Sunday, January 24, 2016

Spring semester forecasting

Gloomy woods in Tilden Park

Now this is the final hurrah at UC Berkeley. The objective of this semester is this: I must become a well-rounded adult. I must prepare myself to be an educated, self-sufficient, autonomous, capable, thinking member of society, and future physician. MY GPA DOES NOT MATTER AT THIS POINT but holy Hell do I want to graduate cum laude or magna cum laude. I can take the classes that I think will most fortify my knowledge, but also be fun and interesting. I do not plan on attending any more medical school interviews, and have turned down/withdrew from a few schools. I will throw all of my free time into (1) making the most out of the last semester with my close friends, (2) finishing my research projects and publishing, and (3) making the most and best positive change at the Berkeley Free Clinic. I'll probably find a hill to figuratively die on.

Without further ado:

"A placeholder title for a class for semi-privacy reasons" (4 units, letter graded): this is an upper division class cross-listed between bioengineering, including about an even split of undergrads and grad students, having to do with the design and performance of medical implants, with particular focus on mechanics and materials science. With that description, a clever snoop can probably find exactly which class this is. The reason for the vague title is that this class is taught by my PI, in whose lab I have worked since the summer after freshman year. Needless to say, I am thrilled to be in this class, which is taught by a mentor and professor whom I have always admired, about a subject that I have always been interested in. I entered college and my bioengineering major dreaming about medical implants, I have worked in a research lab studying implant failure, and will continue pursuing this interest into medical school, and hopefully the rest of my career. Furthermore, my favorite classes at UC Berkeley have been those upper division bioengineering courses that have this huge mix of students: bioengineering, mechanical engineering, materials science and projects + the scholastic melting pot have made the most rewarding learning experiences I have ever been privileged to have. My classmates are incredibly diverse and I have much to learn from them.

Intermediate Spanish (5 units, letter graded): finally. One of my ultimate goals of college was to improve my Spanish from the level I took the AP Spanish test at in 2011. It turns out that my skills have atrophied: I am not as proficient in speaking nor understanding, and my grammar is more haphazard. There's no remedying it except for taking a class and working hard to learn it, practicing every day, and willing myself to learn a language and learn it well. I will have Spanish-speaking patients in the future, and I hope that by improving in this area, I can better serve them.

The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (4 units, P/NP): the introductory computer science course, taught in Python. After hanging out with my majority EECS and CS friends for the past 3.5 years, I will finally see what the fuss is about. I don't anticipate programming much in my future, but CS 61A is one of those quintessentially UC Berkeley courses, with a staggering >1000 enrollment a notoriously difficult professor (the infamous Prof. Hilfinger), and an almost mythic status as a general interest course of the 21st Century. I'm the only senior in my discussion/lab section, and one of the very few non-freshmen. An old dog can learn new tricks!

Wealth and Poverty (4 units, P/NP): this is another mythic UC Berkeley class, taught by former United States Secretary of Labor, and prolific Facebook soapboxer Prof. Robert Reich. I'm hesitantly excited for this class because I want to become more knowledgeable about the intersection of politics, economics, and society in this country...but Robert Reich's reputation precedes himself, as a loud, outspoken Left-wing radical, a decrier of GOP shenanigans, etc. These are not bad things, but I'm on the quest to build a political opinion of my own, which includes the decision of who to vote for in the Democratic primaries. First lecture down and he's emphasized that his political ideology is unimportant for the course, and that we should develop our own based on critical thought and research. So far, so good. An interesting feature of this course is that Prof. Reich hosts a small(er) group discussion after lecture; in the first "salon" of the semester, I asked my question and he answered, all in the presence of the film crew that had been recording all lecture.

Also: my total textbook cost of the semester thus far is a whopping $0, which is down from last semester's $15.

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