Friday, September 2, 2011

Analytical Chemistry

First off, there's no news yet on the medical school front. My current status is still "Forwarded for review" on the majority of the secondary app sites. I'm waiting to hear back from Wayne State and the University of Toledo about whether they want a secondary app or not, while all of the others are all set.

This post is actually to talk a bit about my classes this semester - specifically Analytical Chemistry. For those that don't know, my classes started this past Wednesday. I'm enrolled in Biochemistry I (no lab for me!) and Analytical Lab (w/3-hour lab) for a total of seven credits. Almost all of my class time falls in the mornings, leaving me free to work evenings.

"Wait though," you might say. "Why are you taking Analytical Chemistry?? That has NOTHING to do with medical school!" And you know what?

You'd be right to say that.

After going through all these classes in preparation for med school, I realized that after taking Biochem I and II, I would only need another class/lab chemistry combo to tack on a bachelor's in Chemistry. The class needed to be above a 311-level course, which meant it had to be either Physical Chemistry (aka the infamous "P-Chem" - basically the Chemist's version of Quantum Theory, but slightly less difficult) or Analytical Chemistry. When I asked my old advisor about the difficulty of the class, he responded, "Oh yeah, that's one of the easiest Chem. classes we have!"

Sometimes, I have trouble detecting sarcasm when I'm not expecting it. I understand this about myself, so to make sure, I asked him, "Are you being sarcastic?" He assured me that no, he wasn't.

Now that I picture his face, I think he had a slight smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth.

Here's one of my two pages of notes from today's lecture (click to enlarge):

From Life to/through Med School

With all of that differential notation, four semesters'-worth of calculus came crashing back, filling my ears with that rushing-and-pounding-of-breathing-and-pumping-blood sound that they sort of muffle but still play really loudly when you're watching an intense scene in a scary movie. Yeah, it was kind of like that, only the professor continued to lecture really quickly as I scribbled down notes. At the time, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, but now that I go back and take a look, it's not as unintelligible as it seemed at first. Not simple, but doable.

Today I learned that this class is going to involve some conceptually difficult work - something that I've had a break from in going through two semesters of Biology lectures. Basically, Analytical Chemistry deals with the practical science and mathematics of measurement when applied to Chemistry. Yesterday's lab was three hours of calibrating glassware - basically, we did our best to measure out fixed amounts of water using a buret, weighing the water after each dispensation. Given the density of water at room temperature, we could determine the exact amount of water (to the ten-thousandth of a mL) that we actually measured out, thereby determining the accuracy of the little white lines on our glassware. One of the most sticklerish fixations on detail that I've ever seen was part of this lab: we were required to thoroughly wipe our fingerprints from the beakers used in weighing the water so that their weight wouldn't corrupt the data. When he first mentioned this, I thought he was joking. He wasn't.

Biochemistry this semester is probably going to be tough as well, though not really for the concepts and math, but more for the volume of information. I'm looking forward to the challenge though. I think that's something that I never want to lose - the ability to find a difficult situation and relish in its complexity, just for a little bit, before diving in. It's always a bit daunting, always a bit scary, but always that much more satisfying when you come through on the other side of it and have all those nerdy awesome notes to sift back through...

2 comments:

Susan said...

"nerdy awesome notes to sift through...." preetttyyy funny!

Lindy said...

And THAT's why I didn't double major in Chem and Bio. :)

Sorry, hope the semester goes well!

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