Over the last few years, I’ve come to accept that I am a masochist in my academic pursuits.
Computer Science is a very jealous mistress, clingy and insatiably needy. Combine that with the rigorous academic environment of a top tier engineering school like Georgia Tech, and you’re in for one wild ride over the next four years (or, more likely, five…or six…I’ve even met an 8th-year undergraduate). Long hours were spent not only programming, but also designing, testing, arguing over the methodologies used in the designing and testing, ordering pizzas, and bashing our skulls over the incandescent monitors when the inevitable and infuriatingly unpredictable server crashes and network downtimes reared their despicable faces.
To say nothing of actually trying to have a quasi-normal life. You know: sleep, socializing, sleep, friendships, sleep, dating, sleep. And especially sleep.
So, fast forward an undergraduate career, a bachelor’s degree, and a move up to Pittsburgh. I felt like I was a seasoned and battle-hardened veteran, capable of withstanding the worst academia could throw at me. My mind was a veritable sieve through which knowledge and learning inextricably flowed and axon connections established at dizzying rates. Do your worst, Carnegie Mellon.
Man, did I get my ass kicked.
People have been telling me “it’s your first semester,” “you’re in an entirely different field,” “you moved to pittsburgh,” and so on, but if I’m honest with myself, I can admit the truth of the matter. I had to relearn how to learn and completely restructure the way I study in order to perform up to expectations, CMU’s and mine.
The second half of the semester was phenomenal. As much as I ranted and raved about the difficulty of my Statistics course, I know without a doubt that I absorbed quite a bit from it (check out this small test of the Random Walk problem I performed; I plan on expanding upon its implications, even though the preliminary data is fascinating). Furthermore, my grades in Biology, Chemistry, and Biochemistry skyrocketed. The problem was that the hole from the first half of the semester was so deep that, right now, it looks like my GPA is going to even out just shy of a 3.0.
Disappointing in a lot of respects. But with it is the satisfaction of knowing I kicked some serious ass from mid-October onward. So much of the chemical processes we take for granted in our daily lives are playing themselves out before my senses, and I actually understand the workings behind them now. In fact, just yesterday I purchased a book by one Dr Phil Plait who keeps a blog called Bad Astronomy. The book, aptly titled Death From the Skies!, takes a very scientific approach in exploring the ways in which the Earth and all its substituents can meet an untimely demise at the hands of the cosmos at large. A ton of the science revolves around atomic interactions as well as the formation and sustenance of life.
In short, I could follow along precisely with the author (though it does help that I’ve wanted to get involved in space research since I was a tot). It was rather exhilarating.
(there was, however, one glaring omission in Dr Plait’s armageddon list: I’ve posted a picture of it at the end of the entry)
So here I am: physically, mentally, and emotionally drained, but ultimately no worse for wear. I know now (or, at least, have a much better idea of) what I must do in order to perform well in my new habitat. I never make the same mistake twice.
In the meantime, I plan on taking the next few weeks of vacation as an opportunity to make some headway on my dormant personal projects, the most important of which to me at this moment is the redesign and redeploy of my main website that has laid dormant for the better part of the last two years; my ultimate goal is to create a brand new content management system that is ideally suited for small to medium sized websites.
Comments on any of these projects are welcome, from the main website to the CMS to the Sudoku algorithm!
At any rate, I hope everyone enjoys their holiday season. I will certainly still be in touch, and will most likely find topics over the next few weeks to rant and rave over. For now, here is the aforementioned suggestion to Dr Plait for inclusion in his next volume.