A Kameo Appearance

Just a third culture kid's musings on Baltimore, Biomedical Engineering, burgers, and everything in between. *Disclaimer: Not everything discussed within these blogs begins with the letter B.

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Sophomore Spring as a BME Major

As a BME major, sophomore spring is when you really begin to delve into the classes that teach you the practicality of biomedical engineering. Real engineering courses with a biological impact that begin to build the foundation of the major. It does seem a little late in the game for that, but it’s interesting nonetheless. The two classes that we take are Models & Simulations and Systems & Controls.

My bad, did I say two? I meant four.

Basically each “class” is really a combination of two classes, each of which lasts half a semester. Each grade in half of the overall course totals to be your overall grade. What are these courses? I’ll do my best to explain.

1)  Signals/Systems.

This is class that teaches you about the fundamental properties of actual electric/physical signals. The math here is entirely new and relies on previous experience in all your other math classes. Once you start to understand it though, it’s really interesting how the signals that make up our world can be broken down into these equations.

2) Controls

This course I’m taking right now. Essentially it’s using what you learn in signals to model the control of more complicated systems as a whole. A real world application would be like the control variables of a plane in the air. Interesting stuff.

3) Models

This course is more biologically focused. It’s meant to teach you how to model various biological processes with differential equations. Playing with the parameters and what not will yield various results within the body, and this class teaches you what all that means.

4) Simulations

This latter half of the ModSims class teaches you about taking those one-dimensional linear models from the first half and using them to simulate higher order nonlinear systems that are more biologically accurate. Essentially, not many things in real life are linear, so this teaches you how to use more accurate simulations  with the tools you have.

All in all, this is where the real aspect of biomedical engineering starts to come into play, and I for one am loving it.

Research at the Med Campus

This semester I decided to take on 3 credits of research down at the Johns Hopkins Medical campus. I figured if I’m going in to do the work I may as well get rewarded for my effort, right? Knowing that this is a hot button topic, I figured I’d outline quickly what my research is focused on this semester.

I’ll try and keep this as brief and straightforward as possible, so let’s start off with the concept of branches vs linear structures. There’s not much more to it than that. Linear structures are constructed in a straight line, while branched structures have multiple branches originating from a single location. Taking this concept and applying it to PBAEs (an acronym for a long polymer name), which are polymers that are used to bind with DNA.

PBAEs are positive and DNA is negative, so they like each other. When a PBAE and DNA love each other very much, they form what’s called a polyplex. Now a polyplex is basically a tightly packed nanoparticle that contains all the genetic information encoded by the DNA. Because a polyplex has no charge, it’s able to cross into a cell (which are generally negatively charged at the membrane) more easily than plain old DNA. Once inside, they can break apart and the DNA can be delivered directly to the nucleus, allowing for gene delivery.

My research this semester is focused on testing the effectiveness of branched PBAEs as opposed to linear PBAEs. The idea is that branched PBAEs are more effective, so we’re trying to prove that and see why it is. The work is definitely incredibly interesting, and it feels cool to be able to do something that seems so cool and complicated. This is just one of the thousands of projects happening at the medical institute. For anyone looking to do research, there’s something out there that’ll grip your interest as much as this project has gripped mine.

JHUMUNC 2017

The past four days I was a chair for the Johns Hopkins Model UN Conference (JHUMUNC) (pronounced: Jhoo-monk).  It was my second year participating in the conference, and it absolutely exceeded my expectations. For those who don’t know, Model United Nations emulates the United Nations, with numerous committees all discussing different topics. As an individual, you are a delegate of a country representing that country in your respective committee. This year, I was the chair (chair = in charge of running) the Formula 1 committee.

If this weekend has taught me one thing, it’s that this conference is definitely worth attending, whether you’ve experienced Model UN before or not. First and foremost, it’s a 4 day getaway from the stress of academics at Hopkins, not to mention a free stay at the Hilton hotel. It’s also enlightening getting to meet people from all over the country coming together to participate.

As fun as I’m sure the conference was for the delegates, I think I might have enjoyed it even more. The responsibility of running an entire committee, and having the opportunity to mold things exactly to my liking was priceless. On top of that, nearly everyone else on the JHUMUNC staff was as passionate and interested in the conference as me.

To sum up, if you’re even considering applying for JHUMUNC, do it. I promise you won’t regret it.

Spring 2017

In the spirit of short and sweet blogs, I’ve decided to put together a list of some of the highlights of the spring semester, and the parts I’m most looking forward to.

1. Spring Fair!

First and foremost, I think I speak for a majority of the school when I say Spring Fair is the most hype weekend of the spring semester. It’s food, friends, and sunny weather for two days straight that everyone gets to spend *not* in the library.

2. Homecoming

Homecoming weekend is always fun. It’s a great chance to get out, watch some lacrosse, and enjoy the vibe around campus for a few days. Definitely a way relieve some stress and enjoy yourself.

3. SOHOP

With the spring semester comes the latest batch of new blue jays, which of course means SOHOP is right around the corner. Again, SOHOP serves as a time to take in the fresh air, look around at the fresh-faced incoming class and reminisce to a time that feels not so long ago.

4. My classes, believe it or not.

For the first time, I’m taking classes relevant to my major in a real sense. ModSim and SysCon are the first two real BME classes that serve a practical engineering purpose, and I’m excited to be able to learn what they have to offer. Aside from that, I’m taking my first programming class ever and doing awesome biomaterials research at the medical institute. Provided I can keep myself together, this semester should be one to remember.

The Hunt for an Internship

Hot off the heels of the fall semester, you’d think now would be the time I could sleep for 2 weeks straight, go out with friends, and enjoy life without a care in the world. Well, in a way, it definitely is.

But, just because classes are no longer at the forefront of my mind doesn’t mean there aren’t other important things that need to get done, namely: finding an internship. I’ve been at it for about a month and a half now, and it’s been quite the process. Going through and finding the internships to apply for alone isn’t too hard, but then making sure they suit your interests, qualifications, and parameters makes the task that much harder.

You might be asking, why do I need to get an internship? The answer is one that’s best summed up in two words: forward thinking. Internships are how you show to future employers and to graduate schools that you are passionate about what you’re studying and that you’ve actually had hands-on experience to back up that sentiment. Further, it emphasizes your abilities to do good work, making you a better candidate for future internships, and eventually, full time jobs.

At the moment, I’ve yet to land one, but I’m optimistic. I’ve had about a week to rest and recuperate from the landslide of work that was this past semester. Now, rejuvenated, I can get back into the search and burrow my head into my computer in search of the right internship.

I’ll keep y’all posted, but until then, happy new year!

How to Disrespect a Class

The other day a few friends and I were talking about classes over dinner. You know, normal stuff: finals, exams, grades, etc. During the conversation, one of my friends said something I don’t think I’ll ever forget – half because it was funny and half because it was incredibly accurate. He said: “You can’t disrespect the course. The course will do you dirty right back.”, and after laughing about it, I gave it some thought. The man had a point.

Then again, maybe you’re wondering what exactly disrespecting the class means. Well, good news, I’ve got a checklist just for you.

How to Disrespect a Class

  1. Skip all the lectures.

First and foremost, you’re not going to want to go to class. Like, at all. Sure, once and while you might wake up, hit your alarm clock and go “Man, I just really wanna go hear about partial differential equations today.”, but for the most part, skipping class is step one towards disrespecting a class.

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We all know sleep is more important than grades.

  1. Don’t do the homework. Ever.

One of the beautiful things about college is you don’t have to do anything. So, if you don’t have to do the homework, why do it? Honestly, it’s a waste of time more than anything else. Who learns from practicing the material taught in lecture, anyways? Trick question: you’re not supposed to be going to lectures.

Oh, and if you do choose to do the homework every now and again, make sure you wait until the last possible minute.

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Just keep running. I’m sure it’ll disappear.

  1. Never read ahead.

Let’s be real, what good is going ahead of the material going to do? We both know it’s a much better use of your time to sit back in bed, throw on some Netflix and eat unhealthy amounts of food for hours on end. Right? Right.

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All the more reason not to read.

  1. Snapchat your professors while they lecture.

Okay, okay – so you managed to drag yourself to class. Now what? Take notes? Yeah, no. Correct answer: send Snapchats of your professor to everyone. I mean c’mon, who doesn’t want to see a dog filter on an esteemed professor while they try to teach you material that will inevitably decide your grade. I’ll tell you who does: your fans.

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Well, you’re wrong.

Do all four of these things, and you’re well on your way to complete disrespect of a class. Go for it and let me know how it turns out.

On the other hand, avoid all four of these things and you’re well on your way to an A. Trust me, don’t disrespect a class. It never turns out well.

 

Organic Chemistry: Debunking the Myths

It’s November 1 – which is absolutely insane. This means three great things:

  1. Thanksgiving break is less than three weeks away and I finally get to go home.
  2. It’s fall and the weather is cooling down, which is awesome.
  3. I’m a solid ¾ of the way through my Sophomore fall semester.

Now, as a pre-med (and for my BME requirements), this is the semester I was required to take the class that everyone seems to dread: Organic Chemistry. I just took my 2nd of the 3 midterms for Orgo last week. In the midst of the course right now, I thought I’d be in a prime position to layout myths perpetuated about the class and tell you if it really does live up to it’s insane reputation.

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That right there is 6,7-dichloro-hept-2-ene. And people told me I’d never use Orgo…

Myth 1: It’s the hardest class you’ll have to take.

False.

Don’t get me wrong, Orgo is a difficult class. It’s inherent difficulty comes in the fact that there’s just so much material that needs to be studied. In terms of actual concepts, though, the class isn’t significantly harder than anything else you’ll have to take. If anything, it’s easier than what’s to come as you move towards upper levels.

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Myth 2: It’s all about memorization.

False. 

A lot of people try skating through Orgo purely off of memorization alone, and a lot of the time, those are the same people that call it the hardest class ever. The fact is, memorization will only get you so far. Where in Bio memorization worked because it was straight facts, Orgo is rooted in concepts that need understanding to be applied.

If only I was, Aunt May...

If only I was, Aunt May…

Myth 3: It takes a lot of time.

True.

This is the one truth about Organic Chemistry that everyone agrees on. If you don’t dedicate the time this class warrants, you will fall behind. Personally, the class has completely changed the way I study, and I’m actually all the more grateful for it. Its the first real wake up call of college that shows you how you need to work to do well.

At the end of the day, Orgo is a class we all inevitably have to go through. I can tell you one thing about it with certainty though: it’s made out to be much harder than it actually is.

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