Term started and just went so fast that it took me until now to realize I haven't written very much about my life. We're in the middle of midterms week right now, which for me means watching lots of the frosh freak out. This term, I've been taking the following:
Ch 5a - Advanced Techniques of Synthesis and Analysis
Bi 145b - Physiology
L 106b - Elementary Japanese
En 126 - Gothic Fiction
CNS/SS/Bi/Psy 102a - Brains, Minds, and Society
PA 31 - Chamber Music
I'm taking lots of humanities courses, which don't usually offer the traditional take-home midterm. For Gothic Fiction, I'm writing an essay. It was actually due last week, but I requested an extension because I didn't have very much to say about what we had read. Fortunately Professor Gilmartin (also the current dean of undergraduate students) is very understanding. He offered to meet with me to help me brainstorm. Of the books and short stories we've read so far, I've really enjoyed Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. This time was my third time reading it, but it still felt to be the stuff of strong souls. I wonder if I'll be able to put that into an essay...
For Japanese, we have a short oral midterm, where we perform a dialog with a partner. We learned a few new sentence structures this term, so that's what we'll be practicing for the midterm presentation. It was really fun to put this together with my partner--learning a new language makes you feel like a kid again, but we both had a lot of fun with it by making up ridiculous sentences and just clumsily practicing the bits and pieces we know. Japanese has been particularly cool because it uses a completely different writing system. I took French in high school, but that was still difficult even though it used the same 26 letters as English. In Japanese this year, we've learned 46 hiragana symbols, 46 katakana symbols, and quite a few kanji (Chinese) characters now. At first, it was difficult to learn the writing system, grammar, and vocabulary simultaneously. Since we've learned how to write things now, it's become more manageable. I need to practice speaking more to make it more natural, but that'll come with practice.
I had a Bi 145 midterm, but I decided to drop the class since I'll learn physiology in medical school, anyway (oh yeah by the way I'm still waiting to hear back from some schools but I know that I'll be going to medical school regardless yay and you can learn more about my pre-med journey through my other blog posts). I had taken it originally just because I took the first part of the course last term and because the professor is quite amusing. This term has been a bit busy with all the humanities courses (affectionately called "hums").
All my classes this term have been really great, but I think Psy 102 wins the favorite award. I'd only taken one psychology course before this (in Edinburgh), so I was worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up in this class. Some of the brain-related jargon was a little difficult, but fortunately, there are lectures from a prerequisite (that I haven't taken) online. The psychology concepts and experiments are pretty easy to understand, since what they describe analyze are human experiences that feel pretty natural. We spent a lecture on fear and another on exploring/exploiting (when do you decide to try new things and when do you decide to stick to the things you know work for you). Today, we talked about altruism--roughly understood to be, for the purpose of our discussion, actions or decisions that aren't out of self-interest or don't benefit the individual (in fact, they might even be inconvenient or harmful). Biology/evolution would say that people make altruistic decisions in hopes that the people they're kind to will reciprocate the kindness, thus helping them propagate their genes. Is that really all there is? Why do we value kindness and why do we have disdain for or even passive aggressively punish selfish actions?
And of course, the chemistry course. In Ch 5a, we've been making estrone, an estrogen. Originally, there were seven steps to the synthesis, but this term, the TAs found a shortcut that takes us from step 3 to step 7. Maybe they'll make the course longer for the future, but for this term, we can finish the synthesis in no more than five weeks. (Any more and the intermediate product might decompose.) This lab involves a lot of setting things up and then waiting. I just set up a reaction this evening, and it's set to react all the way until tomorrow morning. That was the second-to-last step. I'll be finishing the last step (and the class) on Friday! Originally I was set to finish a little earlier, but unfortunately when I set up a flash chromatography column for purification the last time I did step 3, it was difficult to identify the fractions that contained my product. I think I threw it away... This time, I'll check and double-check before I throw anything out. I hope it reacts cleanly enough so I'll be able to tell. When there are lots of side products or other conformations, it gets difficult. We check using thin-layer chromatography (TLC), where a small bit of different fractions are dropped onto silica-coated glass panes and run in an eluent (often a slightly polar solvent). The glass panes are propped up in eluent so that as the solution travels up, it carries the product (and impurities) different distances. More polar impurities will be pulled up the glass pane much faster than a less polar product, for example. So that's lab. I'm looking forward to finishing up because my Mondays and Fridays will free up significantly. I'd like to visit the Getty and the LACMA and some more coffee shops around LA before I graduate in June...
I'm excited for this weekend. This month has been full of birthdays to celebrate. Last weekend, some friends and I bought a durian for another friend (who likes durian a lot). This weekend... we might hit up Destroyer, a sort of new breakfast/lunch spot, and then we might hit Abbot Kinney again because although much of that street is much too pricey for our wallets, it's a source for design and artistic inspiration (: I wrote about the last time I visited there here.
Got any other suggestions of places for me to explore? I'm not sure yet how to make the most of the little time I have left (:
keep lookin' up,