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MIT student blogger Emad T. '14

The second-to-last first two days of class by Emad T. '14

Having classes 3 days a week rocks.

After talking to my friends during the first week of senior year and getting cold glares cast my way each time I shared my schedule, I’ve realized I may be one of the few people who regularly has days off. This was totally a deliberate choice.

How does that end up happening? If you’re lucky, all the classes that you want to take might fall on the same two or three days. And, if you’re sly (or legitimately busy, but nobody can tell the difference if you don’t let others on to your reasoning), you can also block off certain hours in your schedule during preregistration to get placed into the recitation sections you want! No matter how you achieve it, the result is the same: a couple of 24 hour periods each week wherein you now need to find something else to do besides psets. For example, on Thursday, my first day off, I was faced with the conundrum — or privilege? — of having too much free time. My running shorts and running shoes looked a little lonely and abandoned that morning, so I went back to interval training for the first time in maybe a year or so.

Now might be a good time to mention that if you get into running, it really, really sucks to stop, become almost sedentary, and then get back into it after a long time. At least, that’s how it was for me in the act of running. Once I was done, though, I had a lot of residual energy to do…well, nothing but work through my Steam library backlog. In fairness, my p-sets weren’t posted until today, so it’s not like I could be super productive or anything.

But back to classes.

This semester, I’m taking a 12-unit UROP and three 12-unit classes, where each unit roughly corresponds to a suggested hour spent on the class a week. I want to talk more about my recent UROP adventures in a separate post, since there’s a ton of things that I’ve done/learned and ways that I’ve grown, but suffice it to say that I’m now beginning to explore some imaging analysis after a cool project from this summer. That imaging project also just started, so there’s not too much that I can say right now, but there will be more to come!

The non-UROP part of my schedule looks a little something like this:

  • 5.60: Thermodynamics and Kinetics
    Thermodynamics is my final premed requirement, and it’s gonna feel so, so good to finally have it taken care of after this semester. The class meets jointly with a similar one offered by the course 20 department, and the two sections share the same material up until past the halfway point, after which the two sections go over topics tailored to 5.60 or the course 20 counterpart.Notably, the first lecturer gave out his cell phone number for students to call if they have questions about p-sets or the course material. As unconventional as it was for me to see a cell phone number given out, the level of engagement with the students no longer surprised me. Past professors or TAs of mine have also offered to do Skype chats and Google hangouts for more flexible office hours. That level of connectedness has made a big difference in the past, even if it’s simply due to knowing that your professors are easily within reach.

    In terms of the lecture content, things have been off to a slow start. After taking the MCAT and a couple other chemistry courses, the three laws of thermodynamics and the free energy equation aren’t new to me. That being said, I only know it’s a matter of time before things get more in depth. As a 2017 and fellow alum from my old high school remarked not too long ago, you know MIT classes will get good when they cleanly summarize everything you learned over a year-long high school course in just a couple of days. I gather 5.60 will be kind of similar to that.

  • 9.04: Sensory Systems
    Sensory systems is co-taught by faculty from MIT and Harvard Medical School, and it promises a deeper exploration of vision and audition to complement the introductory, cognitive science-based take I got through taking 9.35, or Sensation and Perception. It’ll also be recorded for OCW, so all of my favorite moments from the class will be forever immortalized in video form.To those of you who will be following along with that lecture in the future, just know that there’s a point in the first lecture where Professor Schiller imitates a loudspeaker that’s connected to an oscilloscope used in single-cell recording, and it will be a funny noise that comes straight out of left field. And if you listen closely, you may be able to make out my efforts to stifle my laughter. And the efforts of my friends. And the inability of other students to maintain their own composures.
  • 9.20: Animal Behavior
    Even the first lecture of this class promised a lot more than what I was expecting, and I already came in with some high interests. That realization came about when the professor explained how certain schools of thought in animal behavior influenced and were influenced by cultural beliefs. Did you know that comparative psychology grew out of a call for universal education, and that it reciprocally influenced growing ideas that humans were behaviorally blank slates? I didn’t. That’s the benefit of taking a Course 9 class with HASS-S (social sciences) designation: you develop a context in which theories on behavior developed. It’ll be great to see more moments like this come out of this class.

But of course, the real proof in the pudding is in the eating…only here, the pudding is classes, and the eating is doing p-sets. We’ll see how these choices of mine hold up over the semester.