Wednesday, August 22, 2012

classes have started...

...and i feel a bit like i'm drowning!

i'll start with my schedule for the semester.
1) i have a seminar class, where basically we will meet and discuss journal articles. we'll be responsible for doing presentations on what we read at some point, but i haven't had that first class yet so i don't really know too much about it.

2) i have a colloquium class. i'm looking forward to that one because i'll get to listen to lectures by a bunch of different people. it will be interesting--the first one is tomorrow.

3) i'm taking modern physics, a class that we've been told will be taught at the undergraduate level. it is supposed to be a refresher, something to help me pass my phD qualifying exam next fall (i get a shot at the test this september, but it's considered the "0th attempt" and doesn't really count so i'm not too incredibly stressed about it at the moment).

4) i'm in quantum mechanics. at the moment, that one doesn't seem to bad. i don't have an assignment yet... or a book... but so far i'm okay with what we went over in class. granted, it was just the first day.

5) ...and then there's classical mechanics.
this is the stuff i liked in my undergrad. it got into some crazy stuff with really yucky math, but it was still alright.
the thing is, right now it really seems like i'm in over my head.

we have a homework problem due friday. at first i just kind of stared at it blankly. i'm waiting on my book to come in in a week or so (that's what happens when you don't want to spend $130 on a book and order one that has to be shipped a long way), so i didn't have it to look at. after class today, though, a group of us got together and a couple of my classmates explained it to me and that problem is done now--having a book to look at and people to work with really helps!

we also have a group presentation problem due friday. mine is the double pendulum, a pretty common, basic problem in upper level physics... one i remember working in class, but can't for the life of me find my notes on now. that's what i get for being so disorganized, i guess!


 if you aren't a physics person, basically imagine a ball hanging on a string and swinging--the basic pendulum. now, attach a string to that ball and hang a second ball on the end of that string...

so what i'm supposed to do is come up with all the equations that describe possible motion of this system. the good thing is, i only have to deal with the case of both pendulums swinging in the same, single direction. i don't have to deal with stuff like spinning or one swinging left and right while the other swings forward and backward.

really, that isn't the bad part. the part that overwhelms me right now is the fact that we are having class monday through friday this week every day instead of just 3 days...and in class (tuesday from 4-5) we went through roughly 30 handwritten pages of his notes. there was no hope of even pretending to keep up.

not having the internet at home yet adds to the frustration a bit, but luckily (i guess...) i'm at school from 10 to 3 with nothing to do but study.
     that will change next week, though, because i'll start my teaching duties and i'll be responsible for probably 4 or 5 lab sections that i'll be teaching this semester.

i know i get super stressed out at the start of every new semester, but that stress is so much different this time around.
for one thing, the last time i did any upper level physics was december 2010.
for another thing, there's a lot more riding on this semester.


so, now i'm going to take a step back,
take a deep breath,
and focus on the fact that i know this is where i'm supposed to be right now.

i have no idea what's in store, but here's to finding out!

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Thoughts? I would love to hear them!
~Mandy