Sunday, August 31, 2014

Four of Four

I look up from my phone. There’s a British man scribbling in chalk at the bottom of the  auditorium, pushing Fourier transforms into our reluctant brains, which are mushy from waking up a mere  ten minutes beforehand. I am utterly bored, for I already have learned to make functions as a product of sines and cosines the year before. My brain turns off. I try to turn it back on. It turns off again. I turn it on. It wanders…

I can’t do this.

The southwest stairwell of the Green Center fills with the echoes of my sandals climbing the ugly stairs. So many times I have climbed those same stairs up. Year One, for freshman Calculus. Year Two, for field theory. Year Three, for everything geophysically imaginable. And now, Year Four. For the end.

The days and nights spent in the Green Center blend together now. So many times I have climbed not knowing when I’d see the light of day again. So many descents after those long hours, with my brain relieved, tired, or both, my eyes tired from squinting at my code, laughing, or both.

These years have been piecewise continuous. Each has its own flavor. The setting is mostly the same, the cast of characters slightly adjusting with time, but the story has only one more chapter left to be written.

Chapter Four of four.

The room on the northwest corner and second floor of the Green Center is frigid.  The geophysics seniors have gathered there for guidance on the capstone of our undergraduate career: senior design. “This course is filled with pitfalls,” our professor and department head begins.

I can’t do this.

But after we walk out of the frigid room, maybe we feel slightly more prepared for the future. Or at least senior design.

Still, the future seems like a cold and scary place, and sometimes I’d much rather stay in my bed than travel towards it. But then the future nudges me, “Hey, it’s time to wake up and get dressed. You should probably read those scientific papers for senior design. And put together a spreadsheet of potential grad school advisors.”

I can’t be a senior. I still sleep in a bunk bed. And to think next year I’ll be a grad student?

My eyes are still blurry as I stare at errors in my code at the Linux Lab. Indices are funny things, my coffee-deprived brain remembers.

Chapter 0 of N. Where N is the number of years I am in grad school and is equal to about five or six. Or possibly more. I don’t know the setting or the cast of characters. But Chapter 0—the searching and application process—has me excited.

Chapter Four of four.

They overlap. One story wraps up, another waits to begin, despite my simultaneous resentment and welcoming of it all. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Pre-Senior Year Paradox

I want to graduate. Right now.

I miss people.
I miss Golden.
I want senior year to start.
I miss my favorite restaurants.
I don't want the summer to end.
I'm excited to think about grad school.
I'm not excited to write grad school apps.
I don't want to think about doing homework.
I can't wait to have more adventures.
I think the future is overwhelming.
I don't want things to change.
I don't want to leave.
I'll miss Golden.
I'll miss people.

I don't want to graduate. Ever.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

How to Find a Grad School #1: Where I DON'T want to go

There are many different factors that one must consider when searching for graduate school to apply to, but when it comes down to it, there are many good schools all across the globe. How to narrow it down? Start crossing entire regions off the list.

I've lived in Colorado my whole life. Colorado is probably the best place in the world, let's just face it. The climate is nearly perfect, although its bipolarness, no tripolarness is annoying. Spoiled in this lovely region, there are some places I cannot bear to live in for two to six years (depending on if I stay for my PhD). Thus began my search.

I hate humidity. And heat. And extreme cold. I don't really want to leave the continent. That left nowhere. But I narrowed it down to this:

So I'm getting somewhere. (Just kidding: I have a list, don't worry, and will probably have a spreadsheet soon). But none of these places are perfect, of course: my short stint in the Northeast thus far is showing me how humid is too humid, and how my hair might be unhappy there. Winters there also suck more than Colorado winters. So my red region might even be shrinking more. But everything is a compromise, right?

Next in How to Find a Grad School, I'll look at schools based on the number of windows in their earth science buildings. You know, the important stuff. 

Note: The posts in this series contain an undisclosed percentage of sarcasm. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Stuff Mines People Say, v3.1: Now with even more Geophysics flavor!

Catastrophic loss of credit!! Donuts. Tests that took up two classes. Skipping Structural to go to Chick-fil-a. Writing "I'm sorry :(" on the front of a test. You know, normal things in the GP lyfe (geophysics life, for those who don't understand) and Mines life.

In the craziness of rushing from the end of the semester, to field camp, then straight to internships, I almost overlooked at how great of a year Junior Year was. I never want to do it again, and thankfully I don't have to, but there were some crazy, dorky, difficult, fun, and all-around good times spent with both new and old friends.

So without further rambling on the nerdiness and hilarity of Mines kids (and professors), here are Junior Year's quotes. These also include some from Field Camp. There aren't many from second semester...I think I was having too much fun, or got Junioritis or something, so I'm sure I missed some gems that I didn't save. (Sophomore and Freshman Year's are linked for nostalgia's sake.)


"I hate boys. I hate Dynamic Fields." ~ Rosie

"I want to get a telescope lens and take pictures of people who are at the top and then run up and meet them with prints." ~ Jayden, on hikers on South Table

"Sometimes I think life would be easier as a MechE." ~ Rima

"Storm's taking a procrastishower real quick." ~ Shane

Cashier at Snarf's: "Do you have your CSM student ID?"
Me: "Not on me, but I do have the emotional scars."

"I call him the gravity whisperer....[whispers] because he talks like this..." ~ Shane, on Rich, our gravity prof.

"If I would've taken this class in 4th grade I would've gotten an A in this class." ~ Shane

Me: "Why are you ramped up?"
Shane: "Because of Field Methods...that class sucks."
Me: "But it's not even Thursday yet..."
Shane: "But it will be...eventually."

"There are two kinds of fedora: real fedora and CompSci fedora." ~ Laine

Rosie: "I bet if you polled the school, the majority of them would say they like hockey."
Shane: "I bet if you polled the school, the majority of them would say they like baseball."
Brandon: "If you polled the school, they would say they watch Pokemon."

"Without me, we wouldn't have made it this far in college. Well, I wouldn't have made it this far without me. True story." ~ Shane

"Anna was almost our 29th electrode." ~ Joey, after Anna almost touched an electrode during a DC survey in GPGN303

"If I got a B in AEM, I would punch myself in the face." ~ Shane

"What happens in the Linux Lab stays in the Linux Lab." ~ Stephen and Colton

"And that is why we are esteemed geophysicists. We are not limited by that thing known as reality." ~ Stephen, on geology

"The great thing about Structural is that it's worth just as much credit hours as Continuum." ~ Bradley, because Structural Geology was easy and Continuum was NOT

"I was actually really productive today. Probably because all my homework was due." ~ Emily

Nik, on the Continuum Mechanics final: "There was a little k, and kappa, and a big K. You can't have three k's in a problem!!"
Jennifer: "Yeah, that's just racist!" 

"What's a Green's Function?" ~ All of us Juniors, all the time

Professor quotes:
"You guys have seen this notation before...probably." ~ Jeff

"Do you know what a SWAG is?" ~ Terry

"That is one crunchy potato chip...You could just let it soak in your mouth a while." ~ Switzer, to a kid eating chips in ProbStats

Student: "On the test, are there points for a picture?" 
Switzer: "No. A picture should be reward in itself."

"Oil is a metamorphic rock derived from the primary rock, dinosaurs." ~ Jeff

"This is basically Maxwell's 5th equation. Don't quote me on that...actually, no one would ever, ever say that." ~ Andrei

"Can anyone tell me what isopach means? Iso...pach..Iso...Iso...Iso...pach...pach [waving hands] Pach... Pachy...Pachyderm.. Iso…pach ...?" ~ Dr. Bob

Random quotes from field camp:
"In the beginning, God created the Laramide orogeny."

"That DC inversion was beautiful."

"And it's not even smoothed yet, just raw beauty." 
"No makeup and still a ten."

"Last one in the vans is a geologist!"

"There are more buttons in this truck than the MT equipment!" ~ Andrei

"Do these trucks automatically downshift? Because mine just did." ~ Andrei, not too long after the buttons quote

"Look! Geology IS useful!" ~ Batz, after propping a door open with a rock

"So where is this water coming from?"

P.S. Yep, I miss you guys. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

First Week in New England

Last Saturday, I hopped on a plane to be the furthest I've ever been from Colorado while living in New England for nine weeks. I'm living in Nashua while working in Westford at the MIT Haystack observatory through a NSF REU (research experience for undergrads). First big difference: green forests everywhere. Second: people drive very fast here. Third: Springtime actually lasts longer than three weeks here, and it's nice. Fourth: I can't walk up a mountain that's a ten minute-jog away anymore. It'll be fun though.

My office building.

Talk about fire hose. My first day was kinda crazy, and I didn't have coffee in the morning. The drive to work is cool, though. It's a half hour commute through the green forest. My mentor gave me a bunch of MATLAB code. And by a bunch, I mean a boatload. I now have a few subprojects: One looking at a storm on Oct 14, one looking at the convection patterns, and one that is supposed to clean up a former REU student's code (which is terribly disorganized and not well-documented...c'mon people--it's CompSci 101) and check if it actually does what it says it does. Yikes. I've gotten to run some MATLAB code, which I had missed dearly, but no writing. Science-wise, I feel like I need to know what's going on.

Today was less overwhelming. I spent the morning researching what I'm doing and getting the jargon cleared up by reading papers. One of the things I'm supposed to understand is the South Atlantic Magnetic Anomaly. This is an area on the east of South America where the magnetic field is much weaker, which poses problems to GPS and spacecraft flying through this area. So that was cool learning about. I also tried to learn about how sudden stratospheric warmings affect the ionosphere, which is the area of the atmosphere I'm studying this summer. After meeting with my mentor in the afternoon, I had a better picture of where I'm going, at least in the short term. I then fought with MATLAB over shading and interpolating the plots I was making and making a movie out of them.

Right before lunch, we were notified about free food in the conference room. There were delicious muffins and coffee (my would-be second cup). The day before, I went to Target and bought some K-cups because the office does not have a regular ole coffee maker, and buying the K-Cups in the vending machine will add up. Still, my coffee habit will cost me $40 this summer, assuming I drink two cups a day only on workdays and manage to get another box of K-Cups on clearance when this box runs out.

I made a movie before 10AM! Great start to the day. The rest of my day consisted of making more movies and freezing frames that were interesting. Then I looked into what scintillation was before looking at the scintillation patterns that corresponded to the interesting time. What is scintillation? It is bad. It messes up GPS stuff with refraction and diffraction.
We have seminars at 4PM some of the days. Today the Radar Equation came back to haunt me, which I kind of learned in Intro to Electromagnetic Methods. 


It was really good programming weather today, as it rained all day. It was nice to drink coffee and code with the drip drop of rain. The only downside is that my hair is super frizzy and poofy. Maybe I should straighten it. 

I spent most of my day looking at one piece of code and making a similar script that gets scintillation data rather than TEC (total electron content) data, and from a different database. At lunch, it felt like I had done nothing, but I got a plot to work by the end of the day. MATLAB isn't visualizing the data how I want to that's the struggle now. 

I'm starting to get into a rhythm now. The days are really running together, and I only have a few hours of free time after work, exercising, and then cooking and eating dinner. The summer is zooming by already. 


I still fought with MATLAB for hours today, trying to overlay some data on some plots. I might need to do it in Python. My mentor is trying to find me the code that does it in Python. 

This morning a scientist from the MIT electrical engineering dept. came by and gave a seminar. I really enjoyed it because a). There were donut holes and coffee b). She was really awesome c). The technology she was talking about was very interesting. Stuff like being able to track people's movements with WiFi. 


This weekend was the first my fellow interns and I ventured into Boston, and was a lot of fun. Yesterday we went to Cambridge and checked out Harvard. The buildings are so old and cool. We went to Harvard's museum of natural history. I ended up in a conversation with one of the people who worked there about Mines and geophysics. Random. One thing that this museum had that Denver's doesn't is gross animals in clear jars including millipedes, eels, and spiders. Boston was pretty cool. We walked along the whole Freedom Trail, past Paul Revere's house and the Old North Church, and leading up to the USS Constitution. Oh, and along the way we ran into this parade in Charlestown that had colonial-era to current era living history people, as well as bagpipes. It was strange to run into, but a pleasant surprise. We then went back by Faneuil Hall and ate a bread bowl of chowder...yum. 

Downtown Boston
I'm really enjoying getting to see different places. I'm sure we'll hit up Boston again, as well as visit the MIT campus. I really want to explore Nashua as well. But it's been a great week!