Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The horrible semester

The semester of Fall 2015 will go down as the worst semester ever, the horrible semester, where I seem to have finally found the limits of the modular approach to scheduling, and where a lot was achieved with equally high input costs. One golden rule I learned was to never take three courses in a semester, especially not one if one of them is the hardest course you've ever taken. Yes, that mantle goes to ME 404, which at one point of time took upwards of 20 hours of work a week to finish! This semester, the modular schedule I've followed blew up in my face, as the rigors of three courses forced the expansion of one module at the cost of all others.

Don't get me wrong though, I would not have skipped ME 404 for anything. It was an excellent course, in terms of research it was the most useful I've ever taken (beating out the previous titleholder, ATMS 313). I'd take it again, if I could (and I'd probably do better next time!). I'm not sure what my grade will be - it was my first full course is mechanical engineering in five years, and significantly more advanced than the last ones (Introductory Thermodynamics and Manufacturing Techniques). Therefore, I really do expect my first B+ at UIUC from this course, with the first exam and homework having lifted me and the lab and final exam throwing me off.

The other courses were far less than rewarding. I started CEE 408 with a negative opinion of the course, my opinion still remains negative, but I can appreciate the content, even if I don't like it. It is useful, and it is even interesting, but it is simply not for me. Nonetheless, I've had stellar results in it (because it was so easy!) and I wold be disappointed with anything less than an A. In CEE 508, I know I already got an A, but I did not like the course one bit. I think it is safe to say that I am an academic and enjoy theoretical stuff - and an extremely applied course like 508 simply bored me. Yet, it was easy but very badly managed, and those two sort of made it a pain. At one point, I wanted to drop out from it, but stayed on. Well, at least that got me a grade to offset the (welcome) damage from ME 404. I would not take 508 again though, and neither 408 (or any railroad course).

This semester also saw some other action. I became a Certified LabVIEW Associate Developer, for whatever it is worth, and so added a new skill to my kitty. I supervised an undergraduate student's project. In his last e-mail to me, he called me a great supervisor and potentially an excellent professor in the future. That was probably the best compliment I have ever received, and for that I'm glad! The research output was not stellar, but it did provide some important insight that I will look into. It was a good experience to supervise a student, for once. Aside from that, a decent literature review that should be completed this week and lot of hits and misses (more of the latter) in publishing papers, and an excellent Course Era course to get me into my PhD topic, summed up the semester.

So it wasn't all bad. Yet, it was very hectic. I did a lot this semester, but that came at a very high price. Attending my sister's wedding definitely tipped the scales, and I had to backtrack on two major commitments: getting a driver's license and hitting 75 kg. Those two goals will have to be left for the new year. Hopefully, a better year. 

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