Are you studying for a career in the sciences? Not sure where to begin to gather that lab experience that is oh so important for obtaining your degree and landing a great job? Our Math and Science intern Wilson shares his experiences of finding his place as a student researcher and shares the four lessons he’s learnt both inside and outside of the lab.
For almost 2 years now, I have been a student researcher at UCLA studying the physiology of anxiety in youth with autism spectrum disorders. This position has opened my eyes up to the professional, research-oriented community and taught me to dismiss some of the common misconceptions I had before I received this opportunity. Here are a few things I learned on my way to becoming a student researcher.
High school students, it’s that time of year again… Exam time! Oh joy of joys. To assist you in this hour of need, we’ve got a few tips to help you out on the ACT and SAT exams that are fast approaching, along with some important dates and deadlines to help you stay on track.
Have a question regarding either exam? Post it in a comment and we’ll answer it for you ASAP!
Important Dates: If you’ve already registered for the next test, it’s just around the corner on May 7th. If you haven’t yet taken the test this Spring, you should register for the June 1st test date by May 7th. Head to collegeboard.org to register online asap.
Study Materials: The College Board site is a veritable treasure trove of helpful links. Nobody should go into the exam without becoming very familiar with it–and that includes much more than taking the PSAT in your junior year. One extremely useful page is the SAT Study Plan area. This is your homepage from where you can navigate practice tests and questions, as well as tips on various sections of the test. What’s even better is that it is completely customizable; those of you who have never taken the test before will see different content than those who have taken the SATs at least once. Plus, for those in the latter category, there’s even a page where you can get even more personalized feedback based on your PSAT scores. You can check that page out here.
Of course, purchasing a physical study book is always a bright idea. The upside of the College Board SAT support site, though, is that it has all the helpful strategies, tips, and practice tests you’ll find in a book, with the added benefit of being free and only a click away. Maximize your time by receiving the SAT Question of the Day by email—you’ll be studying every day without even realizing it.
Finally, here’s one really helpful study material you might not have heard about… SAT Vocabulary Novels. If you struggle with the SAT Vocab section, as most students do, the absolute best way to expand your vocabulary is by reading. Seeing words in their context is infinitely more helpful than memorizing definitions on flashcards. It also ensures that you remember those words for far longer. The SAT Vocabulary Novel series contains books of all genres, all geared towards teens. Take Rave New World, for example, a futuristic dystopian novel about love and addiction. These books intersperse the most popular SAT words throughout, then highlight them with definitions at the bottom of the page. Really useful stuff to get you familiar with that intimidating SAT lexicon, and way more riveting than the dictionary.
How eNotes’ Math and Science intern overcame his trouble with the sciences and learned to love his Biochemistry major.
Science: the subject that many find so difficult to understand (and so boring to even attempt to understand) that they just dread learning about it, dread having to sit in class and listen to the teacher ramble on about atoms and cells and forces of nature. In high school, I used to be the type of student who wanted to ditch my chemistry and biology class. Seriously, who wants to hang around periodic tables and posters of cellular structures all day, and then have to study so hard just to learn on the test that you understood almost nothing? However, when I started college and began studying for my biochemistry degree (being Asian, I was heavily influenced to become a doctor), I began to realize why so many of us perform poorly in and, for some, even fear science. A 3rd year into my studies now, let me share with you my experience of overcoming the negative attitude and eventually growing to love this subject.
“Why do I need to learn this? When am I ever going to use this information in my lifetime?” These are questions that we’ve all asked at some point in our scientific studies. In fact, the professor of my public speaking course raised this question just 2 days ago, referring to the sciences. This is one of the many reasons that science classes may seem so difficult and scary. It seems so arbitrary and foreign to us, like learning a whole new language that we will never use, and school fails in making it seem less frightening, in making it more familiar. Instead, we are driven away by how test-oriented the material is and the amount of memorization that is required.
My love for the sciences began in my first physics and chemistry courses. We were learning about exothermic (release of heat) chemical reactions and kinetic energy. Sure, I understand that when favorable chemical reactions naturally occur spontaneously go towards products and release energy as heat, but what does this mean and why do I care? Out of frustration in how poorly I was doing in the class, I decided to approach learning science through another method. I began to explore where these concepts occur in my everyday world and that’s when I stumbled across explosions. Those beautiful explosions seen in fireworks and those awesomely crazy explosions seen in action movies can all be fundamentally explained by the basic concept of exothermic reactions. All that force, heat/light, and fire that we see as a result of an explosion is all due to a chemical reaction that releases a lot of heat, causing the rapid expansion of air molecules. How cool is that?! All that insanity due simply to a sudden, quick expansion of air molecules that help transfer heat! I’d never thought something so simple can be responsible for what we see in fireworks and explosions. This is when I realized that I can make science a lot easier and a lot more interesting to understand.
Over the last few years, I stumbled across more interesting applications of the concepts I was learning in class. In quantum mechanics, I learned that teleportation is possible and that scientists have already teleported incredibly small particles from one island to another (shout out to all those Star Trek fans who fantasize about traveling from one place to another in a matter of seconds). In physics and chemistry, I discovered the most efficient way to drive a car, meaning I can now consistently get above 40 miles per gallon in my 1996 Honda Civic, which is incredible considering that a lot of fuel efficient cars these days average about only 32 miles per gallon.
The main point I’m trying to get at is learn how the science can be applied and try to relate it to a phenomenon that you find fascinating, especially if you are someone who is currently struggling in your science courses as I did (my GPA actually dropped below a 3.0 when I started college). Explore the internet and answer that question your little voice keeps asking in your head, “When am I ever going to use this?” It’s what led me to finding better and easier ways to perform simple tasks, such as driving, cooking, and fixing broken appliances. Although it may be true that science comes more naturally for those who are left brain dominant, all you need to do is be creative and find some way to connect that scientific concept to something that really interests you, and you don’t need to be an Einstein to make that happen. In fact, that’s how most of us learn in other subjects, but science just seems so foreign at first that it’s hard to take that first, eye-opening step. Once you take that step, though, you’ll begin to realize all beautiful ideas and revolutionary technology arise from surprisingly simple concepts with a bit of imagination and experimentation. It’s what allows for the possibility of teleportation, the possibility of substituting electricity with quantum particles to make computing millions of times faster, the possibility of finding cures for life-threatening diseases, and the possibility of traveling through space and time. That’s pretty awesome if you ask me.
So, as Jesse Pinkman expresses it in Breaking Bad, “Yeah, science!”
As you might’ve heard, our editorial intern Yael graduated last week! Now that the penny has dropped, we asked her to share some advice with soon to be graduating seniors. At the risk of inducing a minor panic attack, we asked her, “what would you have done differently?” This is what she came up with.
Alright…I messed up.
In my time as an adult (3 days) I’ve acquired a lot of wisdom.
As you may know, I just graduated. And with graduating comes lots of “looking back.” Let me tell ya, there are a lot of things I should have done differently in college.
Here are just a couple. Maybe you can use them. We both know, though, that chances are you’ll ignore them like I did, and be thinking the same thing whenever you finish. But I’m trying to help you, here. So, FOCUS.
For me, the main problem was planning. I’m not really one for planning, or for looking ahead. It makes me uncomfortable. I’m here to tell you that a little bit of planning is probably important in college. I speak from personal (painful) experience. So, here’s what can happen if you’re stubborn, like I was, and refuse to think things through:
- You may get dropped from your major.
Okay, so I didn’t read the fine print (who reads the fine print?) and missed a key line that said, “all prerequisites must be completed by the fall quarter of your third year.” Ha ha…what? I got an email that said I couldn’t be a psychology major anymore, at which point I cried, and sat (for a very long time) in a pool of self pity and loathing. It all worked out in the end because I am just that persuasive and luck was on my side. But please don’t do this. Unnecessary stress, unnecessary comfort food gorging. Read your major requirements. All of them. Even the ones in really tiny print.
- You may not be friends with a single one of your professors :(
I may have slept through most all of my lectures, but I just don’t get why my professors don’t know or like me…
I was not exactly the best student. I tried, I really did. Even sat up front in class. But something about being inside a lecture hall made me fall asleep, almost every time. This means that now I most likely won’t be able to find any professors who know me well enough or who think me charming enough to write me a letter of recommendation. If you plan on going to graduate school, make friends with your professors. Make them your buddies, and then ask them to write you the BEST letter of recommendation that they’ve ever written. That’s what you should do. Don’t fall asleep or yawn in class or ditch class altogether. Then you’d be me, which means you’d be ridiculous. Get it together!
- You may leave all your most annoying and difficult classes for your last quarter/semester.
You will probably not do so well in these classes. If you can, you should probably just avoid this painful situation altogether. You will have no motivation during your last term. Studying will not be easy. You will develop anger for anything remotely academic. I suggest leaving all your most mind-numbingly easy classes for this term, if you can. Plan out your course-load as best as you can so that you can ensure smooth sailing through your last term.
- You may graduate with a degree in unemployment.
Apparently my university has this wonderful thing called a career center. I’d heard about it but never really explored. There are magic fairies there that help you learn how to give professional interviews, write professional resumes, and get professional jobs. Man, oh man. Guess what? I didn’t go there, until the week before I graduated, at which point they told me “once you graduate you are no longer eligible for our services”. Fairies, why? Take advantage of these services when you can, or you will likely end up like me: unemployed and confused.
As I’m sure you can imagine, this is just a shortened list. A taste, if you will, of my poor planning skills and their consequences. I’m sure you get the picture though.
If you need more tips on things to savor in college, feel free to check out this here post.
Otherwise, I wish you the best of luck. You will probably (definitely) need it.
Have any thoughts on what you would have done differently if you could go back and do college again? We’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment!
eNotes’ editorial intern just graduated from university!
Wondering what it’s like to leave college and move on to the real world? Outlined here are the six phases of graduation… and yeah, they’re just a little scary. But don’t worry, you’ll get through it.
I just graduated a week ago. So naturally, I’ve been thinking a lot.
If I could paint you a picture of what my senior year looked like, I’d say it kind of resembled the Splash Mountain ride at Disneyland. I’ve summed it up with an acronym, “Yjecda,” which I’m pretty sure means “chaos” in Elvish, but don’t quote me on that.
Allow me to walk you through.
Stage 1: the YES phase
Man, you are so excited. You just caught sight of the ride. The line is long. It must be good. Everyone says it’s good. You are getting on that ride. Nothing can stop you. Except for maybe churros. There’s always time for churros.
Your face looks like this:
The start of senior year feels like uncontainable excitement. The thoughts bouncing through your head sound something like, “YES” and “THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST YEAR YET” and “YOLO” (for the bros).You’re amped. You know how everything works. You have your friends. You know the ins and outs and you’re just ready to make the most of them. The time is NOW. Like…right now.
Stage 2: the Just no phase
You get to the line, just as the time on that little board of dread changes to “70 minute wait,” and you hear the person in front of you yell something like, “I think the ride broke down.” SERIOUSLY. But you’ve already committed, so you just stand there sullenly, waiting.
You look like this:
Yeah, you’re over it. It’s probably winter quarter. You don’t want to take any more midterms or finals. You don’t want to go to class because it’s keeping you from doing the things you want to do (like sleeping). The library looks like a black hole. You’re antsy (in extreme cases, this might mean you’re in a rut. Eek…) You feel like it’ll never end and you’re not sure how you’ve spent so many hours and years studying and studying and studying. This is just not acceptable. You may acquire forehead wrinkle lines from excessive frowning during this stage.
Stage 3: the I’m Excited again phase
You may have waited an hour and a half, but you’re about to get on the ride. There’s only one little girl and her father left in front of you, and you’re prepared to take them down if you have to. You’re so close, you can smell the damp walls. Mmm,victory.
Your feel a little like this:
You’re so close to graduation you can taste it. This might be spring quarter, or really any time around a month or so before you graduate. You’re just so pumped about all the potential opportunities that await you. You feel free and boundless– like you can do anything you want. No more boundaries. You’re in charge of your life for the first time. AND YOU’RE REALLY EXCITED ABOUT IT.
Stage 4: Confusion
At this point, you’re on the ride. And it’s really dark. When you start moving, you realize you have no idea where you are or what you’re seeing. You’re sitting in a log and it’s not comfortable and you’re confused why they would design it that way. There’s noises. What are those noises? It sounds like water. Like a waterfall. “Oh my god am I going to die?” So many thoughts. You keep dropping every now and then when you least expect it and…what? Is that a rabbit? WHAT IS GOING ON?
You’re all like this:
This is usually how you feel about 2-5 weeks before graduating.
How did you get here? You feel like a child trapped in some body that’s been wrecked by four years of undergrad. Those memories. All those memories! You were just a freshman, don’t you remember? You’re thinking about when you got accepted, and when you decided to go here. You’re thinking about your first friends. You’re thinking about first everythings. My god, has it really been four years? You don’t understand anything anymore. Nothing makes sense. You think about how time flies and it makes you want to hug things. What’s happening?
Stage 5: Dread
“The drop. It’s coming. It’s coming. I can tell. IT’S COMING. Maybe if I close my eyes. Oh my god. OMG.”
Your face be like..
Well, you just finished your last college course. How’s that feel? Like crap. It feels like crap. What are you going to do? What’s your next step? Are you excited to move away from all of your friends? Are you stoked to have to assume real responsibility? Are you looking forward to leaving the university you’ve called your home for the past four years? Are you just going to love creating a whole, new life where everything’s different?
At this point, the answer to all these questions is a fat no. A big, fat no.
Stage 6: Acceptance
Well, it happened. There’s nothing you can do about it. You’re soaked in the kind of water you’re not supposed to jump into for fear of illness or disease. You smell like dirt. Water is seeping into your jeans. “Why did I wear jeans?” Mistakes, so many mistakes. But it happened. Time to go eat some pineapple frozen yogurt and get over it. You’re going to enjoy the rest of your day because you’re at the happiest place on earth. Just got to dry off a little first.
And you look like this
At this point you’ve accepted your fate. You’re done with college. But you know your life is going to lead you to lots of happy places. They’ll be different, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be bad. And you’re okay with it. You’re even a little bit eager to get started. It’s just going to take some adjusting, and you’re ready for that too.
You’re proud of yourself because you conquered college, and you conquered it with style.
So there you have it. The metamorphosis of a graduating senior.
Bring it on, world.
WARNING: your writing may be headed for a coronary.
No, this is not an indictment of your eating habits. (Believe me–these days I can hardly put fingers to keyboard without a sugary coffee and half a bag of Cadbury’s mini eggs in me. I am intimately familiar with the ailment that is “writer’s bum.” Ergo, I am NOT the person to school anyone on the deviousness that occurs between hand and mouth.)
I am, however, qualified to speak on the trimness of your writing itself.
Back when I tutored students for the SAT and ACT writing exams, “eloquence” was a prominent focus of the grading rubric. And while eloquence to me, as a Literature and Creative Writing major in university, harkens back to the masters of language–Dickens, Bronte, Austen–“eloquence” (dubious quotation marks and all) to the standardized testing officials actually means quite the opposite; sentences should be devoid of descriptive words, lean to the point of dullness, about as tasty and filling as a leaf of lettuce. It was soul-crushing to teach, though perhaps a necessity when it comes to teaching high school students how to write effectively.
That’s why I found The Writer’s Diet, a new tool that objectively assesses the “leanness” of a writing sample, so interesting. Could it be a helpful tool for students? A measure of eloquence? To find out, I gave it a whirl with one of the best opening paragraphs in the history of the English novel.
Oh my dickens! Look at that lovely paragraph splattered with ugly neon highlighter. What’s even more injurious to the eyes? The Writer’s Diet test’s fitness rating, which breaks down on a smug little bar graph the faults of A Tale of Two Cities.
Alright, so I get it that this test is a totally algorithm-based assessment, and that I chose one of the most flowery writing samples in existence to try it out. But to say that Dickens is beyond flabby is frankly insulting. The only way the WD test could redeem itself now was by casting its harsh neon criticism across the greatest assault to English literature I know of… Fifty Shades of Grey.
So yeah, turns out that the passage about the girl feeling adventurous because she borrowed her boyfriend’s toothbrush is officially “Fit & trim.” Nice one, Writer’s Diet.
As it turns out, there is no objective assessment for good writing, because no algorithm can calculate style. And what I didn’t mention before is that style is the one factor of the SAT/ACT grading rubric that separates a mediocre essay from a great one. It’s one thing to be able to simply state a message, and another to instill it in your reader. So before you forsake all commas, dependent clauses, adjectives and adverbs, take some time to become a master of the English language. Scratch that–become an apprentice of the English language. Even a small infusion of style will take you further than you think.
After all, would you rather chomp into a low-fat, gluten free cracker or a dripping, succulent guacamole bacon burger?
Yeah, I think I know your answer to that already.