Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Back into the classroom

First day of class yesterday. I checked out 4 classes:

8:30-9am: Sat in on first 30 mins of undergrad biochemistry class (5.07). Lots of people, pretty much starts with a problem set handed out that's due next Wednesday, and then a quiz on Friday. A look at the syllabus shows that this course is going to cover a lot of material at a pretty rapid pace ie it's a jam-packed survey course. While it's probably useful material to know, it's not something I'm super-excited about.
9-11am: Graduate biochemistry class (7.51). The instructor said up front that this is not intended to be a graduate version of the undergraduate class ie it's not a wide-ranging survey course packed full of facts that need to be memorized. Rather, it's intended to teach us how biochemists think and how they approach problems. The lecture itself was relatively easy to follow, though I felt like I was about half a step behind most people in the class when it came to answering the questions the professor asked, but I suppose that's to be expected since I haven't learned how to think about this problem space yet. All in all, I'm optimistic that I'll be able to stick with this course. Of course, the professor did say that he was going to start slowly and then ramp up, so maybe my optimism is a bit too early ...
noon - 1 pm: Sat in on probability class (6.431). Another large class, with lots of undergrads, that also had a problem set handed out that's due next week. Don't think I'm going to take this course, I was mainly checking it out in case both biochemistry courses don't pan out.
1pm - 3pm: Microbial physiology class (7.21). Seems like a pretty relaxed course -- there are only about 20 people and the professor says that they "occasionally" give out problem sets that aren't graded, that there will be three exams of which one will be open-book, that he's not really concerned about grades and that since he doesn't have a set amount of material to cover, he's happy to spend more time on particular topics of interest. Now that's my kind of class =) Another point in its favour is that part of the course is taught by Boris Magasanik, who is in his eighties and was basically around at the dawn of molecular biology, so he'll be able to give a good historic perspective.

So, 2 good courses, 2 bad courses. I'm not sure yet whether I'll be able to take 7.21 without having an 80-hour week because of the load due to my 3 other classes and lab rotations. It'd be a pity if I couldn't at least sit on it because it sounds like a really interesting course, all my lab rotations will be with people working with bacteria and/or other microbes and who knows how long Magasanik is going to keep teaching the course ...

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