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MIT blogger Cami M. '23

8.021 and my favorite moments by Cami M. '23

the class that taught me to love physics

One of my most favorite classes I’ve ever taken this semester is 8.021, Physics E&M. I failed the regular version of 8.02 in the spring, so I took a special version of 8.02 known as 8.021, specifically designed for people who failed and really struggled with the normal version of E&M. 8.021 was the best decision I’ve made this semester!

I enjoy 8.021 because the class is rather small (only really consisting of 11? people if I remember correctly). The tiny class size allows for quick response during live lectures, and the office hours are really well run! But most of all, the professor, Joseph Checkelsky, has so much personality and makes the class really fun.

He’s a really down to earth guy who has been really in tune with students’ needs this semester. I remember for our first pset, he asked how we felt about the pset. He wanted to know if it was too easy, too hard, too long, etc. We told him we felt it was too long (and it was, for a pset) and for the rest of the class, he immediately changed the length of psets to be shorter and be more manageable. He was sure to get our feedback for our weekly quizzes, too. I was really just amazed by how considerate and caring all of the 8.021 staff were and it made this class such an enjoyable experience.

Anyway, I wanted to compile a bunch of really funny quotes and moments from my class because I loved this class so so much and wanted to ~ memorialize it ~ in some kind of way!

My Favorite Moments

“Yeah, one time I swallowed a bee” – My professor talking about how he was biking downhill with his mouth open in California the day before his new job and swallowed a bee that proceeded to sting him. He then had to meet all his co-workers with a busted lip and they all thought he had gotten into a fight when, in fact, he had just gotten stung by a bee.

“I just didn’t own a phone for a couple of years” – Apparently my professor has an aversion to technology and just didn’t find a phone useful or necessary so he didn’t see the need to own one

“I got this mask custom on Etsy!” *excitedly shows us the J embroidered on the mask* “I paid two extra dollars for it” – This was just a very wholesome moment and he was very excited to show off this mask

“It’s like a field trip!” – said by my professor after he had to exit his building due to a fire, still on a live Zoom call with us because he’s that dedicated to us.

*happily shows us his set up for the virtual semester on the second day of lecture* “I bought these Velcro things so the board doesn’t move!! Also, these fancy erasers and a spray” – My professor uses three board set up with three different cameras watching each board and he bought these Velcro stickers to stick the boards onto the ground so they wouldn’t move while he was writing. Also he bought very fancy reusable eraser wipes to clean the boards efficiently. He seemed very proud of his set up and it was really convenient to have the 3 camera layout!

“Oh, wow I’m happy people showed up” – My professor proceeded to then tell us a story about how in his first teaching job he taught a class where only one (or a couple of?) people showed up and it was really disappointing. After this moment I was determined to never miss lecture unless I absolutely had to.

“Ooooh, researchers…” *tries to subtly point camera to show people walking by* “I didn’t catch them…” – This is also while he was evacuating his building and tried to show us some people in the building.

*fire alarm goes off* *professor looks confused* “Um…ahhhh…” *proceeds to not move as fire alarm continues* *us saying he should go* “Ah, um…yes I should huh.” – This was just such a funny moment because he looked genuinely conflicted as to whether or not he should ignore said fire alarm to continue showing us this infinite slab with an electric field or if he should leave. I think this really shows his dedication to our class, honestly.

“Oh my god something’s on fire!!! Aaaand let’s do E&M” – To be fair he was commenting on the strange nature of virtual classes, where in a normal session we’d just adjourn class in lieu of the fire alarm, but we were able to continue because, well, virtual.

This is just a little moments and tidbits more for me than anyone else, really, but this class just genuinely made my online semester so much better. I am very grateful to have failed 8.02, funnily enough, because it led me on the way to taking this class. It’s been an amazing experience and I couldn’t have asked for a better professor. I get so many questions asking if MIT professors are kind or what they’re like, and I really hope that this blogpost shows just how funny and cool and kind and considerate they really can be!

I highly highly recommend to anyone to taking a class with Joe! He does also a lot of really cool research and you can check out his website and research here.