Archive for the ‘Academics’ Category

The Last Post

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Hey Hawkeyes!

Since I have officially graduated from the University of Iowa this will be my last blog post and be prepared, it’s gonna be a long one. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to blog about my experiences here at the University of Iowa. It’s been so great to meet the new bloggers each year and have people read my blog to keep up with my adventures.

After being involved in organizations such as mentoring and living in the residence halls for 4.5 years, I’ve had some people ask for advice and so I wanted to record some of my advice or lessons I’ve learned during my time at Iowa.

To start with, I went way back and read through my blog posts from when I first started blogging as a freshman. I wanted to update some of the advice I had when I was still figuring college out.

  • In my first semester I really liked that my classes were spread out so I wasn’t rushing to get between them. I like being early to things and I enjoyed having plenty of time to be early to my classes. But I realized that I’m more productive when all my classes are bunched together and I can have large chunks of time to get homework done or schedule work hours. As long as you don’t have to go all the way across campus(like Van Allen to the pharmacy building) 10 minutes really is plenty of time.
  • For the engineers out there(or at least Chemical Engineers): Get a graphing calculator and learn how to use it (graphing, writing programs for it)
  • And to re-iterate one of my biggest pieces of advice: Invest in a nice pair of rain boots, you will not regret it

My advice to any student still in college and getting ready to come to college:

  • Go to events. Any event. Basketball games, football games, volleyball games, baseball games,  gymnastics meets. Even if you’re not a huge fan or have never really been to one before, they’re a lot of fun and usually really cheap for students. It’s a great way to hang out with friends while showing some Hawkeye spirit.
  • Go to talks from famous people. Sometimes it’s really hard to prioritize especially when you’re a dedicated student. One of my biggest regrets of college is not going to see Jane Goodall when she came to campus. It would have been worth pulling an all-nighter to finish the project to see her talk.
  • Stay focused. It can be easy to start to let things slide towards the end of the semester. You’ve been working so hard and feel like you’re exhausted, but you just need to stay motivated and keep going until the end of finals week. Keep turning in every homework assignment and doing all the readings.
  • Get help. It’s ok if you’re struggling, college is hard. University of Iowa has a ton of great resources for any type of issue whether it’s tutoring or test anxiety, there’s someone there to help you. It’s not a bad thing to admit you need help. It’s much better to start working on the problem early and get it solved or at least understand it better than struggling through on your own and making you feel even worse. Your RA, advisor, or professors can help direct you to the resources you need.
  • Remember: you’re a student first. Your primary responsibility is school, that’s why you’re here. You’re going to have a ton of fun with friends and getting involved in organizations, but don’t let it become a distraction. Getting bad grades early on is hard to come back from and means you have to work extra hard on more difficult classes to make up for it. While your GPA may not matter in 10 years, it certainly matters for getting that first job and the work ethic it takes to keep that GPA will last a lifetime.
  • That being said, your GPA doesn’t necessarily describe you. Some things come easily for some people, some things don’t. If things aren’t going as well as you planned and you find yourself struggling more than you can handle, talk to your professors and your advisor. Maybe you need a different mix of classes: more balance between gen eds and major related. Or maybe you need to lighten the load and take some summer classes to decrease the number of hours during the semester. Be proactive, don’t wait until it’s too late to realize your GPA isn’t where you need it to be.
  • Go after the opportunities you want. As cheesy as it is: You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Whether it’s an internship or research experience or leadership in an organization, just go for it. Even if you don’t get it you learned a lot by reaching out and making connections and those experiences will help you in the future. It’s going to suck when you get rejected, but just know that there are other opportunities out there that might be better for you or be a stepping stone to better prepare you for the one you want.
  • Don’t forget how awesome you are. Some things are going to go really well and some things might be a lot harder than you were expecting. Don’t lose who you are and don’t forget that you are unique with your own individual talents.

I met some of my closest friends at the University of Iowa and learned a lot about myself and about other people. I met so many amazing people and have been so inspired by them.

By living in the residence hall for all 4.5 years, I have had the opportunity to meet a new floor of first years every year and have become friends with many of them. They definitely helped me to see the excitement and fun in college, even when I was tired and frustrated. I’d like to say thanks to all the girls on my floors who have encouraged me and been the positivity I needed. You guys are awesome and you’re going to do amazing things!

Thanks to all my friends who have stayed up late with me, supported me and been there for me whenever I needed to talk or to celebrate my successes. Thank you to my family members who have kept me focused on my goals and my future. Special thanks to my mom who has been there through everything(the 2 am texts, 6 am phone calls, the constant moving, the successes and the lessons learned). Thank you to the staff at the Student Development Center in the College of Engineering for their support and constant supply of sugar. Thank you to the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering for their willingness to work with their students to make schedules work and provide resources. Thank you to University of Iowa Admissions for giving me the opportunity to blog during my time here. Finally, thank you to all of you, the readers of my blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. So with that:

OnIowa! Go Hawks!

The College Lasts

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Hey Hawkeyes!

I hope everyone survived finals week and has had a good break so far! For whatever reason the week before finals week is called dead week and I’m not entirely sure why. Although this year was actually the closest I’ve come to dead week; I had two assignments due and that was pretty much it. I’ve really enjoyed being able to have the opportunity to relax a little before finals and graduation. However, the last couple weeks of the semester also included a lot of my “lasts”.

  • Hawkeyes vs. Nebraska

    Hawkeyes vs. Nebraska

    Last college Thanksgiving break

  • Last football game as a student in Kinnick stadium(even if I did sit with my dad in the regular section-first Hawkeye game with my dad!)
  • Last meeting with my advisor
  • Last day of class
  • Last homework assignments
  • Last lunches/dinners with friends that have been part of my weekly schedule
  • Last class as a TA
  • Last finals
  • Finished my last final and ready to graduate!

    Last walk across campus

Even with all these lasts, I’m so excited for all the firsts that are in my future.

  • First adult job
  • First adult apartment
  • First car

And all the other firsts that I have yet to discover. I’m so excited for the real world and all the opportunities to pursue. In one of my last classes, the professor took the time to give us life advice. She basically said to take every opportunity to try new things and have new experiences. We still have so much room to grow into the person we want to be so keep challenging what you think about the world and never stop learning. One of the guys that has come to talk to one of my professional seminars a few times has shared the concept of lifelong learning. If you aren’t constantly learning, you’re not really living. I’m ready for lifelong learning and the many adventures yet to come!

Final Prep

Friday, December 9th, 2016

Hey Hawkeyes!

How’s everyone feeling for finals? Feeling ready to ace them? Or just to be done and go home for break? Finals week always brings on a mix of feelings; you know you want to do really well on them, but it can be hard to focus after working hard all semester and having a month long break at the end of the week. Recently, I was asked for my finals advice to underclassman preparing for finals, or trying to figure out how to even start preparing for finals  so here’s my advice for acing your finals and staying healthy and happy.

Sarah’s Final Advice:

– don’t tell yourself you’re going to study all day for a final: you’ll be less focused and burn yourself out.
– but also make sure not to short yourself on study time. Start studying early so you’re not waiting until the day before the final to do all of your studying.
– make sure to take breaks, but make sure they’re short and you get back on task when you said you would.
– make sure to get plenty of sleep: cramming doesn’t work and will make you think slower for the actual test.
– if you’re worried about an early final, talk to a friend in the class and agree to call each other at a certain time. Even if you’ve never over-slept before, there’s a first time for everything- double check your alarms.
– make sure to treat yourself after each final: get ice cream, eat some chocolate, watch an hour or two of Netflix, and then start a study routine for your next final- it will make you feel more productive and motivated.
– do the best you can. It might not go exactly like you want it, you might have missed studying a certain chapter or forgotten to review vocab, that’s ok. As long as you’ve been working hard all semester, a couple wrong answers won’t hurt your grade. Move on, and don’t let one bad final drag you down for your next one. That class is done, be glad to be done, and work hard for the next final.
– while you’re studying, make a notecard of things you commonly forget. Forget a certain step in a math problem? Put it on the note card. Never remember that one chemistry definition? Put it on the notecard. Instead of trying to review all your notes right before the final, just review the notecard so you have your most commonly forgotten stuff fresh in your mind.
– if you have to memorize equations, write them on your test right when they hand it to you so you won’t panic when you only have 5 minutes left and can’t remember if it was plus or minus.
Good luck with studying and enjoy your time with friends before break!

New Adventures

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Hey Hawkeyes,

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving break. It always seems like it takes forever to get to break. I know I had a lot of issues staying focused on homework and lecture during the week leading up to break. However I was one of the lucky ones that didn’t have a midterm right before break so I could slack off a little bit. A lot of my professors were also extremely ready for break so they went easy on us as well.

You may have noticed my blog has been a bit quiet. It’s been a busy couple of weeks. The weekend before break I flew to San Francisco for a conference for one of my organizations. I’m part of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and they have a regional student conference in the spring with a national student conference in the fall. Regional conferences are held at a host university in that region. University of Iowa hosted the regional conference when I was a sophomore which is when I really got interested in this organization. I became the historian, tasked with recording all the things our chapter does, and awards we get. As part of the historian role, I also attend the national conference to take pictures of our students presenting and receiving awards. The national conference is held in a large city; I’ve been to Atlanta, Salt Lake City, and now San Francisco. Eighteen students from our chapter navigated airports and train stations to attend the conference. This was my first time in California so I was very excited. We had time to explore the city and got to meet a lot of people.

The Golden Gate Bridge! So excited to see this California symbol and learn about the engineering behind it!

The Golden Gate Bridge! So excited to see this California symbol and learn about the engineering behind it!

I also had the honor of being involved in a presentation about our chapter’s outreach activities (I’ll have to do a blog post about that), so we had the opportunity to talk to students from universities across the country as they try to implement similar outreach programs.

University of Iowa also hosted an alumni reception while we were there so we spent an evening dressed up, eating fancy appetizers, and talking with alumni on the 40th floor of a hotel. It was really fun to talk to the alumni that are either currently working in California or retired in California about student life at the university. They were asking about some of their favorite restaurants, whether the library is still intimidating, and if the engineering building is still cold. We informed them that while the library is newly remodeled, the engineering building is still cold in certain rooms. We were also able to ask career advice and talk to them about engineering in the field. It was a really great experience and a cool way to spend an evening in a cool city.

This trip was very educational and very fun. It was cool to explore a new place and learn so much. I’m so glad that I got involved and really invested my time in this organization.

Cookies, Toys, and Engineering

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

Hey Hawkeyes!

It’s starting to get a little chillier out which makes me excited! I love snow and can’t wait to wear scarves and boots. I’m still kinda surprised at how fast this semester is going. It seems like it’s flying by! We’re already in November and I’m about one month and a week away from graduating. When did that happen?! With the end of the semester and my time here at Iowa gets closer, I’ve been thinking a lot about the experiences I’ve had. One of these experiences is the opportunity to be a teaching assistant, or TA.

A lot of schools will have TAs teach the class and the students never interact with the professor. However with all of my classes, the teaching assistant was exactly that: an assistant. The TAs are there to help answer questions, grade homework, and help proctor tests. This is my second semester as a TA for the same class and I really enjoy it. The class I TA is a beginning engineering course, typically taken during the first semester. I love getting to interact with the first-years and watch them experience their first semester of college. They panic about deadlines and double check to make sure they’re doing things right. I find it really fun and rewarding to be the one to reassure them that they’re going to make it, they will pass their classes with hard work, and that they will in fact survive engineering.

There are a bunch of sections of this class, but the professor I work under is really dedicated to doing hands-on projects. In fact, it’s the same professor I had when I took the class four years ago. Most of the projects are the same so it’s been fun to see the freshmen in the same position I was in just a few years ago. I also really enjoy the variety of projects we get to help with and end up grading. One of my favorites is cookie coating. Yes, with actual cookies. Basically, we want to help them think about how to design a process with accuracy and precision while being able to convey those instructions in written form. So they get to pick cookies and a type of chocolate and come up with a way to uniformly coat the cookies with chocolate. As a TA, there was a ton of prep for the actual project, including weighing up the chocolate. The other TA and I learned a lot about chocolate amounts and how easy cookies break. The best part is after the process is complete, all of the students have to grade each other on several parameters, including taste. And the TAs, of course, have to try all the cookies to provide the most accurate grade.

$100 of chocolate and cookies, in case you were wondering

$100 of chocolate and cookies, in case you were wondering

Another project is called reverse engineering. Each group chooses a toy from the box we provide and they must disassemble it and put it back together. In order to get full points, the toy must be operational at the end of the project. Once they know how it works, they present to the class about the toy and what improvements could be made. It’s always an adventure when the toys are used over and over and develop small issues. My TA partner never got to do this project so he got in on the action when a group couldn’t figure out why their toy couldn’t come apart. It turned out the screws were stripped, but we were able to get it apart and back together, and have it operational!

My co-TA playing with *cough* I mean fixing the toy.

My co-TA playing with *cough* I mean fixing the toy

I’ve really enjoyed being a TA and I’m looking forward to see the designs this group comes up with for their final project. I’ll try to share updates as we get more into the final project of building disaster proof houses for developing countries!

Full Schedule

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Hey Hawkeyes,

I realized after my last post that I’ve barely discussed my classes this semester. First of all, since it’s my last semester I have a seemingly random mix of classes because they’re the classes that didn’t have to be taken at a certain point. Unfortunately, for my last semester I ended up with morning classes. I am nothing close to a morning person. And when I say morning classes I’m not talking about like 10:30 or 9:30. No, I mean 8:30 and 8:00 every morning except for my one morning of 7:30. It’s been tough but so far I have not missed a single class.

My first class is Biostatistics. Basically statistics, but applied to biological examples. Like statistics for studies involving whether a new medication works as well as how to set-up experiments and what conditions need to be met. I’m not a huge fan of stats, but at least the examples are interesting.

My next class is Material Science. This class is more basic level materials class that focuses on a broad overview on how to select materials for applications. Sounds super easy, right? Not always. Since my internship was focused on polymers, the whole concept of metals has been new. And if you’ve never seen a eutectic phase diagram, you should definitely look that up; I finally figured them out!

Next is my Musical Theatre History class. It is phenomenal. I’m really enjoying a class that doesn’t make me think super hard or derive equations. We read, watch, and discuss musicals as they’ve developed over time. We focus on gender and race and how they relate to the themes in the musicals.

Finally, I have my pharmacy class. This class is based on drug delivery systems. So basically any way from getting a medication from outside the body to inside the body. We’ve discussed micro-needles, bone tissue engineering, cancer vaccinations, and gene therapy methods. I find this class immensely interesting and I’ve learned so much! Aside from the information aspect, I have also learned more about what I’m interested in and what kind of job I’d like to have in the future.

I have really enjoyed this semester with the combination of major-related classes and non-major related classes. It’s been fun exploring some of my other interests. I also really appreciate how much of my past classes are used in my more advanced classes. It’s really cool to learn difficult material and realize you have a strong background in the area.


Resumé? Check!

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Hey Hawkeyes!

This is the week of the engineering career fair! My first year, I was terrified of the career fair since I didn’t know how to answer questions or how to talk to the recruiters about the company. Over the last four years I have done several practice interviews, several real interviews, added some great experiences to my resumé, and have learned to enjoy the career fair. Good thing I like it because this is the most important one! This is the career fair that will (hopefully) help me find a job! As a graduating senior, this is my best chance to get my resumé to real people from these companies rather than just applying online.

I spent the first several days of this week re-modeling my resumé to make it look a bit more professional as well as making sure I had all the right things on it. It’s always difficult to try to predict what a recruiter will want to see. I have a document that I just list all of my project, jobs, activities, and experiences (research, internship) so that I can easily build a resumé for specific jobs just from pulling things off the document. After combing through my resumé to catch any errors, I took it to a professional development peer advisor in the Student Development Center to have it critiqued. I was told that I have a very strong resumé (yay!) and I had a few minor things to fix. I was also curious about the wording for a certain part and they were able to help me with that as well.

I’ve been practicing my 20 second elevator speech (introduction, year in school, major, looking for ____ position, really interested in ____ because ___.) so I feel ready on that front. Now I just need to make sure my dress pants are wrinkle free, my high heels are ready to go, and my resumé is tucked carefully in my portfolio. Wish me luck!

You’re Taking How Many Credits?!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

Hey Hawkeyes!

I hope everyone is enjoying the wonderful start to the 4th week of classes!

Obviously, as the focus of college, classes are pretty important (go figure!), but sometimes it can be confusing to try to figure out what you need to take and how many credits you should be taking. So how do you figure that out?

Most majors have a sample course load online where you can see what the required classes are, but as far as how many credits you should be taking, well that’s up to you! The indicated credits are a suggestion. Depending on what classes you enjoy, how difficult the classes are, and how involved you want to be can all affect how many credit hours you take. Sometimes people are able to learn better when they’re focusing on a smaller class load while others learn better by constantly changing their focus between several classes.

I figured out that I am much happier somewhere around 15 credit hours. I don’t feel as overwhelmed by homework and I still have enough time to be involved with activities as well as work an on-campus job part-time. Even though it meant staying an extra semester, I know that this is what was best for me and will be better for my success.

The biggest difference between high school and college is that although you still have to meet certain requirements, you ultimately get to make the decision of how you meet the requirements. You don’t need to take 18 credit hours every semester if it’s going to make you stressed out and drop your GPA. Everyone learns differently and it’s ok to take things at your own pace. College is about finding what’s best for you and what will help you succeed, whether that means finding the right major or the right balance of classes.

Staying Motivated for Spring Break

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Hey Hawkeyes!

Wow, I think the weather has finally decided to start heading towards spring. It’s amazing how many people you start seeing around campus when it warms up and how many different activities you can watch. The most recent thing I’ve noticed is the number of hammocks that people have brought to the Pentacrest for relaxation (I may have added a hammock to my wish list after seeing this).

The improvement in weather has mixed effects on people. For some people, they’d rather be outside playing frisbee or basketball rather than studying for midterms, especially with the building anticipation for spring break. For others, having nice weather has picked up their mood and motivated them to keep studying and finish out this last stretch of midterms before spring break.

Mine has been a combination of both of these. For my non-major classes, I’ve been struggling with motivation, but for my major-related classes, I spent a ton of time making a notecard and reviewing material. I’m so glad to be so close to Spring Break, though. It will be so nice to take a break and not worry about my schedule for a few days. However, when we come back it’s going to be a whirlwind. I’m actually taking some stuff home with me so I can attempt to get ahead so that first week back isn’t as chaotic.

My last midterm went really well and, after a chaotic 20 minutes, my senior design meeting went pretty well, too. My group is in the process of learning how important communication is. In case you were wondering, communication is extremely important. But now I’m one class away from being on spring break. I hope all my fellow Hawkeyes have a fun and safe spring break and that everyone has a chance to de-stress.

Talk to you after break!


Bunny Suits in the Nanolab

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Hey Hawkeyes,

I hope everyone has been staying warm the past couple of weeks! The wind has been particularly strong the last few weeks. It’s nice that it’s finally warming up a bit. We had some weird weather things where it would be 40˚ during the week and then 60˚ on the weekends. Fortunately, I have a lab class this semester that is plenty warm. I’m taking a Nanofabrication class that has a lab component which happens to be in a cleanroom. Apparently the dictionary definition of a cleanroom is a room that is clean. While this doesn’t mean much to people outside the “nano” world, it means a lot as far as nanofabrication. The nano-scale is so tiny that particles like dust can ruin the thing that you’re making. To prevent particles from contaminating all the projects, we get to wear these:

Ready for lab!

Ready for lab!

These cleanroom gowns, also called bunny suits, reduce the amount of particles that we produce. It has been a new experience going through the gowning procedure before lab as well as being in a lab where you can’t have anything with you. There is special clean room paper that is supposed to reduce particle formation. Due to the small space to help control airflow and the double layer of clothing, it gets plenty warm in the lab.

Most of what we’re learning about is done on industrial levels for manufacturing circuit boards and electronics so it’s cool to be able to do some of these processes. I think one of my favorite parts of my major has been getting to be in so many lab classes where we get to do the things we’re learning about. Although I may complain about the lab reports, I really like the actual lab portion. 

Talk to you guys soon!