Archive for the ‘Academics’ Category

November in a Nutshell

Hi there, everyone! I’m sorry that it’s been a whopping three weeks since I last posted a blog entry! Just to explain what’s been going on, I first spent the beginning of this month navigating several assignment deadlines. I finally was about to work on posting a blog entry–only to get diagnosed with the H1N1 last week.

(On a side note, you may have noted from a blog entry of JHU_Jackie, a blog entry of JHU_Wafa, and even the Hopkins Interactive online forum topic on the H1N1 that I was far from the only Hopkins student to have some form of the influenza [whether it’s a regular strain or the H1N1 virus]. It goes without saying that I’m pretty grateful that my professors have been understanding when it came to making arrangements as far as making up written assignments, presentations, and quizzes.)

I ended up spending last week sleeping and self-quarantining myself in my apartment. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I practically scurried around the Homewood campus because I had to make a lot of errands regarding matters such as appointments with professors about making up assignments and asking questions about classes I’ve missed (as well as asking about potential classes for next semester, because it’s that time of the semester to register for Spring 2010), picking up and depositing paychecks from my part-time jobs, and so on. Meanwhile, I spent Wednesday of this week traveling, yesterday celebrating Thanksgiving with my family at home, and today avoiding the madness of “Black Friday” by sleeping in and trying to get homework done.

With my lengthy explanation of my lengthy hiatus from blogging aside, I will say that I haven’t spent all of November lying sick in bed or working on catching up on assignments! (Really!) Here’s a summary of some of the things that I did outside of classes pre-H1N1 this month:

RESEARCH: As I’ve been doing since halfway through my sophomore year, I’m still working as an undergraduate research assistant at the Ryugo Lab of the medical school. Unlike previous semesters, though, I’m not doing research for credit, but I’m being paid as a part-time student employee. Because of that fact and also because of the fact that I’ve been a member of the research lab for almost two years now, the expectations as to how much and how well I should work are even higher than they already were in previous semesters. Both the Ph.D. who’s the lab’s P.I. (“primary investigator”) and the postdoctoral fellow of the lab have been acting as my research supervisors, and both of them have been telling me that there’s a possibility that I could be a co-author of a paper before I graduate in the spring–provided that I put in the requisite work, of course! Currently, I’m doing a lot of data analysis related to analyzing and comparing synapses of globular bushy cells in the auditory nerves of congenitally deaf kittens, congenitally deaf kittens who have received cochlear implants, and normal-hearing kittens.

WORK: Besides working part-time at the Ryugo Lab, I’ve also been working part-time as a teaching assistant at the Village Learning Place (which is a non-profit community library that’s located a few blocks from the Homewood campus and has an after-school program for elementary school children), a monthly e-newsletter editor for the Center for Social Concern, and a house manager for the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra (a job that entails supervising numerous volunteer ushers, setting up a post-concert reception, and so on–basically, I have to act like a “hostess of the evening,” including placating angry orchestra patrons). Three additional part-time jobs sounds like a handful, and it can be at times–however, the latter two jobs are mostly once-a-month engagements that don’t take up much time overall in a given month. Still, the additional income helps!

PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE: I originally was planning on going straight to graduate school after my graduation in May to pursue a master’s degree before applying to medical school. However, after re-thinking the matter and discussing it with the Office of Pre-Professional Advising and my parents, I’m now leaning towards working for a year as a research assistant (whether I’ll continue with my current research lab or join another lab is something into which I’ll need to look) following my graduation in May before I proceed to additional schooling.

DANCE: Because of the four aforementioned endeavors, I haven’t been dancing as much as I have in previous semesters. Still, everyone needs to exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle (plus I love to dance), so I haven’t completely abandoned it! I still try to squeeze in weekly ballet classes with the JHU Classical Ballet Company, and I’ve even been able to join rehearsals for a small number of student-choreographed pieces. Similarly, I’ve decreased my involvement with the OLÉ Dance Group and with the Filipino Students Association’s dance team, but I’ve still attended some dance practices and learned new choreography with both groups as well–including a Filipino folk dance that involves balancing candles on one’s head!

OTHER CONCERNS: The five categories above sum up most of what I’ve been doing over the past month (and, now that I think about it, the past semester), but it’s not everything. I’ve also been working with officers of the Filipino Students Association and the Taiwanese American Students Association to organize fundraisers for typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines and Taiwan. I’ve also been participating in numerous church-related activities, primarily acting as a church choir pianist. And, of course, I’ve been working on keeping in touch with my family and trying to stay in touch with my friends–after all, my family and friends are very important to me, so I need (and want) to maintain my relationships with them!

With all of that said, I’ll return to my homework and enjoying my mom’s cooking from last night’s Thanksgiving dinner!

N.B. I found the images that illustrate this blog entry through Google Image Search.


Senioritis? Not really.


Things have been pretty hectic over the past approximately two weeks since I last posted a blog entry! The usual trilogy of schoolwork, jobs, and extracurricular activities is part of the reason, of course. Most of the reason why I’ve been feeling as though I have almost no free time (I say “almost” because, of course, I’m a human being and need to take breaks) probably has to stem from the fact that I’m a senior, though.

Looking up grad school programs at Hopkins and other schools? Yep. Debating whether to take the GRE or the MCAT or both (and studying for both just in case)? Yep. Planning the timeline of how I’ll apply to medical school while I’m a grad student? Yep. Getting a lot more involved in my research lab because this might be my last year as an undergraduate researcher there (unless I end up staying in Baltimore for grad school)? Yep.

It’s as though I’m reliving my high school senior year with a more mature reincarnation of the college application process!

As I’ve hinted in my last blog entry, however, a huge difference between being a high school senior and being a college senior is that there is a much wider variety of options for post-graduation plans. For instance, the other senior member of the Student Admissions Advisory Board, JHU_Jackie, has been searching for jobs. You can read my previous blog entry for my thoughts about how we college seniors have so many options for next year.

The funny thing is, though, that despite the busyness, I’m much calmer about everything that I had anticipated in August. (Back in August, I was a little afraid that I’d be feeling miserably overwhelmed this semester.) I’m not saying that I don’t feel stressed out at all. I do. As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog entry, I even panic occasionally. However, those brief instances of panic occur much less often than they did in previous years, and I find it easier to calm myself down whenever I find myself fretting about something. In fact, I still think I’ve been finding ways to enjoy the semester so far! Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m “seasoned” as a senior, so I’m used to dealing with having a lot of things to do. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m growing closer and closer to my mid-twenties, which, according to the current psychological understanding, is the approximate age of cognitive maturity.

I’m also suspecting, though, that it’s because I know that my days as an undergraduate are numbered, and that it won’t be long until I’ll find myself missing the nuances of being an undergrad. I’m not saying that I’m dreading the future! I’m saying that I know that a phase of my life is coming to a close soon, and I’ve just been trying to savor every little moment.

So, even though two thirds of my penultimate college semester have already passed, I must say that I’m far from infected with senioritis. Ohhhhh, no. I’m in no rush to leave just yet.

N.B. I wanted to illustrate this blog entry with a somewhat autumnal photo, so the photo at the top is of a latte from Carma’s Cafe, a local café that’s just a few blocks away from campus. The lighting of the photo and the leaf pattern formed by the milk make the photo look somewhat fall-like, no?


Oh, how time flies!

The title for this blog entry has multiple meanings: (1) over one week has passed since I posted my last blog entry (but it doesn’t feel like it), (2) about one third of the semester has already passed (but it doesn’t feel like it), and (3) a year has passed since the last time I posted a blog entry in which I had a video of myself speaking to the camera (it does feel like it, in this instance). I’ll admit, though, that my inspiration to include such a video in this blog entry stems not from that one-year-old blog entry of mine, but one of JHU_Peter‘s recent blog entries. (I need to give credit where credit is due!)

Anyway, I’ve been a pretty busy student since the last time I posted something on this blog, and the video will describe how–enjoy!


A Re-cap and Preview

I’d love to type a long blog entry laden with photos and videos that summarizes the past week–especially the very busy weekend I just had–but I’m in the midst of finishing a paper due tomorrow and starting to study for an exam I’ll have on Thursday! I’ll quickly summarize what happened this past week and what will happen this upcoming week–and then I’ll go back to my homework!

This Past Week:

Academically, I spent some time working on the usual weekly physics problem set as well as doing the usual pre-class assigned readings for Latin. In addition, I spent a lot of time studying for a Latin exam I had on Friday afternoon last week, as well as reviewing some of my organic chemistry notes in preparation for an exam I’ll have on Thursday morning this week. Besides the academics, I also spent time during the week preparing for the JHU Catholic Community’s Fall 2008 retreat, which was an all-nighter retreat that started on Friday night and ended on Saturday morning. (I’m one of two retreat co-chairs for the JHU Catholic Community this year.) Furthermore, I attended ballet classes and rehearsals and numerous Culture Show practices for both the Filipino Students Association and the OLÉ Dance Group during the week–and then spent all of Saturday rehearsing, attending sound checks, and performing in Culture Show itself! It was a large success, and since both FSA and the OLÉ Dance Group performed in the first half, I had the privilege of sitting in the audience and watching the entire second half. (When I performed with FSA and the OLÉ Dance Group at Culture Show in previous years, the two groups were scheduled to perform in different halves of the show, and so I spent most of the production backstage.)

This Upcoming Week:

As I’ve mentioned, I’ll have an organic chemistry exam on Thursday of this week, so I’ll spend a lot of time tomorrow, on Tuesday, and on Wednesday studying for it. I’ll also have a physics exam on Thursday of next week, so I’m starting to prepare for that as well–and I’ll really start preparing for it once I’m done with my organic chemistry exam! Meanwhile, I’m also looking at the registrar’s online list of classes for the Spring 2009 semester, since online class registration for that semester will start next week. When it comes to the extracurricular scene for this week, I’ll just have a few meetings, one ballet class to attend, and one ballet class to teach–and I’m not complaining about that! After last week, I really need some extra time to focus on my schoolwork as well as to get some rest.

With that said, I’ll return to my paper! Have a good week, everyone! I hope to have some photos and videos from the retreat and Culture Show in my next entry.


Anticipating Fall at Hopkins (V.3.0)

Considering the fact that I’ve spent most of my summer at Hopkins and the fact that I’ll stay home for only three weeks starting tomorrow, I haven’t missed Hopkins much this summer, nor will I miss Hopkins much during the last days of this summer. (I’ll be too busy getting re-acclimated to home to miss Hopkins, and by the time I’ll start to miss Hopkins, I’ll be on my way back again!) However, while I’ve enjoyed my first summer at Hopkins — until this summer, I’ve spent every summer at home — I’ve been eagerly waiting for yet another fall at Hopkins to begin. Why?

1. WELCOMING FRESHMEN: For the second year in a row, I’ll be helping out with orientation. However, instead of being an OA (i.e., “Orientation Assistant”), I’ll be an SA (a “Student Advisor”) this year. This means that in addition to helping freshmen unload their belongings on move-in day, I’ll also be in charge of informally advising a small group of freshmen during orientation week. In addition to helping out with orientation, I’m looking forward to being a welcoming upperclassman figure to the freshmen of the different student organizations in which I participate, particularly SAAB (the Student Admissions Advisory Board) and FSA (the Filipino Students Association). While I didn’t get to know all the freshmen in SAAB immediately as a sophomore last year (there were eight freshmen last year), I couldn’t help but have a soft spot for “the freshmen” and awe for their enthusiasm for Hopkins once I got to know them. I’m pretty sure that because SAAB tends to have phenomenal Hopkins students each year as its members, I’ll be just as excited about this year’s batch of freshmen as well. Meanwhile, when it comes to FSA, the organization is so close-knit enough that we FSA members tend to treat each other as family. I can’t help but forget how FSA was almost like a haven of an organization for me as a freshman — partly because of the upperclassmen who were so welcoming to us freshmen, and partly because the then-freshmen I met in FSA quickly became some of my closest friends at Hopkins as well. Last year, I was excited to join in the tradition of being a warm ate (ate, pronounced “AH-teh,” is the Tagalog term of respect for an older sister or female cousin — kuya, pronounced “KOO-yah,” is the equivalent term for males) to the FSA freshmen — and now that this year’s FSA freshmen will be the same age as my own younger brother, I know I’ll feel even more of a desire to be a semi-motherly, warm-hearted ate.

2. CLASSES: My sophomore year wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t my best academically either. In a somewhat nerdy way, I’m itching to be even more serious about studying than I already was as a freshman and sophomore, so that I could do much better academically as a junior. Plus, learning is pretty cool on its own!

3. RESEARCH: While I’m talking about academics, I might as well add that this summer, I’ve done a lot of academic learning outside the classroom and inside the research laboratory. After having been an assistant on various miscellaneous projects since I joined the Ryugo Lab in January, I really started to find my niche in the lab this summer — and I’ve finally found a project on which I’ll focus for a good amount of time in the fall! When I’ll return for the fall, I’ll spend most, if not all, of my time helping the lab’s postdoctoral fellow on her project and possibly get published as a co-author in her paper on the project. Also, this fall will be a time in which I’ll seriously start thinking of what I’d like to do as my own research project — I know I want to complete my own research project sometime before I graduate. By the way, this research won’t be for the sake of meeting the requirements for the neuroscience major anymore — I’ve already completed the six credits of research needed for the major! It’s just that I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed doing research on the auditory system at the Ryugo Lab so much that I intend on staying with the lab until I graduate. I love the subject on which we’re researching (i.e., comparing the characteristics of the auditory system among congenitally deaf, normal-hearing, and “cochlear implanted” cats, in order to contribute to the general scientific understanding of the mammalian auditory system and learn enough about the mammalian auditory system to develop better cochlear implants for humans), I love learning and observing the different procedures involved with the lab’s research projects, I love discussing and listening to discussions about other neuroscientists’ research on the auditory system, I love learning about the auditory system from a professor who’s done a lot of research in the field (i.e., Dr. Ryugo) and has published numerous papers and written textbook chapters on the subject, and I love the quirkiness of the other lab members (one of whom is our very own JHU_Stefanie)!

4. DANCE: I’ve spent a lot of time this summer working on my ballet technique, so that I could be in good shape when the JHU Classical Ballet Company starts its first full academic year in September. (The ballet company’s first semester was Spring 2008, so it’s still in its baby steps.) After dancing ballet from elementary school to high school but then dancing much less ballet in my freshman and sophomore years of college, I really want to be back in the groove again this year when it comes to ballet. In addition, I’ll once again spend a lot of time dancing salsa with the OLÉ Dance Group and Filipino folk dances with FSA — not to mention I’ll start my third year of volunteering to teach ballet to elementary school students on a weekly basis.

5. FAMILIAR FACES: Compared to the university to which I commuted from home to take two semesters’ worth of biology last summer, Hopkins is very lively during the summer. There are quite a few faculty, staff, students, and alumni around taking classes and/or conducting research, not to mention there are several adolescents taking CTY courses, high school students taking Pre-College courses, adolescents and teenagers participating in sports camps and leadership forums, and people of all ages visiting the campus. Nonetheless, while there were many people on campus this summer, and while many of my friends and acquaintances were in Baltimore at one point or another this summer, I found myself missing seeing primarily college students milling around campus during the day, as well as missing my friends and acquaintances who weren’t in Baltimore at all this summer.

There are a lot more reasons why I’m looking forward to my third fall at Hopkins, but those five are my primary ones. With that said, I’ll now turn my attention towards packing my belongings for my three-week stay at home — later, everyone!

N.B. I got the images illustrating this entry from


A New Beginning

Even though I’m already starting my fourth semester at Hopkins, the fact that I’m at the the beginning of another semester makes me feel like I’m experiencing something new and exciting. Here are three other things about this semester that are helping make it feel refreshingly new:

1. REUNION WITH LATIN: I studied Latin during middle school, and I enjoyed it a lot. My high school didn’t offer Latin, so I studied Spanish during high school instead. I thought it was fun to learn Spanish, but I missed studying Latin. Last year, I took the two-semester course “Elementary Latin,” since I didn’t learn enough Latin in middle school to study the language at an intermediate level. During the fall semester of this year, I wanted to take “Intermediate Latin: Poetry,” but it was in conflict with the rest of my schedule. This semester, I’m taking “Intermediate Latin: Prose” after almost a year of not studying Latin. Considering the fact that it’s been almost a year since I’ve last studied Latin, I initially was hesitant to enroll in this course. After talking with my classics minor advisor as well as the instructor of this Latin course, however, I’ve found that with a little extra effort, I could get back on track. So far, it’s taking me longer to read passages than I’d like. Nonetheless, everything that I’ve learned about Latin grammar is slowly, but surely, coming back to me. I love it! (Or, maybe I should say the following: id amo!)

2. REUNION WITH BALLET: I danced ballet from elementary school to high school. In the fall semester of last year, however, I didn’t dance ballet at all. (I’ll admit that it was because I wasn’t aware of the opportunities to dance ballet at the Homewood campus or at the Peabody Preparatory.) In the spring semester of last year, though, I found out about ballet classes that were taught at the Mattin Center on Friday evenings by a former member of the Bolshoi Ballet, so I spent my Friday evenings taking those ballet classes. However, the former member of the Bolshoi Ballet moved to Colorado during the summer. Therefore, in the fall semester of this year, ballet classes were taught at the Mattin Center on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons (instead of Friday evenings) by Ms. Lisa Green-Cudek, an instructor at the Peabody Preparatory. These ballet classes were in conflict with my schedule, and the ballet classes taught at the Peabody Preparatory itself were in conflict with my schedule as well. Once again, I didn’t dance ballet for an entire semester. This semester, ballet classes are still taught at the Mattin Center on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons by Ms. Green-Cudek, and they’re still in conflict with my schedule. However, at the end of the last semester, a few students founded a student-run  ballet company, and one of my friends from the CSC Dance Program told me about it! Huzzah. Thus, at the first week of this semester, I found myself a member of the inaugural JHU Classical Ballet Company. Company members take turns teaching classes and choreographing pieces for performance; so far, we’re working on a classical ballet piece and a contemporary piece that we’re hoping to perform a few times this semester. Once again, I must say the following three words: I love it!

3. MENTORING: At the beginning of the fall semester this year, I signed up for the group STAND! (Students Taking a New Direction), which mentors at-risk juvenile youth. Because of various logistical problems, however, STAND! members weren’t able to do any mentoring for the entire semester. Last week, though, we finally met our mentees at the Baltimore Juvenile Justice Center’s Partnership for Learning, a program that helps first-time juvenile offenders who are struggling in school. At first, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to relate to my mentee, but we got along pretty well. Starting this week, we’ll be helping our mentees do their homework and use software programs meant to improve their literacy, in addition to trying to be overall role models for our mentees. Even though I was a tutor in the JHU Tutorial Project last year, it looks like my work in STAND! will still be quite different from other things I’ve done before; I’m both excited and nervous about it. Despite the fact that I got along well with my mentee the first time I met her, I still doubt sometimes whether I’ll be an effective mentor in the long run. Nonetheless, I intend to do my best, and I hope that I really will make a positive difference in my mentee’s life overall. By the way, this STAND! group isn’t to be confused with STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition.

Besides those three things, mostly everything else that’s in store for me this semester is a continuation of the fall semester or Intersession. Some, but not all, of those things include: studying, doing research, dancing salsa, teaching ballet to elementary school children after school, volunteering and working for the admissions office, and last (but not least), taking out time to hang out with my friends, especially my suitemates and my friends who’ll graduate at the end of this semester.

N.B. The first image is a painting depicting Cicero’s denunciation of Catiline before the Senate; in 63 B.C., Catiline was an aristocrat who plotted to overthrow the Roman Republic, but Cicero uncovered Catiline’s scheme. In my Latin class this semester, we’re reading the speeches that Cicero delivered to unmask Catiline’s plot and denounce him. By the way, I found all the images illustrating this blog entry via Google Image Search.


Intersession 2008: Academics and Admissions

Well, my three-part narrative of my Intersession experiences is now coming to an end! The first part was a blog entry about an outlook on life that helped me enjoy Intersession immensely. The second part was a blog entry about some of the things I did for leisure during Intersession. The third part is this blog entry, which will soon describe why I was at Hopkins for Intersession in the first place.

Like last year, I chose to came to Hopkins for Intersession, so that I could earn academic credit at no extra tuition. (Intersession tuition for academic courses is covered by fall tuition! It’s quite nice.) Last year, I took two one-credit courses; this year, I took one two-credit course and did one credit of neuroscience research.

The two-credit course that I took this year was called “Musicianship Intensive.” While I love music, my formal music education has only consisted of taking private piano lessons and learning some music history in the classroom. Meanwhile, my knowledge of music theory is very basic; I thus decided to take this course to expose myself to the rudiments of counterpoint, keyboard harmony, and solfege. Now that the course is over, I feel that I definitely have a basic grasp of the aforementioned musical concepts, which is a vast improvement from my pre-Intersession ’08 knowledge of them. As dry as my account of this course sounds, I found it to be quite fascinating, because it increased my appreciation of music a lot. Now, when I’m learning a new piece to play on the piano, I find it much easier to see why the notes I’m playing are arranged the way they are. In addition, I now understand why music from different historical time periods is divided into the classifications that musicologists use. In short, I found “Musicianship Intensive” to be a lovable dry course, because it’s so helpful in understanding a field of study that I’ve loved for most of my life (i.e., music).

While the other academic reason for my stay at Hopkins sounds very different from taking a course in music, it isn’t. During Intersession this year, I started my new position as a research lab assistant and earned one credit for the work I did. That might sound like the opposite of taking a music course, but I worked in the lab of a medical school professor who does research on mammalian auditory systems! Dr. David K. Ryugo, Ph.D. is currently focusing his research on various cats and mice who are congenitally deaf or “normal hearing.” Even though I learned about the auditory system when I took The Nervous System I during the Fall ’07 semester, being an assistant in Dr. Ryugo’s lab definitely has helped reinforce my knowledge of the auditory system. When I secured a position in Dr. Ryugo’s lab at the end of the Fall ’07 semester, I did it with the intention of staying for a long period of time, probably until graduation. Indeed, even though the first week of the Spring ’08 semester has passed, I’m still going to Dr. Ryugo’s lab and doing research there almost every day.

On different days during Intersession, I also managed to work at the undergraduate admissions office to join several other Hopkins students in filing applications. (By the way, good luck to all of you who are currently applying to college!) As a recent blog entry by Admissions_Daniel has indicated, I wasn’t the only member of SAAB (the Student Admissions Advisory Board, which runs the Hopkins Interactive website) to work in the admissions office. Even though filing applications sounds like a mundane task, it was quite fun! One reason why was the large number of students present; during the regular school year, only one to three students are working at the same time. During Intersession, however, there are usually about ten to fifteen students working at the same time. Therefore, the admissions room seemed very festive with several students opening mail and filing applications while glancing at a TV playing DVDs every now and then.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my three-part account of Intersession ’08! With that said and done, my next blog entry definitely will have something to with Spring ’08.

Photo Captions: (1) This is an image of the word “counterpoint” that I found via Google Image Search. (2) This is an image from the website of the European American Musical Alliance (EAMA); the Peabody graduate student who taught “Musicianship Intensive” participated in some of EAMA’s programs in the past and used several of its lesson materials in teaching “Musicianship Intensive.” (3) This is an image from the website of Dr. Ryugo’s lab. (4) This is an image of a file folder that I found via Google Image Search, in honor of the work that I did in the admissions office.



The last day of classes for this semester was on Monday, December 10. The first day of “reading period” (i.e., the period between the last day of classes and the first day of finals) was on Tuesday, December 11. The first day of finals is today (i.e., Thursday, December 13), and the last day of finals will be a week from today (i.e., Thursday, December 20). Consequently, last week was hectic for many Hopkins students, this week is hectic for many Hopkins students, and next week will be hectic for many Hopkins students. Why? Some courses have final papers due during the last few days of classes. Some courses have in-class exams during the last few days of classes. Some courses have final papers due during reading period or finals week. Some courses have final exams during finals week. Many students, including yours truly, have a combination of final exams and papers with all four types of due dates. Ergo, I shall end this brief blog entry now–and I promise that my next one will be better (not to mention longer)!

N.B. I found this picture via Google Image Search.



This semester, I’m taking “The Nervous System I,” the first half of a two-semester course required for neuroscience majors that covers topics in cellular/molecular neuroscience and systems neuroscience. By the way, “The Nervous System I” and “The Nervous System II” are required for neuroscience majors in the Class of 2010–my grade–and beyond. For neuroscience majors in the Class of 2009 and before, such as JHU_Michelle B., their requirements (among other courses) include a one-semester course called “Systems Neuroscience,” and a separate one-semester course called “Cellular/Molecular Neuroscience.” The three professors who taught those courses, however, decided to combine forces this year and teach a two-semester neuroscience course that covers the same topics, but with them alternating in giving lectures. (Under the old system, one professor, Dr. Stewart Hendry, taught “Systems Neuroscience,” while two professors, Dr. Samer Hattar and Dr. Haiqing Zhao, taught “Cellular/Molecular Neuroscience.”) My friends who aren’t neuroscience majors think that neuroscience majors in my year are being treated as guinea pigs by the neuroscience faculty with this new approach to teaching neuroscience. Given that many members of the neuroscience faculty do research involving animals, I hope this isn’t the case. Having an “experimental guinea pig” feeling when a new SAT format was unveiled in my junior year of high school was enough for me. I’d like to go through life feeling like an independently functioning human being, thank you very much!

Whether they’re secretly conducting an academic experiment on the undergraduate neuroscience majors of the Johns Hopkins University or not (and as I’ve said, I hope that they’re not), the three professors who teach “The Nervous System I” are pretty fascinating individuals. At least that’s in my point of view. Perhaps I’m biased towards the fact that their research and classroom lectures are on topics related to my major–okay, I’ll admit that I am biased in that regard. Nonetheless, I’ve found them to be approachable individuals during their office hours (although I have classmates who might disagree when it comes to one, two, or all three of them), and as I’ve said, their research is pretty darn cool. While I’ve heard them briefly mention their areas of research during their various lectures, and while I’ve heard upperclassmen neuroscience majors discussing how these professors conduct research in certain areas of neuroscience, I still was excited at the following discovery: my parents receive a copy of the Johns Hopkins Magazine every month, and while I was perusing their latest copy in my family’s living room yesterday evening, I was psyched in a geeky way to see an article about Dr. Hattar’s research on circadian rhythms! I was quick to point out to my parents, “Look! This is one of my neuroscience professors!” Granted, I’m only one out of hundreds of undergraduates who’ve been taught by Dr. Hattar, but I still thought it was cool to see a professor of mine featured in a Johns Hopkins Magazine article.

In addition, seeing that Johns Hopkins Magazine article reminded me how the next lecture in “The Nervous System I” this semester will be given by Dr. Hattar about how visual inputs control circadian rhythms! With that revelation, I realized how much of a blessing and an honor it is to be an undergraduate neuroscience major at the Johns Hopkins University. Sometimes, it can be easy to take it for granted how accessible most members of the neuroscience faculty are, but when you realize how amazing the research they conduct is, it’s simply mind-boggling that they still take the time to conduct office hours, so that students can stop by to ask questions about neuroscience–especially when those students include an ordinary person like me.

With that said, here’s the link to the aforementioned Johns Hopkins Magazine article:

N.B. I found the first two images via Google Image Search, and the third image is from the Johns Hopkins Magazine article on Dr. Hattar’s research.


Differences and Similarities

This summer, I’m taking the equivalent of two semesters of general biology with laboratory. Hopkins doesn’t offer biology this summer, so I’m taking it at Fordham University in the Bronx, and I’ll transfer the credits to Hopkins at the end of the summer.

The first major difference between my school year academic experience and my summer academic experience is the distance between my bed and the classroom. At Hopkins, the farthest classroom from my dorm room in AMR I this year was a ten-minute walk away. Now, my home is far enough from Fordham that I commute there via train. The second major difference is class structure. In summer classes, whether at Hopkins or Fordham or elsewhere, there’s a lot of material crammed into a little amount of time. At Hopkins and Fordham and a number of other colleges, there are two summer sessions. Each summer session covers the same amount of material as a regular semester. Each summer session is much shorter than a regular semester. That means during the summer, classes are longer and meet more often during the week. It also means that exams are closer to each other in proximity, yet they cover as much material as exams during a regular semester. On to the the third major difference: I’m on different college campuses at different cities that have different vibes. Walking around the Homewood campus of Hopkins in Baltimore and walking around the Rose Hill campus of Fordham in the Bronx are different experiences. For instance, Hopkins’s Homewood campus has Georgian architecture and brick walkways, while Fordham’s Rose Hill campus has Gothic architecture and asphalt roads; the Homewood campus is in the residential neighborhood of Charles Village, while the Rose Hill campus is across the street from the New York Botanical Garden and next to a train station.

Now it’s time to mention the major similarities between my school year academic experience and my summer academic experience. The first major similarity is that I’m familiar with the libraries on both campuses. Of course, I know MSE (i.e., the Milton S. Einsenhower Library) more than the Walsh Library. Still, the Walsh Library was one of the first buildings at Fordham with which I familiarized myself. The second major similarity is that I have to study outside class to understand the material. Like at Hopkins, I study both in my bedroom and at the library.

Differences and similarities between my school year experience and my summer experience aren’t only in academics. They’re also in my personal life. For example, I haven’t seen anyone from Hopkins since I left it last month, but I’ve seen a few of my high school friends. Meanwile, my interaction with Hopkins friends primarily occurs through IM conversations and phone calls. That was my primary means of interaction with my high school friends during the school year. So, like at Hopkins, I have friends who are near me and friends who aren’t. The difference is which friends are nearby. Also, unlike at Hopkins, I’m spending a lot of time with my family. After all, I’m living at home. A few other things about home that I didn’t experience at Hopkins this year include having my own room (I lived in a double this year), having air conditioning in my room (AMR I doesn’t have air conditioning), sharing a bathroom with only a few other people (AMR I has communal bathrooms), eating home-cooked food (the food at the FFC isn’t horrible, but it’s still not home cooking), and watching TV (I didn’t bring one to Hopkins).

Photo Captions: (1) The first photo is of a train from the New Haven Line of Metro-North Railroad. (2) The second photo is of the train station adjacent to Fordham. (3) The third photo is of the Walsh Library. (4) In contrast, the fourth photo is of MSE. (5) The fifth photo is of me and some of my high school friends at a dinner party earlier this summer.

N.B. I found the first four photos in this blog entry via Google Image Search.