Surviving Lab Classes

Extended version of this! Oh and sorta this too!

daa412c3f51cf7c76447dfb4fc8a2480As a STEM major, there is a high probability that you’re going to have at least one class that has some sort of lab component. Whether it’s a three to four hour lab once a week or in the worst case (read: as a chemistry major), two four-hour labs a week. 😦

Of course, the difference between lab-based courses and lecture-based courses is that there is a significant portion of your grade is no longer based on exams and problem sets. Rather, a large chunk is now based on three other things: (1) how accurately and efficiently can you do your experiment in the allotted time, (2) how well you can remember your lab manual for quizzes, as well as (3) how well you can write it up (read: defend your results) on your lab report.

Unfortunately, for those that are starting on their first serious lab courses, it’s always these components that can sometimes be the trickiest to master. So, having survived quite a few lab courses as a chemistry major, here is my take on how I survived my lab courses in hopes that it helps you too! 🙂

Good luck & science away!

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Choosing a Grad School?

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So, when I was applying to grad school, pretty much my only deciding factor was 1) did they have research I was interested in? 2) where was it located? and 3) did they offer a fee waiver? (No seriously, I didn’t apply to MIT’s Earth Science Department because of this). Now, admittedly, these are very important factors and tend to be some of the main criteria that influence decisions on where to apply/attend. However, I found after actually visiting the schools I was accepted to, this might have been a pretty naive way of making such a big decision.

Of course, what makes a grad school worth attending is completely up to the student whose applying and what they deem important to them. Nevertheless, I’m providing a list of five criteria (in no particular order) that eventually became important to me when I was comparing different schools.

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How to Succeed in Hard Science Classes

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So I think at least once in everyone’s college career there is that one class that just becomes the bane of your existence. Either the professor cannot explain the subject well enough, or the material itself is practically in another language (Read: Physics). For me as a chemistry major, these classes were E&M Physics, Chemical Thermodynamics, Multivariable Calculus and the NMR Spectroscopy part of Organic Chemistry. Evil! Evil! Evil!

Yet, somehow I passed! Not always with a perfect A, but close enough that my GPA survived! 🙂

How did I manage, you ask! Here are my tips and tricks on surviving those evil, difficult classes!

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An Awesome Opportunity: NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP)

Due to a change in funding, the website and contact information for SARP has changed. The dates, deadlines and links have all been updated within the post to reflect the new information for the SARP 2019 application cycle. Information is accurate as of Jan 2, 2019

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Two summers ago, I was granted a fabulous opportunity to be a part of the NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP). This program is directed at rising senior undergrads in STEM majors with the aim of allowing students to get hands-on experience in scientific research! And when I say “hands-on,” I mean hands on.

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Grad School Thus Far…

Hi everyone! I haven’t done a more personal post since…well…a month ago maybe? Woops.

But a lot of things have happened since then! For instance, I joined a research group! Wooo! As of November 2nd, I have officially become a graduate researcher. I even have a small project right now which involves looking at old data and confirming trends seen in Houston in order to try and compare it to what happens here in So. Cal…or at least that’s what I understood when it was explained to me. It has thus far involved reading papers I don’t really understand deeply enough and learning MATLAB which is a whole obstacle on its own…(No prior software experience except for LaTex.) I also now spend my days plotting random variables together to see if anything makes sense. Or, at least I would if I even knew what made sense in the first place…

Heh. Well this post isn’t off to a good start, huh?

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Applying to Grad School – Jump Starting your Personal Statement

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Personal statements are the absolute WORST! Be it for college or grad school applications, it can be extremely tricky to sell yourself in however many pages schools allot nowadays. It is especially hard for grad schools because you need to somehow summarize all those fancy qualifications you have while making it a bit more interesting than a simple reading of your resume. Ugh. It kind of just makes you want to put them off and procrastinate for as long as possible, huh?

NO! STAHP! DON’T DO IT! DON’T SUCCUMB TO THE NEED TO PROCRASTINATE!

Phew! You still with me here?

Trust me, procrastinating is the last thing you want to do! In fact, having your personal statement done early enough to get a couple of proofreads in can make a world of difference! But how can you get the motivation to even start it?  Hmmm…

Well, here’s some tips and tricks for getting a jump start on writing your personal statement! As the title suggests, I warn that this advice is directed towards grad school applications, but some of the tips are applicable to undergrad applications as well! So behold, personal statement tips (specifically for grad school applications)!

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Grad School Jargon 101

So, I remember when I was applying to different grad schools, there was a lot of jargon on the departmental admission pages, like “Comps,” “Candidacy,” “Assistantship,” etc. I pretty much just assumed I’d figure it out as I went along, and I did, sorta. However, it might have made my life a bit easier if I knew what any of these things meant ahead of time, instead of learning it during orientation when they were explaining to me how to get my PhD…

So, below are some common terms that you’ll see as you look through grad school admission websites and what they mean. I will admit, I had to look some of these up myself because they aren’t relevant to my program (or they are relevant, but I figured I’d just learn what it was last minute :3), so bear with me. Hence the reason for sources! Please correct me if I incorrectly defined anything or let me know if there is anything I should add!

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General Grad School FAQ

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Deciding to attend grad school can be a very scary decision to make. This is especially true if you are the first in your family to do so. I was. I knew nothing about grad school. I didn’t even know it was an option for me until more than half way through my college career, yikes. Yet, somehow, here I am.

Nevertheless, finding answers to all my questions was quite difficult. Either it was personal and I didn’t want to open up that much to my colleagues or I just thought the answer was so obvious that I would look like, for lack of a better word, a dumbass.

Welp, fear no more. Here are some commonly asked questions I’ve found are commonly asked about grad school, yet never truly discussed in pulic. If there are any that you feel I’ve left out, please leave a comment below and add to the conversation!

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Applying to Grad School – Emailing Professors 101

Original Post; Image from Google Search

So it was around this time of month that I had started emailing potential research advisers at the various universities I wanted to attend. I wanted to make sure that before I actually applied to the schools, the professors I liked were accepting students. I mean, there’s no point on waiting an application fee on a school that doesn’t can’t offer you the research you want, right?

Sounds simple enough, until you start writing the email and stare at a blank screen for hours.

Does it make sense? Do I sound desparate? Is it too boring? Is it too long? Will they even read it? What if I sound stupid! Ahhhh! *runs in circles*

Well, having been there merely a year ago, I give to you the recipe for a good introductory email to potential research advisers!

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How to Read (Science) Journal Articles

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I remember one of the most daunting tasks I had as an undergrad researcher was reading science articles. I could just not sit down and read one, much less understand what they were trying to tell me! It’s like it went in one ear and out the other… or the sight-seeing equivalent I guess.

Well, eventually, after many, many, many journal articles after, I can actually read and (sort of) understand what they’re trying to tell me! Turns out I just needed to find own way of reading them. Since I’m a visual person, that meant colored pens or going through various annotating apps on my tablet…

So, in hopes this helps at least one researcher in the very beginnings of their career, I shall now present my own personal method of annotating and understanding journal articles!

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