I understand that some of you have been away from the classroom for as many as 30+ years. Others may have just graduated. With the exponential growth in science and technology, the university curriculum is in constant flux. My goal for this issue and the column in general is to open a window into the university of today. I believe that if I expose you to the topics being discussed at the student level it will offer a glimpse at the future of our industry. Who knows – maybe it will help you better understand the mind of your next summer student!
Having completed my first year at the university, a sense of relief and accomplishment has consumed me. My first semester was quite an adjustment. I had been “learning how to learn” for two years previous at Chinook but this was different. Class sizes were in the hundreds. Lecture halls were massive and daunting. Balancing a full five course load and the pressures associated with that was a sharp contrast to what I was used to. My schedule consisted of standard introductory physics, chemistry, math and geology classes with a bit of philosophy to round out my arts requirements.
Chemistry consisted of an intro to bonding theory and acid base/ equilibrium. The labs gave practice on techniques and calculations and were also mildly interesting (they don’t let first years play with anything cool). The tutorials were speed classes with a test at the end so it seemed like some type of guerrilla tactic. Possibly a ploy to weed out the weak? Lectures were critical; everything was presented with PowerPoint with “fill in the blank” which you could only get in class – clever.
Mechanics and electromagnetics were the focus for physics. I found the concepts very interesting and the professors for both semesters were top notch. The lab portion of the course left a little to be desired (again, first year=no fun). I am looking forward to the optics labs in the fall; by then I’ll be second year and I have my fingers crossed for something dangerous!
The math department at the university caused quite a stir with the way that they ran things, although one professor really stood out. This anonymous professor who has thirty–seven years of experience teaching calculus really drove home key concepts with me. He was immediately available for one-on-one meetings and really had a knack for showing you the “big picture”. At one point in the semester I was feeling quite overwhelmed so I made an appointment to see him for a little pep talk. The meeting went well and at the end of it he pulled a textbook off his shelf and said “Here, this will help”. One little fact that may shock you is that all math midterms and finals are in multiple choice format! It would seem that every person that I talk to who has gone through a university degree is completely taken aback by this. “What does that teach you?” is the most common question that people ask. My answer...how to cope with stress, that’s about it.
Saving the best for last – Earth Science. This faculty at the university has a world renowned reputation and rightfully so. The professors were absolutely wonderful! They were always willing to help in any way that they could which gave you a sense that they actually wanted you there. The labs were very interesting and informative so it was very easy to keep focus. One reason that I chose the Earth Science is that I own a rock collection, so you can understand my joy when I walked into my labs to see a plethora of different rocks and fossils. I remember thinking to myself that I am very fortunate to be a part of such a well organized and highly respected faculty.
With my first year behind me now I am feeling more settled. I have figured out what is expected of me and how to deal with the stresses of my pursuits. As I look forward to next year my enthusiasm grows. The idea that things will be getting more focused really appeals to me. One down, three to go.
In my previous column an error occurred where a sponsoring company was accidentally omitted. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Statcom Ltd. for their gracious contribution and their representatives for attending the mixer. We are truly grateful.