Yikes

As course registration for the spring semester began to approach a couple of weeks ago, I realized that yet another semester was coming to a close and I had a true-to-form “yikes” moment.

I’ll save the drama and just say that basically, I wasn’t exactly sure I was fully enjoying everything I’ve been studying, and I still wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do after Hopkins. I think I was so focused on knocking out degree requirements left and right for my majors and graduating in 3 1/2 years, that I hadn’t really taken a second to reflect on these last few years and think hard about the spookily close “future”.

I consulted a bunch of my friends and gave them the low-down and they were all extremely supportive and helpful. One of my housemates recommended that I just sit down, look back at the classes I’ve taken at Hopkins, and break them down. What were my favorite classes? What did I enjoy about them? What would be potential related job opportunities?

So I did just that. I took a look at each semester’s schedule, picked my stand-out favorites, and tried to synthesize some sort of overarching theme that could link them all and hopefully produce an aha moment about the rest of my time at Hopkins and after.

Fall 2014: Discrete Mathematics

Wow, what a throwback. I remember the first homework assignment being a bunch of different math puzzles and games, the goal being to get us used to approaching problems from a logical mindset. This was the basis of the entire class. Throughout the semester, I got my first look at algorithms, learned how to write mathematical proofs, and was introduced to a variety of interesting topics like cryptography and graph theory. Might sound like a weird choice, but definitely one of my favorites of this semester.

Spring 2015: Introduction to Computing

Introduction to Computing was literally my introduction to computing. With zero coding experience, I enrolled in the class to get some hands-on learning and programming knowledge. I found myself really enjoying the homework assignments and learning how to problem solve with code. There was something so, so satisfying about getting my code to work and figuring out the solution to the problem at hand.

Fall 2015: Introduction to Optimization

This class introduced me to the field of optimization and helped me solidify my applied math focus area! You can see similarities between this class and my other favorites: problem solving, coding, analytical thinking. These were the aspects I enjoyed the most about this class. The problem sets and coding were challenging, but I distinctly remember the beautiful feeling of running my simplex method function and it finally working perfectly. Super satisfying.

Spring 2016: Data Visualization for Individualized Health

I’ve already raved about how much I like this class, so I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but this class really helped me shape my current path as to what I want to further study and pursue after Hopkins. The class was quantitative and code-heavy, but we also talked about visual theory and how to make numbers aesthetically pleasing and communicable. Ugh.

Fall 2016: Mathematical Modeling and Consulting

I decided to take this class because I was intrigued by the strange, mysterious world of “consulting” as more and more of my friends became newly employed in this field. In class, we learn different topics related to optimization and mathematical modeling, and apply them in consulting-focused group project case-studies. I’ve helped fictitious companies create efficient condominium construction schedules, proposed efficient monorail routes and attractions to improve tourism in a made-up country, and forecasted passenger arrivals and security line wait times at a theoretical airport. The class is heavily focused on presenting our results in a more professional setting, utilizing mathematical topics to solve real-world problems, and building stealthy code that will help solve these problems.

Looking through all of these classes I’ve narrowed down what I really enjoy to a couple of points:

  • I like quantitative, logical thinking. I think just naturally, I like the problem-solution structure of math. I feel accomplished when I finish writing working code, and I would much rather choose long problem sets over massive papers.
  • I like needing to be a bit creative. Whether it’s being creative in how I visualize data, in how I approach a consulting task, or how I tackle my MATLAB code, I need to have some innovation in my life.
  • I like seeing the big picture applications and real-world impact. My class on data visualization was awesome because we worked with clinicians and used real, historical, global health data. My modeling and consulting class is great because we apply what we learn in class to realistic, business case studies and present them as if we are presenting to our clients.

To summarize my final thoughts and the end of my internal crisis: I successfully realized what I enjoy studying, so I will focus on these types of courses throughout the rest of my time at Hopkins, and perhaps they will shed some more light on what exactly I want to do after I graduate. I’ll take some computer science classes, maybe a design class at MICA. Although I’m not entirely sure I want to focus on something in public health after Hopkins, I’ll finish through with my public health degree, taking classes at Bloomberg to learn from brilliant minds and address real-world public health problems.

So, action items:

  • Enroll in computer science courses next semester to gain more programming skills and see if I really like the field. If so, look into a minor in computer science.
  • Apply for internships in data science, operations research, and analytics/visualization.
  • Stay four full years to get the most out of the rest of my time at Hopkins, not rush through anything, and hopefully I’ll find something I enjoy when the time comes!!

 

What’s On My Google Chrome?

I’m a Google Chrome tab hoarder.

When I have a lot going on, I keep my tabs open, thinking that I’ll need to look at them in the near future, so there’s no point in closing them. But most of the time, I don’t really need them open. I should probably just close them all out and keep Chrome looking clean and not like this:

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This is a personal problem that I have addressed and I am working on it. I acknowledge that. A student’s stress level is directly proportional to the number of tabs they have. Here is a graph for the visual learners out there:

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There is indeed, no better feeling than closing out all of my tabs after I finish a big assignment or project. And today, after I turned in my first big project for one of my classes and am about to finish my first paper in another one of my classes, I am ready to close out those tabs and metaphorically start anew with a single, fresh, blank “New Tab”. But before I do this, I decided that it might be interesting to dissect what exactly it is that is clogging up my Chrome (and potentially my RAM? My computer has been kind of slow lately — I would not be surprised if this was the issue).

Spotify Jobs

Being a junior means actually, tangibly worrying about what you want to do after graduation. I always thought it would be the coolest thing to work for Spotify doing data analytics or something along those lines. I think I want to work at a start-up or a young company — I’m imagining somewhere where you everyone sits on exercise balls in the office and you get yoga or rock climbing breaks. I’ve had this tab open to join their “student talent community” so that I can get updates on openings and events near me. I’ve kept this tab open for a really long time now because I’ve been procrastinating on updating my resume — and that’s a whole story in itself.

The Environment and Your Health reading schedule

Pretty self-explanatory, I’ve kept this tab open to keep myself on track for the readings we have quizzes on in lecture for The Environment and Your Health. The problem with all of my class syllabi and schedules is that they’re all in different formats and in different locations — I still am trying to figure out the most efficient way to centralize all of these so that I can finally close out this tab. Or I’ll just have it open all semester.

Half-marathon training schedule

I’m been training for my first ever half-marathon since July! I’m participating in the Baltimore Running Festival, where runners from all over (and outside) Baltimore race in events of different distances in a big, city-wide celebration. I was not a runner in high school; the longest race I’ve ever run was a charity 5K back during sophomore year of high school. I’m actually extremely impressed at the literal lengths I’ve gone to make sure I’m ready for these 13.1 miles, and surprised at how enjoyable some of my longer runs have been. Two Sundays ago I did an 8 miler from Charles Village all the way down to the Inner Harbor, around, and back, and it was absolutely fantastic. I’ve been sick this past week so I haven’t been on my running game, but since the half is on October 15th, I definitely have to catch up on my training. I have my last long run this Sunday, a 10 miler!

Men of Principle Scholarship planning documents

I’m in charge of a scholarship my fraternity awards every fall, so these are just some spreadsheets and polls and things to help me organize the logistics of applications, interviews, and planning the scholarship dinner!

Hopkins Creative Design product order

The student business I’m a part of (alongside JHU_Aneek!) is getting ready for a the sale of a new item, so I’ve been researching vendors and products, and finally decided on a product to order!

This blog post!

Duh.

Mathematical Modeling and Consulting project assignment

I’m only taking one Applied Math class this semester, and it’s called Mathematical Modeling and Consulting. So far, I’m really enjoying this class. It’s taught by my advisor, Dr. Castello, who I also took Discrete Math with, another class I really liked. The class is different than any other AMS class I’ve taken, because there’s a strong emphasis on written and verbal communication skills, and I can really see the “applied” in applied mathematics. For this group project, we were assigned a case study in which we acted as consultants analyzing the status of a construction project. We turned in our project today, so I can now happily close out this tab!

Journal articles for Sociology of Health Illness paper

In one of my public health classes, we’re looking at health disparities among different socioeconomic classes and different racial and ethnic groups. I’m currently in the midst of writing a paper on disparities in exposure and treatment of HIV/AIDS between races, so I’ve got a lot of tabs open of different journal articles and sources I can cite in the paper.

Absentee voter affidavit

Register to vote! I need to get this affidavit notarized and sent over to the Department of Elections back in Delaware so I can receive an absentee ballot to vote in November. It’s my first ever general election vote so I’m pretty excited!

On Being 57% Done College

When it’s this time of year, the campus is buzzing with talk of summer plans, semesters abroad, internships, and job placements. And all of the talk had me feeling way too introspective and I remembered that I’m through 4/7 semesters here at Hopkins, meaning that I’m roughly 57% done college. During Spring Fair, I asked one of my friends who’s a senior:

“Have you done everything you’ve wanted to do at Hopkins? What’s left?”

That got me thinking — I’ve covered a lot in my first 57%. I’ve learned about the world through numbers and data and functions and models. I’ve read countless papers about health policy and epidemiological surveillance data. I’ve written poems and short stories, forming narratives I never thought I had the creative capacity for. I’ve designed graphics upon graphics for way too many clubs than I can handle. I’ve found myself in one of the most close-knit group of friends I could ever ask for. I’ve gotten my hands dirty with some research, and an internship (or two, hopefully). I’ve learned about the real world — the history, the injustices, the changes we need. I’ve eaten my weight in UniMini steak, egg, and cheese hoagies, Brody Cafe veggie burgers, and Alkimia banana bread.

I feel things ending and changing.

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I look at the courses I need to take to graduate — there’s not many more. Two more classes for AMS, four more Homewood classes for PHS. I remember that I won’t see some of my friends going abroad until junior spring — for some, not until senior year. I think about the clubs and organizations that I’m in — how soon enough, I’ll be the oldest, the most experienced. It’s scary to me to think that in about a year, none of my fraternity brothers will be ones that I knew before joining myself.

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But there’s still more. In these next two years, I’ll hit more milestones. This summer, I’m moving into a house on St. Paul with five of my best friends. By senior year, I’ll be taking classes at Bloomberg to finish up my public health major. Hopefully, I’ll have spent one summer interning somewhere on the West Coast. I’ll have two more Spring Fairs, two more homecoming games, two more opportunities to welcome the incoming freshmen classes. I’ll have some sort of plan for life after college. And when I graduate I’m going to take the most savage picture jumping on the Gilman Seal.

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Me and My Degree: A Noteworthy Friendship

At some point in an undergraduate’s life, one realizes that he or she must try and schedule out what classes must be taken (and when) in order to, you know, get a degree. This is somewhat of an important task, seeing as graduating would be a good thing to do — so I used this rationale to map out my next two and half years (…) when I should have been listening in lecture (they post the lecture recordings online after class, don’t worry). As an applied math and public health double major, navigating degree requirements across two schools can be kind of confusing, but not very hard at all. One could even describe the activity as “fun”, maybe — I get nerdy and excited when I see all the cool classes I still have to take and what interesting courses are offered next semester. Everyone always talks about how “easy” it is to double major and how “flexible” distribution requirements are – and going through my degree shows just that.

To start, I looked at my major requirements, for applied math first, then public health afterwards. Then, I looked at my distribution and writing requirements. The easiest way I have found to visualize a degree is through the e-catalog. Here, specifically for applied math, every single class that one needs to take to get a degree in AMS is located in a simple guide. The degree is split up very easily into 9 distinct parts.

  1. Calculus
  2. Linear Algebra and Differential Equations
  3. Computing
  4. Discrete Mathematics
  5. Probability and Statistics
  6. Optimization
  7. Area of Focus
  8. Quantitative Studies
  9. Natural Sciences (for B.S. degree)

First off, all applied math majors are required to complete the calculus sequence, consisting of Calculus I, Calculus II, and Calculus III (or Honors Multivariable Calculus). Luckily, I came in to college with AP credits for Calculus AB and BC, so I dove right into Calculus III during my freshman fall and was done with this degree requirement by the end of my first semester!

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Next, there are two ways to fulfill the Linear Algebra and Differential Equations part of the AMS degree. You can either A, take a course in linear algebra and a course in differential equations, or B, take 550.291, Linear Algebra and Differential Equations, also known as LADE, and then an additional linear algebra/differential equations focused course. I chose option A, and took 110.201 (Linear Algebra) last spring, and am taking 110.302 (Differential Equations and Applications) this semester, finishing this requirement in only a couple more weeks!

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For the third part of the degree, an AMS major must take at least one computing course, there being many options that can fulfill this requirement. As someone who had absolutely zero experience doing any sort of coding or programming before I got to Hopkins, I took 250.205 (Introduction to Computing) last semester and loved the course. The specific class runs through the very basics of computing, from using a command-line interface to learning Python and MATLAB. The class itself helped me a lot this semester as well, as my optimization class uses a lot of MATLAB and algorithm language, and learning R for my biostatistics lab was a lot easier because I knew a language beforehand. That being said, I easily finished up this requirement by the end of my freshman year.

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To fulfill the discrete mathematics portion of the degree, I took 550.171 my freshman fall and absolutely loved it as well. It was such a new way for me to look at math, and it gave me great experience with proof-writing as well as an introduction to graph theory, which has become a really interesting topic currently in my optimization class. Yet again, I finished this requirement by the end of my first semester.

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Next up is the probability and statistics requirement. I still have to take both of these classes, and I have heard from numerous people that these are pretty tough courses in the applied math department. Luckily for me, I planned out my schedules during these semesters to make sure that I don’t have crazy tough semesters all while also taking these 400-level AMS classes.

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The sixth requirement is optimization – and from the amount of times I’ve mentioned how much I love this class – you already know that I am taking this class right now, and will be finished with this requirement by the end of this semester.

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And because of this class, I have decided to do my area of focus in Optimization and Operations Research, the other focus options being Probability and Statistics, Scientific Computing, Discrete Mathematics, and Financial Mathematics.

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I decided that I’m going to take 550.362 next semester, because it continues off of what we learn in the class I’m in right now, and maybe also 550.400 because it will hopefully be taught by Beryl Castello, who instructs Discrete Mathematics and is also my advisor in the AMS department!

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The last two parts of the degree are pretty straightforward. Basically, you need to have taken 40 “Q” credits and 12 “N” credits (if you want a B.S.) by the time you graduate. Using the Degree Audit function found on our registration website, I found that I won’t need to go out of my way to complete these requirements – I actually finished part 9 before even coming to Hopkins just from AP science credits!

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Next up, we have to look at the requirements for public health. With my AP credits, I am already done with the calculus requirement and the biology requirement, so all that’s left in this section is the four classes, 280.335, 280.340, 280.345, and 280.350. Having already taken Fundamentals of Health Policy & Management last semester and taking Public Health Biostatistics this semester, I just need to take The Environment and Your Health and Fundamentals of Epidemiology to finish this section.

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I fulfilled my introductory social science requirements by taking Invitation to Anthropology and Introduction to Social Psychology last year. I also am taking Elements of Macroeconomics this semester and am planning on taking Elements of Microeconomics next semester, so that would also count towards this requirement. I will merely choose the classes that I do the best in to count towards my PHS GPA 🙂

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Then, all that’s left to do is take one of the social/behavioral public health courses (I’m in between Sociology of Health and Illness and Cultural Factor of Public Health), take three more 200-400 level PHS courses, and take my 10 credits at Bloomberg during my senior year. Lastly, I plan on tackling my applied experience during a summer internship or other public health related experience.

And finally, we have reached the distribution requirements. Because my primary major will be applied math, I need only fulfill the distribution/writing requirements for engineering students:

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After this semester, I would have already fulfilled my humanities/social science 18-credit requirement through the public health major, and only need 14 more engineering/quantitative science/natural science credits through my own major and with AP credits. Engineering students also need to take 6 writing intensive credits, and having already fulfilled 3 credits through my expository writing course freshman fall, I only need 3 more writing intensive credits. And that’s it. That’s my entire double major and all of its requirements.

To summarize, and because I am sucker for organized visual displays, here is a color-coded schematic of my undergraduate career.

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What is that — I can graduate a semester early? Yes, it is indeed possible. As you can see as well, there’s not much left for me to finish my majors – this puts me at ease, but also scares me a little. A part of me is excited that I am closer and closer to being able to use everything I learn in college in the quote unquote, real world, while another part of me remembers that I still don’t really have a good idea of what kind of work I want to do exactly, and questions whether or not I will even be ready for that reality. I trust that everything about my life will somehow magically work out, and even in the case that it does not, I still have this sick color-coded spreadsheet I can show off.