The start of the semester was comically reminiscent of the first day of third grade, when after a few minutes of reading from a picture book on the floor I realized I was in the wrong classroom, and the right classroom had a preliminary spelling test.
The first biochemistry recitation had a suspiciously young, suspiciously energetic recitation instructor, suspiciously asking the class to introduce itself and not talking about protein structure. Two course 18 freshmen later my heart sank. I couldn’t possibly hope that biochemistry was that trendy now. The class turned to me.
“Hi, I’m Lydia. I’m a sophomore. I’m in courses 6-7 and 18. I’m not in 7.05 recitation, am I?”
I found out later that we didn’t have recitation that week, which I didn’t realize because I accidentally pre-registered for 7.06 instead of 7.05. Oops.
I retreated with my freshly free hour and a bagel, orange juice, and large coffee from Café Four to my favorite empty classroom on campus, a small room in Building Four within hearing distance of the piano practice rooms, with big desks and a huge window looking out over Killian Court, to read The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster, an apocalyptic sci-fi that seemed way too awesome to be homework but, amazingly, was. By the end of the story I had inched halfway around the table to escape the sun, and considered that I should probably spend more time outside and less time creeping away from natural light.
Random Hall turned 11 last Wednesday, on Leap Day. I’m turning 20 in less than two weeks, which terrifies me because my last eight purchases have been Legos, mechanical pencils, and glitter fairy stickers to put on my problem sets. I’m trying to figure out if I can be a grownup and still like comic books. Life feels a little like this right now (mouse over):
I’m trying to take on an easier but busy schedule this term, to raise my GPA and self-confidence, start a good pattern of sleeping and exercising and eating vegetables, and set the stage for a positive next two years at MIT.
18.06: Linear Algebra
Since I decided to be a math major I need to take this. Why not now? I like it so far. It feels like it’ll be very useful, whatever I end up doing with my life.
18.03: Differential Equations
I no-recorded differential equations spring semester freshman year. I’m impressed by how much my ability to work through both familiar and novel problems has improved over the past year at MIT. This class used to be hard; this time around it isn’t (fingers crossed).
I like my recitation instructor. He started the first recitation with a pep talk about responsibility and motivation. We should own our decision to take differential equations, he said, and own the material so we can use it to reach our greater goals. I wish someone had given me this pep talk a year ago, but I’m just as happy to hear it now.
6.006: Introduction to Algorithms
How to write good code, and then make it even better. About a tenth of Random Hall is currently taking or TA-ing 6.006. I love it. I learned more about programming from the first problem set than I ever expected to learn in two weeks. This class is a prerequisite for almost everything else I want to take. Hopefully it’s the first step to becoming a better programmer, so I can someday write efficient algorithms for genome analysis and help advance our understanding of who we are today and how we got here.
21L.448J, also known as 21W.739J: Darwin and Design
We read, think, talk, and write about evolution, religion, our relationship with machines, and the future of human (and/or robot) civilization. I love it. I can’t believe I’m getting credit for this.
7.05: General Biochemistry
I like the material so far. My parents both do research in biochemistry and molecular biology; it’s exciting to understand more about what they do every day. I’m happy that the problem sets are not graded, and that the grade breakpoints are set before the first exam. However, this is without a doubt my hardest class this term. The exams are open note. I’m terrified.
I also picked up two new jobs: in addition to my UROP and blogging I am now also a professional note taker and button pusher. I am a desk worker, which means I do problem sets on the first floor of my dorm, unlock the door for friends, and panic when facilities workers stop by (“Hi, I’m here about the leak.” “The water leak?” “The heat leak.” “The hot water leak?” “The heat leak.”) or the mail comes in. I am also a note taker in biochemistry, which is exactly what it sounds like.
And here we are. I’m starting the term off with five awesome classes, four hobby-jobs of varying intensity, and my first great expedition into existence as a two-decade-old. (And no spelling tests.)