Semester Stressors

November 27, 2017

 

End of the semester is coming and so are all my deadlines. I have not been this stressed since my junior year of high school when my deadlines materialized all at once. This meme described my academics before late in my junior year. Not any more, but I still feel a bit caught.

 

This meme described my academics before late in my junior year.

Anakin Teacher Power Meme

Me early on in high school

I’ve been chipping at my partial differential equations paper for more than a month now. The content is still solid couple days of instruction above my head. Given that I’m not being instructed and I’m reading through literature on my own, it’s going to take me right up until its due to understand this paper. THEN, I can begin to write it.

The more I’ve learned about the Navier-Stokes equations, the more I’ve learned that this topic is above my current education. You may know that I tend to reach for my full potential, and this paper was no exception. I was regretting my decision to tackle this topic right up until this weekend.

I came into the Center for Life Sciences to talk to a neuro-oncologist and his lab because they were working on a multi-physics approach to treating brain cancer. I wanted to learn and to be a part of their team to do good math and good science and help people fight cancer. During the interview, one of the doctors was pleasantly surprised at a lot of the things I knew (and didn’t know. Heh.). My exposure to applications of Navier-Stokes equations and to Monte Carlo methods and to numerical PDE methods was rare for someone who has been an undergraduate in math for a little more than 2 years.

So. I’m stressed, but I know there’s a reason. And I know my professors and friends and everyone else has got my back in case I need help.

Withdrawal =/= Failure

November 7, 2017

Today I will submit my first (and hopefully only) course withdrawal form.

At first, this felt like admitting defeat. I had postponed the decision for far too long because I dislike losing. Withdrawing from a course implied that I couldn’t handle the material and that I didn’t study hard enough.

Feelings aside, I ended up executing the plan because dropping organic chemistry was the best strategic move. I had enrolled in MCPHS’s organic chemistry course because I was trying to get pre-med requisites done while I was finishing my math degree. After my REU this summer, however, I realized that medical school was not the best way to pursue my passions. I didn’t drop the course immediately because I was still hoping it would count towards my bioinformatics minor. That ended up being moot because it’s impossible for me to get that minor, even with organic chemistry.

After the drop, I have more liberty to work on other classes. I can put the time in to get my PDEs homework done without having to look up all the problem tutorials online. I get to take algorithms this summer and I may even get to take a computer science elective with one of my best friends from 9th and 10th grade.

Positives outweigh the negatives on this one.

The Sledgehammer

October 23, 2017

Midterms just wrapped up, and the semester can sometimes hit like a sledgehammer.

Image result for sledgehammer

I wouldn’t say I’m getting hit like a sledgehammer: I’m wielding the sledgehammer to annihilate all my schoolwork. I’ve been prepping for this semester my whole academic career, so being ready for it now is natural. Certainly, swinging a sledgehammer is not the easiest of tasks, but I’m well trained and fit by now.

At the end of every day, I’m tired, but I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

I’m a little tense because I cannot look at my midterm grades yet. I damaged my laptop and the payment for the repair has not gone through yet, so there’s a temporary hold on my account. The good news is that every one of my Wentworth professors would share my grade with me – all I have to do is ask.

Post-Summertime Post

September 13, 2017

It’s still technically summer, so I don’t feel bad about talking about summer semester even though we’re two weeks into the fall semester now.

I did make it through the summer and learned a good deal. The axolotls were a lotl fun and, as expected, working way outside my comfort zone and expertise was great for my mind. The labs of James Monaghan and Justin Crane were welcoming and had unending patience for their somewhat helpless REU students.

By the end of the summer, I could run protocols based on techniques that I read in passing science magazines and never thought I would try. I learned all about axolotl husbandry; something I never expected to see on my resume…

Sonic Hedgehog!

One of the genes important in regulating cell proliferation in regeneration is called Sonic Hedgehog!

With my partner, I made a technical poster with all the trappings of a professional science poster (Ask me about it sometime). We talked about some cutting edge experimental methods to make mice missing certain genes, but to change their genes only in a particular tissue and only when we decided to change their genes. We also had images of tissue samples from the mice that were lit up with fancy colors because we were doing a fluorescent analysis of RNA from genes we wanted to look at.

rna FISH

These are little bits attached to RNA that are lit up using a fluorescent microscope

The End Arrived

April 26, 2017

Finals finished last Wednesday and I’m still in shock that I’m not loaded with schoolwork right now. I will be starting an awesome co-op studying axolotl regeneration at Northeastern, researching under two professors with a great reputation. I’ll send pictures once I meet them and get permission. My co-op does not start until May 27th, so I have a month of time that’s not committed. It’s not exactly a vacation, but I’m glad for the chance to hang out with my parents and my siblings that have not gone off to college yet.

Image result for axolotl

There’s always a to-do list. This is prime-time for building scholarship applications. I’m applying for the Wentworth Endowment Scholarship and a Google scholarship for attending conferences. The only conference I could go to without taking too much time off work is a Diversity in Computing event in Georgia. I’ve never been to Georgia, an ACM conference, or a diversity celebration event, so I expect the conference to be enlightening, assuming I get the funds.

First Conference

April 25, 2017

A couple weeks ago now, I went to my first mathematics conference. I didn’t know what to expect; the only conference I had been to before was the Catholic Men’s Conference. The two were different and there were too many topics for me to hear everything.

The whole math club and a few other students were invited, but only six students and two professors attended. I would expect higher attendance if the conference were earlier in the year, but for Wentworth students, that was crunch time and many potential students opted to work on final projects. I probably should have worked on projects myself, but I did not want to miss the opportunity.

Attending the conference reminded me that all WIT math majors from my year have requirements outside the classroom. We all need to present two public talks, a poster at the math and science poster session, and develop a website. These things are all strong for our resumes or CVs, but they are not easy to accomplish.

During lunch at the event, the keynote speaker decided to eat lunch with us. This was a pleasant surprise and I don’t think anyone planned it. The man, Noam Elkies, is a Harvard professor with an epic of accomplishments and a unique persona.  His talk was about entropy in music, and the abridged version of the conclusion is that the number of western concert style musical pieces is limited because they have a certain structure; they are not random.

Co-op Payout

March 23, 2017

Last Thursday was the Wentworth career fair. All the students were doing their best to look appealing and professional. Many still had haircuts from over break, because apparently that’s what people do during breaks. Nearly every one of my peers had donned ties or skirts for the occasion, and it was a treat to see so many of them dressed up.

I went with the intent of talking to employers and scouting their departments. The Friday previous, I had committed to work for the summer doing biological research at Northeastern. I found a host of great companies, but most of them did not know they needed applied math majors yet. Of a gym full of employers, only 4 marked that they were looking for applied math majors. Lincoln Labs was the one that looked most enticing. I had a diverting and semi-fruitful job convincing the employers that they were indeed in need of math majors.

Also during this week, I have been accepted to two more co-ops in California and in Wisconsin as well as the Select Scholars program I was talking about before. I guess my trick is to apply broadly ask Lauren from Coops and Careers to make sure my application materials are hire-worthy. The more difficult task is keeping school priorities straight, but most students know how to prioritize academics.

Spring Break Around Home

March 13, 2017

Last week was spring break and every day was an adventure. Not every adventure was in Boston, because I was home, but many of them were still nearby.

Kicking off the week, I spent Sunday drilling with a reenactment group based out of Dunstable. These were Revolutionary war reenactors, so many men of my age and ethnicity would be soldiers – I drilled while armed with a firelock :). Some of you may know this group as the End Zone Militia for the Patriots. I forgot to ask if I could post pictures, but I will probably get some later.
After drilling with the men for a couple hours, I joined the ladies downstairs. I learned to sew a backstitch and worked on one seam of a gown. There are some nice needle-shaped holes in my fingers now, but the half-seam I finished in an hour looks fabulous.

The next day was First Monday at Jordan Hall, which is less than a quarter mile from Wentworth. First Monday means free concerts organized by the man who used to be the president of the New England Conservatory. For March, we had chamber music from Schumann, Dvorak, and Crumb. I had never heard of Crumb, but his piece in the concert was a real draw for me. The composition featured an electric flute (who ever heard of an electric flute?? Awesome!)

WIT Student Ben Guest and myself #SpottedAround at Jordan Hall before a chamber music concert

Tuesday, I gave blood and was basically too tuckered out to do anything else. I talked with a really cool medical assistant who appreciated that WIT students still organize blood drives, despite controversy with the FDA.

Wednesday, a couple of my Wentworth friends came over and we hiked around south Massachusetts and northeast Rhode Island. We hit seven geocaches in one day without paying a cent for a geocaching membership!

Thursday I had a throwback day to fall semester and did another “escape the room” puzzle. This time I went with my girlfriend instead of a team of engineers and in Providence instead of Boston (we had coupons). We meant to go earlier in the year, and got snowed out, but the manager decided to let us go for free over break! The experience was different, but the result was ultimately the same, of course. We completed Escape Rhode Island’s ExMachina puzzle, which, at the time, had a 13% winrate *dusts off fingernails*.

Notice anything in common with these things I did over break? I’m a college student on a budget; none of them cost money. Admittedly, the escape game was a gift from nice the manager, so something like that takes a little luck and begging. With a couple friends and a little creativity, you will never run out of things to do around here.

HackWITUs So Cool

February 27, 2017

A hackathon is a friendly competition for students to network with other students – and sponsor representatives 🙂 – while making hardware or software tools and games. We provide free food, space, power, internet, other hackers, some hardware, some APIs, workshops, and prizes. Free.

One thing: we get a lot of questions about who can and cannot come to a hackathon. Everyone is invited and anyone should be able to enjoy the time. We have some events and workshops planned that require 0 computer science or programming experience. I’m not a computer science major…

Last week, the head of the group that is organizing Wentworth’s Hackathon announced that we have entered CRUNCH TIME. HackWITUs 2017 will be Wentworth’s first annual Hackathon. The planning committee has been preparing since fall semester for this event that lands on March 25-26. One of our members even made a blog just about us! We have our own website designed to spread information and show off our development skillz (even though it’s a static webpage, it’s cool enough that it feels interactive).

 

Behold our fancy logo and website!

We’ve been reaching out to sponsors all over the place to gather the resources to put this on for the people that come to the event. So far, we’re getting stuff/help from various departments and people around the school, Microsoft, Facebook, edX, kwidil, goPuff, and a few others. I always bring my resume to hackathons for a shot at jobs with sponsors; some companies sponsor hackathons and send a representative as a way of scouting talent.

Like us on facebook!

hackathon cover

If you can’t come this year, this will be an annual event. So hopefully I can meet you next year :D.

❄❄❄ Snow Days ❄❄❄

February 21, 2017

These couple weeks have had two glorious snow days. Normally I’m the first one to detest snow. The cancellations set my education back a day and usually mean a good deal of shoveling at home. Those crystals spell white doom for the long-distance commuter. In previous years, my 90 minute commutes have doubled to nearly three hours.

Man shoveling snow after a heavy snowfall

 

This time around though, the lack of school saved me from a good deal of misery. I’ve been somewhat unwell since Monday, but by the time Thursday rolled around, I’d had more than my share. I had been sniffling and my hands were bone dry from washing them between classes.

On the day off, I caught up on ages worth of work. I closed some ends on my open applications for summer programs and grad school, cleaned my room, started a fitness challenge with my friend, and worked on planning Wentworth’s awesome first hackathon. I did some homework too: numerical analysis a day early, an outline for an essay due soon, and some molecular biology research.

stupidcalm