! I have lectures almost every day of the week, a tutorial on Thursdays and a lab every other Friday where we basically take data from some mundane thing and analyze the data using methods and tests we’ve learned in lectures. For example, in the last lab, we have to guess the weight of 9 objects by feeling them in our hands and compare them to the true weight; the question in mind was whether our estimate could accurately predict the true weight (sounds like a case for linear regression to me!).
Oh, and my lectures are in the Maths building:
This building is on University Gardens, which also happens to be where the music building (I set foot in it for the first time today. More on that in my next blog post) and the QMU (Queen Margaret Union, one of the two student unions in the university) are locatued.
My tutorials and labs are in the Boyd Orr building:
Boyd Orr was a Scottish doctor/teacher/researcher at the University of Glasgow in the mid-20th century who is most famous for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in nutrition (more specifically malnutrition, thus the Peace Prize).
My only complaint about the class would probably be that the lecturers are a bit stale in their teaching. All they ever do is just give you some equations and go through example after example, most of which are pretty boring and uninteresting, trying to teach you how to use the equations. I would have liked to know more about where these equations come from, but maybe I’m being too critical. It is a first year course, and it’s for non-engineers, so it’s not going to be quite as rigorous or applicable for me (sorry, business and economics majors!).
My Celtic Civilisation class is also in the Maths building, but the tutorials are on this quaint house at 3 University Gardens. Lectures are on Mondays and Tuesdays, and my tutorials are on Thursdays.
I have to admit that it’s quite fun to get away from the rut of science and math and enjoy lectures that sound more like stories than a teacher regurgitating information from a packet or a textbook! The class gives a taste of all the major historic events and legislation in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales post-1750. Lately, we’ve been touching on the education system in each country and the decline of each’s native language (Scottish Gaelic, Irish, and Welsh, respectively) over this 200+ year people. I honestly have no complaints about this class at all; it’s generally very enjoyable!
So I think that will wrap it up for now, but I want to devote a post to what I’ve been doing with my bagpiping here. I have a LOT to talk about in that vein. At some point this week, I’ll also post the pictures from my weekend trip to St. Andrews, home of the very first golf course in Scotland (and one of the oldest universities in the world, but golf’s more important than that, right?!?). Oh, and did I mention I’m spending this weekend in Skye? I’m super excited for that, and you know that I’ll be playing my pipes on a mountaintop (or something of that nature). Here’s a little sneak peek of what’s to come next week:
Until next time, stay classy San Diego…or New Jersey, or New York, or Massachusetts, or Maryland, or…you get the point!