Tuesday, September 1, 2015

On Being a Mines Girl

This summer, I received an email from an incoming student asking about various things. One of these things was the ratio of female to male students at Mines, otherwise known as "The Ratio". 

Back in my day, (Fall 2011), the incoming freshman class had a 25% representation of women. This Fall, it is up to 31%. Bravo! I can't wait to read what it is in another four years. 

Since becoming a Mines Girl four years ago, I get some questions quite frequently, mostly in passing conversation. When I meet students from other universities, they sometimes have questions on "what it's like going to Mines". I reply that it's academically hard. They reply something like, "No, what's it like being a female at Mines?" I reply that it's academically hard. Wait, what?

But to answer the question, I loved being a member of the Mines community and culture. It's a very unique place, and I can understand that incoming students or friends and family of students may have a few questions. 

Such as...
Is living with The Ratio weird? Sometimes. Sometimes you'll be in a certain class (computer science courses are notorious) and realize you are one of three girls in the room among 30 guys, and it's kind of weird.

Most of the time it's only mildly weird and students will always point out the ratio: like when you go out for froyo with a group of friends and there is nearly half and half women to men, and everybody rejoices. I think that's kind of weird.

I was in a major with 40% girls, and also involved with clubs that are almost always of balanced gender. But even when in social situations where I was the only girl, I didn't really notice it. People are just people to me. But there will always be people who point out the ratio when you forgot it, and it just turns into a overused joke in my opinion. Some girls during their time at Mines feel like they need more interaction with females, so they join a sorority or something. But I never felt this way. 
Is the female population seen as a shortage, or as misplaced uncommon species? Yes and sometimes yes--mostly from a social standpoint. Mines guys, bless their hearts, are never going to be quiet about the Mines ratio and how they can't find a girlfriend. How girls are unicorns or other rare species. Or parking spaces. It gets annoying but everybody learns to deal with it. It also gets annoying when the Mines girls complain and over exaggerate on how desperate Mines guys are and how many offers of marriage they've gotten in the past day (slight hyperbole added). 
Do I ever feel people see me as less likely to be capable because of my gender? No, but yes. This is a pretty big issue in the sciences, but during my time at Mines, I never felt like a victim of sexism or degraded or thought less capable because of my gender. That said, it still happens many places, and sometimes it is more subtle than we realize. For example, a hypothetical professor might assume that his male student writes better code than female students. Or male students might unknowingly take the word of their male colleagues over female colleague's when asking for help on homework or something. Or in another scenario, women might tend to feel intimidated in class discussion or tend to let the guys handle the discussion and end up sabotaging ourselves in a form of imposter syndrome. These are all situations that probably happen often, but again very subtly. They are important to recognize and be aware of so we can all, both female and male, change the culture that is in STEM. 

I remember this one time in class sophomore year, one of my professors spent the entire lecture discussing the Imposter Syndrome with us. Our homework assignment was to write down a list of things we were good at. It was a pretty great day. Moments like these, combined with seminars by campus clubs made us aware and prepared us for potential obstacles for women in STEM. 
Overall, is the ratio an issue? No, it shouldn't be, and in a couple decades it won't be at all. But it still is a part of Mines' culture, for the better or worse.

Unfortunately some Mines guys will complain about how ugly Mines girls are (um sorry, but who has time to comb their hair?? If you look good, I will probably judge you), how mean and terrible they are, and how they use them for homework answers, and on and on. And us Mines girls have had the same complaints about the male population. The cliche's get thrown around until you're sick of hearing them (like "The odds are good, but the goods are odd"). And then you graduate. 

On a different note, the culture at Mines is such that I felt completely safe in Golden, even in the dead of night. Once time I woke up one morning to find a bike seat left in my car--a sort of reverse robbery--but that was about it. 

The bottom line is that in college, you learn to thrive in your environment, and create your own social circle. I'm proud to have been part of the tradition of women at Mines becoming helluva engineers. My fellow Lady Miners have been some of the strongest, hardest-working, most emotionally mature, and most brilliant people I've had the privilege of calling friends. And the same goes for my Mines guy friends who have been pretty awesome too. 

Going to a nerd school was kind of great. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mad Dreams

I woke up the other day from a geology dream where I was excited to bust out my hand lens and identify the grains in a rock. Some people like to call these nightmares or bad dreams, but since I'm a little crazy, I'll call them Mad Dreams: proof that attending Mines has ruined me. This post has taken me four years to write because every time I have a super nerdy dream, I try to write it down here.

I had another science dream last night. I woke up disturbed, not by the dream, but by the fact that I should really just finally publish this post. In my dream, I was at a Geophysics conference with my classmate Emily H. We had a big homework assignment due the next day, though, which consisted of taking partial derivatives of things that were in a three-by-three matrix. The conference was also an amusement park, and all our professors were there.

But let's start with my dreams from the beginning, all the way back from freshman year...

I had a dream that I was in Green Center 215 in Calc II. For some reason we were doing the test in class (tests for this class are done after class). I wrote my name and did one problem. I had to go get something, so I left the room and building and went to go get it. It ended up taking longer than I thought. I think I went to the grocery store to get some milk, and there was this big escalator in Brown Building run by UNC students. They dropped my gallon of milk and it splattered everywhere. I rode down the escalator and began to hurry to make my way back to the classroom, for my one and a half hours to finish the test were almost up. I got there just as it had ended, and my professor started talking about how disappointed she was in some people. I just stared at my empty test...but for some reason, someone else had written a bunch of stuff on it--maybe getting me partial credit, but no doubt they crossed the line of academic dishonesty. I was so sad and angry at myself for making me fail this test. Then I heard my real-life alarm clock ring, and still sleeping, I got excited. "Maybe this was all a dream and when I wake for for real, I'll get a chance to not fail my test!" I woke up. There was no test.

Even before college, I always used to have this dream. The dream that I couldn't find my classes on the first day of school. Before sophomore year, it happened again. I knew I had Introduction to Geophysics at 9, but that's it. I lost my schedule and slept in the first day of school. I was horrified. But there was free pie in the Maple Lobby, so it was okay.
I once dreamed I was a Geophysics and Geology double major. I woke up disturbed.

I was just informed of my score on the Physics free-response question. So that night, I dreamed of the possibilities of what the TAs marked me down on. I dreamed that they didn't like my drawing of a box. In real life, they liked my drawing of a dinosaur.

I had an Econ exam the Wednesday after Thanksgiving Break. So during the break one night a dreamed that it was late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning and I had not studied for the Econ test and was certain to fail. It was horrible. In real life, it was also horrible.

On a Friday night, I had a dream that someone turned in a 19-page article for the Oredigger I had to edit. I thought to myself, "We can't print this", but still edited it. I had a hunch that the writer copied and pasted, or plainly downloaded the pdf from somewhere else. Either that or they were a huge nerd about the topic they were writing about.

The night after my Calc III final, I was still doing Calc in my dreams. There was a Stoke's Theorem problem, and I was finding the curl.

In the early weeks of my first summer internship, I had a dream that I was in a new room for a Geophysics class- my first one, so it must've been AEM- waiting for class to start, when I realized that I never bought new school supplies and had to use loose-leaf paper. Terry was disappointed in me.

The week after the first Dynamic Fields midterm, I dreamed that I got my test back and it had "90" written on the front. I knew I failed this test, so I was quite weirded out that I had scored so high. But upon further inspection, the 9 was actually a 4 because Andre's handwriting is so confusing. So it made more sense to me that I had gotten a 40. In real life, I got a 50.

I had a dream about fracking one night. I could see a 2D cross-section as it was happening.

At field camp, I would dream about being out in the field. Mostly doing mundane things, like walking the line taking magnetic measurements.

After the 2014 AGU Fall Meeting, where I orally presented my research that had to do with geomagnetic storms, I had a dream that I was back at the meeting, but this time had a poster presentation and was explaining my research to some famous scientist lady. I was pretty intimidated. In a sub-dream, I was in a city somewhere, and could see the northern lights.

I dreamed that Colton took over MIT's supercomputer. No big deal.

While I was a grader for Intro GravMag, I had a dream that I was a TA for field camp to help with processing GravMag, so only the second half of field camp. I knew that Michael should have been Field Camp Dictator because his reports were always great in GravMag. So I show up to CTLM and Michael is on the Gravity team. I was very disturbed, thinking that this shouldn't happen. Plus Michael told me the pair of students who were dictator, and that disturbed me even more. I told Michael my dream, and in real life he became Dictator a few months later.

I dreamed that I was looking out the one Green Center window, and a tornado was coming down. Mick was teaching in GC215 (maybe he was heading up a study session?), and announced that there was a fire. So there was a fire and tornado at the same time. Great.

During Spring Break senior year, in the midst of a monstrous assignment, I dreamed that I was working on my Inversion code in MATLAB. It didn't work.

My LAIS teacher didn't like my final presentation in my dream, and made me give another one. On a completely different topic, I think.

It might be a long time before I heal from the emotional damage caused by the process of obtaining a Mines degree. I will likely have similar dreams forever. But for now, I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Last Word, or Mines Quotes Part 4 of 4

This is another "4 of 4" post, which just means that I don't really know what to say. I think I've said it in my posts from previous years (Junior Year, Sophomore Year, and Freshman Year): yes, Mines kids (and profs) say funny things, especially when it is late and we are delirious. Yes, the GP lyfe and Mines life are interesting lives to lead and would make for an interesting sitcom. But I think what I said freshman year really captures when I'm trying to say: That I think you all are awesome and that I know I couldn't have made it out of Mines without my Mines Kids.

Senior year was special, I have to admit. First, people everywhere started asking us questions like:
"How's Senior Design going?"
"Are you excited to graduate?"
"Do you have a job?"
"Do you have every aspect of the next 50 years of your life figured out?"

So thank you, fellow seniors, for sharing in the inside joke that the only logical answer to these and other questions are to look at another senior and start laughing. Or crying. Mostly crying.

Senior year was also special because we knew we didn't have to figure out the little stuff like we did the first few years. By this time, we knew school was hard, but we knew we could make it. Probably. We knew who our classmates were and what our professors might be like. I accepted that I would procrastinate everything and didn't lie to myself otherwise, yet still lamented against myself when everything was due. We realized that there were a lot more important things than homework. And we had our friends and knew who we wanted to spend our last semesters with. Okay, maybe that's not necessarily little stuff. But anyway.

Here are quotes from some of the cast of characters from my senior year, and as you will see, their quotes range on the spectrum of profound wisdom to moments of nerdy laughter. As a sidenote, each set of quote posts since sophomore year has contained at least one Pokemon reference. Never change, Mines.

"I'm a senior. I shouldn't have to go to class." ~ Jake

"I have to go do homework. Well, is Senior Design really considered homework or torture?" ~ Antonia

"It's so boring. I'd rather fail the class than listen to lecture." ~ Eric, on Thermo 209

"It looks like 4 questions, but it's really 40 questions." ~ Rachel, on Jeff homework assignments

"It's a lot cooler to know the Creator of the stuff rather than just the stuff." ~ Michael

"I think free food is a symbol of salvation. Like, we didn't do anything to deserve it. But it's there for the taking." ~ Craig

"The best free food is stolen." ~ Colton

"I wish the library allowed food. And by allowed food, I mean sold food. I don't understand why they don't allow food, because no one reads the books." ~ Rima

"I thought that was a box of donuts but I was so confused because the box said Reservoir Fluid Properties." ~ Amanda, on Ganaa's binder

"Let's put a unit impulse in this jelly bean system." ~ Sean

"I must sleep. It is my time. Farewell. ...That sounds like a suicide note, but you should know that I just ordered an ice cream maker, so I have a lot to live for." ~ Jayden

Colton, looking for a laptop: "I need Windows."
Me: "Story of our lives." (because Green Center has no windows)

"I want to say spiked my interest, but spike makes me think of a Green's function." ~ Elizabeth, on writing to professors for grad school

Krista: "So whether you're getting married, or going to grad school..."
Me: "Yeah, there were two choices. No one wanted to marry me, so I thought, 'Better apply to grad school.'"

"I saw you meeting new people, and I thought, 'I'm glad that's not me meeting new people.'" ~ Andy

"I have a bunch of friends. I see them every day in class." ~ Jake

"Computers aren't your friends. You have to beat the computer into submission." ~ Colton

"He's an abuser. He treats his computers like he treats his coffee." ~ CompScis in Higher Grounds, on one of their professors.

Sean: "Austin, what is geophysics?"
Austin: "Geophysics is when you bang your head against the ground [demonstrates]... and send an impulse through it...and then listen for the echo."

"I miss studying for tests." ~ Rosie, on the torture of Inversion homework

"Huygens..Fermat...meh, I don't know, I'm more of a Maxwell guy." ~ Joseph, on Seismic vs Potential Fields

"We're the three slacketeers!" ~ Rachel

Me: "Why are we so smart?"
"Because we're geophysicists."
Shane: "I think we're just not dumb. There's a difference."

"Guys we're the most attractive department at this school." ~Nik

While studying for Stratigraphy:
Emily: "What does 'coarse with some fine sediments' mean?"
Shane: "Like when a girl tells you she's fine.."
Chloe: "...She's not fine."

Craig: "The arabian peninsula is its own plate..."
Jace: "I was never good with geometry."

"Holy geology, Batman!" ~ Roy

In regards to becoming co-department head of Geophysics:
Tyrel: "When you become an admin or department head, everyone hates you. Even your professors."
Me: "Not Terry!"
Colton: "Terry still teaches. That might be why."
Me: "We can teach. You'll teach Java and I'll teach EPICS."
Colton: "Okay, perfect. You'll teach them MATLAB and I'll teach them (real) programming."

"I've slept so much lately...all that's left for me to become a Snorlax is to grow fur and start blocking people's paths." ~ Antonia, after school was over

Professor quotes:
"I was very forgiving in my grading...it was sunny and I was happy." ~ Andreas

"Keep this handy. It's not in the book, but I thought it was kind of cute." ~ Andreas

"Jeff is the fountain of all knowledge, as we know." ~ Ed

"I will continue to call is aluminium, I'm sorry. It's such a corruption of our language." Ed, on aluminum and English

"This is a Science paper. Which doesn't necessarily mean it's correct. But it's sexy." ~ Ed

"If you guys hate trigonometry, I have bad news for you. I kind of like trigonometry." ~ Paul

"When you start forgetting things, forget this last." ~ Paul, on something I already forgot

"I'll probably use them inconsistently myself." ~ Warren, on geology terms

"Back to my favorite villains, the modelers..." ~ Warren
"There is.. stuff in the solar system." ~ Jeff

"The rich get richer, and the poor form a thin veneer on the rich." ~ Jeff, on the accretionary stage of planetary formation

"You guys are all lithophiles because you're geophysicists." ~ Jeff

"In (Continuum Mechanics class) I told you all that this happened and you believed me like suckers." ~ Jeff

"I don't publish it, and no one else has either, so consider it fiction." ~ Jeff

"Science is like skiing – you have to be willing to fall if you ever hope to do anything great." ~ Jeff

Me: "Who would the bizzaro Jeff be?"
Jeff: "Dave Hale. Haha just kidding."

"I don't know if there's an easy degree program at Mines, but Geophysics definitely isn't it." ~ Dave Hale

"Woody Allen said half of life is showing up. Well, 10% of life is showing up." Dave, on attendance

"The passive voice is not liked by me very much." ~ Roel

"I expect you to write that. Treat me like an imbecile." ~ Prof. Martin

"As long as you keep your wits about you, it will be fine." ~ Prof. Martin

Monday, June 15, 2015

Five Eight Fifteen

Now a grizzled alumna, I can look back over my entire undergrad career and point at things that were awesome and things that were hard and things that I regret. My biggest regret of my four years at this school was straightening my hair the night before May 8, 2015.

The day before graduation was like any other day when one finishes their undergrad degree. You know, cramming for a seismology final in the library a half hour before it starts with a couple classmates. Celebrating with Cheesecake Factory leftovers afterwards while watching Netflix. And ending with dinner with old friends.

Ethan and I talked while Rebecca went to get something. Ethan, who had graduated last May, reminisced with me on the hard times at Mines.

"I'm so glad I don't go to that school any more," he sighed.
"Yeah," I said. Then I remembered I was done, and smiled. "Me too."

Rebecca and I remembered that we would have to wake up early the next day. Ughh. So I went home, straightened my hair, and eventually went to bed.

The countdowns on my phone were freaking out when I woke up at 7:15. Five eight fifteen. The day we had been waiting for. The day that would be a blur.

Rachel asked me when I was getting to campus. "Well I just woke up. So...7:45?" I hung my cords and stuff over my neck, hid my fanny pack under my flappy black gown, put on my wool socks and boots, and headed over. My fanny pack proved to be quite handy, filled with water for dehydrated and hungover friends, chapstick, glasses cleaner, and my phone to take pictures with.

I remember chaos. I remember being herded around like cattle. It was weird and cool seeing the class of 2015 all together in one room. Also overwhelming. I found my GP (geophysics) peeps before walking off to Kafadar to hand my parents my camera and coat. I didn't need my coat anymore because I found some ponchos. I should have grabbed 30--one for each GP kid--but only grabbed a couple.

I remember frantically calling a couple of my friends on the phone while Dawn rounded us up for the GP group pic. I remember handing Austin my extra poncho. I remember someone over the speaker system calling for various names that didn't make it to check-in. I remember trying to find my number on the floor which determined the order in which we walked out. It was very confusing because some of the GP kids were a few rows away. It just so happened I got to stand by Brady, my old friend from freshman year. (Big gulps, huh?)

Finally they herded us outside over the soggy grass down the soggy street. And that's when the Class of 2015's worst hairday started.

There is no other way to describe those three hours than "The Worst". Or maybe "The best of times; the worst of times". A fitting end to our undergraduate journey.

Our major was one of the last to walk in to the fenced-in region on the commons. While waiting, Rich, our GravMag professor, came by to say hi and tease that he shouldn't have never let us graduate while offering his umbrella. If we had failed GravMag, we probably wouldn't have been in that soggy ceremony. Oh well. We went to go sit down in our seats and I tried to get rid of the puddle before the president made us sit down in it.

The rest is blur, but I remember terrible speeches ("blah blah blah horizontal drilling...blah blah blah energy independence" and other non-motivating, non-inspirational buzzwords), soaked hair and fogged up glasses, turning back to look at Rachel whenever something in the ceremony annoyed me, putting my poncho on before the MechEs started to walk, forgetting to change my tassel until Chloe reminded me, the rainwater making a waterfall on the canopy for people to walk under, people losing their graduation hats, said graduation hats becoming flimsy, and wanting the whole ordeal to be over quickly. I barely remember walking across the stage, and remember that we were being rushed and didn't get to shake Terry's hand. I remember Dave Hale proudly smiling us on from the faculty section though, and waving to me right before we walked. When it was the grad students' turn, I remember our GP section cheering for our TAs graduating with master's degrees. And I remember everybody cheering so hard when the very last person had walked across the stage. The best part of the ceremony was when it had ended.

This is where I'm supposed to wax sentimental about how all the best parts of Mines were scattered in those four years and how getting a degree to hang on the wall from Mines is alright, but there were so many other intangible things that we don't get diplomas for that were even more valuable.
But let's save that for another post.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Haiku About My Life

caffeine to wake up
school school school school food school school
yay melatonin