Posts Tagged ‘schoolwork’

Passion, Not a Ph.D., Makes the Professor

October 5th, 2012 No comments

It has been said more than once that a good teacher knows the subject matter, while a great teacher is passionate about it. And nowhere is this statement more true than at a university level, where things like high class sizes, tenure, publications in academic journals, and other research opportunities can often cause professors to become rather lackadaisical about their teaching.

For a lot of professors today, a significant majority of their teaching comes down to their lectures. And while a professor may be very knowledgeable about that subject, if he or she does not know how to lecture well, it is ultimately the students who suffer. I’ve had a physics professor, for example, with a Ph.D in his field and decades of experience under his belt. He’s certainly a well-learned expert; but when he gave lectures, he spoke in a very soft, monotonous voice. And with run-on sentences everywhere, it seemed like he never paused to even take a breath. Not to mention that English wasn’t his native tongue, so he spoke with a slight accent. (This one I can’t fault him for; but that doesn’t mean it detracted from his lectures any less.)

Even when I was sitting in the front and center of the class, it was a mental strain to pay attention. Not only that, but his lectures were almost entirely him simply reading from his Powerpoint presentation, which he would post online after each class meeting. So in addition to the effort required simply to pay attention, there was always the mental trap of just reading those presentations on my own, outside class. Combine all of this, and it’s clear to see to how 9 shots of espresso could not keep me awake in that class. In fact, I had to withdraw from it; and I ended up taking Chemistry instead, the following semesters.

On the other extreme, I’ve had professors who are obviously passionate about their classes — for example, asking questions of the students, providing real-world examples, inviting lots of discussion, and really just having fun talking about the coursework. (And for the more awesome engineering professors, this often involves quite a bit of hilarious puns.) This happens even in more extracurricular things, too.

For instance, as part of my university’s Men’s Chorus, I find myself grinning from ear to ear after every rehearsal. Our conductor is fantastic. He’s so emphatic about the music we sing, and so emotive about everything we do in rehearsals and in our performances, from proper vocal technique to really nailing those more obscure rhythms and lyrics, and sometimes even to life in general. He’s also very encouraging and approachable. He clearly enjoys being at each rehearsal. And he clearly wants us to be better singers, and certainly, better people both on- and off-stage. He sincerely wants our choir to be more than just the sum of its voices — and you can see it in his mannerisms, his energy, the determination of how he teaches. (I suppose that in some ways, it’s a bit of an irony that one of my all-time favorite teachers is in a subject far removed from my majors.)

I hope that my fellow students (and former students) have had professors on that better end of this spectrum. For now, I’ll just have to hope that those end-of-semester evaluations are given their due considerations…

LaTeX: Adding Your Own Paired Delimiters

October 5th, 2012 1 comment

I’ve come to use LaTeX extensively for typesetting my Mathematics homework. It just makes things so beautiful. And like the XHTML/CSS split, it really does encourage strong separation of content from presentation. One of the things I first hated about it though, is that I grew quickly tired of using \left and \right with brackets, parentheses, or anything that needed to be automatically be sized to its content.

And, as any good engineering student might, I sought to encourage my own laziness by finding a clever shortcut. After a few minutes of searching Google, I came across the DeclarePairedDelimiter command in the mathtools package. Its usage is fairly self-explanatory, as I’ll let the following demonstrate.

First, you need to load the mathtools package in your document header:


Then you can create your own paired delimiters with the DeclarePairedDelimiter command:


Finally, you can use these new commands in math mode to more easily group your expression. (Append an asterisk to make LaTeX automatically insert the necessary \left and \right commands when you need the delimiters to resize according to their content.)

If \(a \lt 0\) and \(b \gt 0\), then \(\abs{a} = -a\),
and so \(\abs*{\frac{a}{b}} = -\frac{a}{b}\).
The norm of a vector \(v\), denoted \(\norm{v}\), is
defined by \(\norm{v} = \sqrt{\innerproduct{v,v}}\).

As a nice bonus, it increases readability of the LaTeX source tremendously, since it gives those grouped expressions some semantic name rather than just being a bunch of formatting. For instance with the above delimiters, \left\lvert \frac{a}{b} \right\rvert is more to type, and a lot less obviously an absolute value, than the simpler \abs*{\frac{a}{b}}.

Happy hacking!

Categories: Science, Technology Tags: , ,

CSUs to Cut Spring 2010 Admissions

July 15th, 2009 2 comments

This is absolutely crazy. Someone just posted it to our Facebook group:

Lowering Enrollment: Budget Cuts Force California State University to Close 2010 Spring Admissions

As part of an overall strategy to address an unprecedented budget reduction of $584 million for 2009-10, California State University campuses will not accept student applications for the 2010 spring term – with very few exceptions.

In addition, quarter campuses that have been accepting admission applications for the 2010 winter term ceased accepting applications as of July 6.

“Only fully-eligible, first-time freshmen, upper-division undergraduate transfers or graduate and post-baccalaureate applicants who have applied for admission prior to July 6 may be offered admission to the 2010 winter term,” said Jeri Echeverria, CSU executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer.

In addition, no admission applications will be accepted for the 2010 spring term at either quarter or semester campuses, for any enrollment category. CSU has typically admitted more than 35,000 freshmen, undergraduate transfer and graduate students during the spring term.

This is just so unbelievably wrong. A strong education is the foundation of a prosperous workforce. I’m all for fixing the economy, but cutting off one of its roots is not the right way to do it! I’m stunned and quite speechless. 😮

Categories: Life Tags: , , ,

A Semester of Fun

January 24th, 2009 1 comment

Well, now that I’m nearly finished with the general-education requirements, this semester is shaping up to be quite a fun adventure. Aside from the slight tedium of taking General Chemistry, I’m also taking two math courses (“Advanced Topics in Linear Algebra” & “Ordinary Differential Equations”) and two Japanese classes (“Intermediate Japanese-A” and “Study of Kanji”), so even though it’s going to be quite busy (18 units!), it definitely won’t seem so.

We went to a a used book store in Fullerton that was having a “going out of business” sale over this past weekend: about 70-80% off everything. While there, I picked up a good half-dozen Star Trek books that, along with Christmas and early-birthday gifts, should provide quite ample reading material for the bus rides to and from class, as well as just generally being quite good books. On my desk right now are just a handful of them:

  1. Fallacies and Pitfalls of Language: The Language Trap (S. Morris Engel)
  2. The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Barack Obama)
  3. Titan (Stephen Baxter)
  4. Doctor Who: The Indestructible Man (Simon Messingham)
  5. Pegasus in Space (Anne McCaffrey)

This is not an exhaustive list, mind you, but a majority of the Star Trek and other books that I bought were only due to my having read them in the past simply on loan from the local library, and I enjoyed them so much that I simply wanted to ensure myself my own copy. I think I’m going to quite like this. 🙂

Categories: Books, Life Tags: , , , ,