Week 2 Grad School: Time to Reorganize

Week 2 back to school and I still haven’t gotten in the swing of things.  I am starting to feel stressed out, which is miserable, even though I know I shouldn’t be already. I am doing great in my classes so far (week 2 how could I being doing bad). I have already had 7 quizzes in 2 classes and Aced all of them. I have made my first book in my book arts class. Plus I am finally ahead of some things in research.  So what could I be struggling with, check out the list below!

What I am still trying to figure out:
  1. The best way to keep all my stuff organized
  2. Packing for lunch and dinner plus snacks
  3. How to fit in working out while I am at school
  4. How to handle being at school most days from 8am-6pm (9pm on Mondays and Tuesdays).
  5. On top of this I have a goal to submit some internship applications for the spring , turn in abstracts for conferences, and get my graduate school applications done asap.

So in order to get back into school mode, I will be working on each one of these and posting my ideas to fix each problem and then I’ll share how they actually worked out.

For Post 1 on how I need to get back into school mode, lets tackle problem 1. I need to get organized!!!!

How I am going to get organized:
Made a To Do list that stays the screen. Plus keep my planner up-to-date
organized

Keep a ‘Rough’ Version of things that I have to get done on a Legal Pad (Inspiration and Image from The College Prepster)
To-Do Lists Legal Pads

Sort through the and downsize the 6 notebooks/folders I currently have
notebooks

Downsize the amount of extra stuff I carry with me everyday
randomcrap

Finally, I am in the process of looking for a new bookbag to buy. One that is large enough for me to cut out carrying a purse and one that will be useful for holding everything for my long days at school. If you have any recommendations, please leave me a comment!

Things I ♥ – Back to College Edition

So there are always tons of back to school list of what you need when leaving for college. Unfortunately those list are great for the basics but always fail to mention things that are very practical and necessary once you get to college. Now some of these things you may not need if you go to a small school like I did as a undergrad, but are needed when you go to a much larger school or are a commuter. So here is my Things I ♥ – Back to College Edition!

 Get Rain Boots before the start of college. Or you can be like me and suffer through what seemed to be two weeks straight of rain without a pair.

Rainboots. A stylish pair of rainboots will come in handy every rainy day during college ( which is alot up here in the mountains for me)

Rain boots. A stylish pair of rain boots will come in handy every rainy day during college ( which is alot up here in the mountains for me).

Check out this list of stylish rain boots for college.Add a umbrella to your must have for going to college. The bubble types help keep you dryer then some of the other ones. Which is always a plus when you want to stay looking your best, even on rainy days!

A Backpack… Now even though most girls (including myself) prefer a tote, a backpack will save yourself when you have super long days and have to carry around a laptop, books, and notebooks. My advice get a stylish one that will hold all of your stuff and has some support ( That made me sound like a old lady). Here are some options.

(L-R) Top: Both from Call It Spring. Bottom:  The North Face and JanSprot

(L-R) Top: Both from Call It Spring.
Bottom: The North Face and JanSport

Are you seeing a theme with things you need. Rain is something that most people didn’t have to deal with in high school to get to classes, which is probably why you don’t come as prepared for it in college. This cute and easy pull over rain jacket is the perfect addition for your wardrobe and will keep you dry!

raincoat

Last on my list is reliable drinkware to help you get through your 8am Calculus classes with some coffee or to get rehydrated after a late Thursday night with some water. Plus these are also great for any type of drink you may have on your days off in college !

drinkware

Hope this list helps with items you may have not thought of or items that you are going to add to your back to shopping college list! Enjoy and hope that August starts off a amazing school year for everyone!

-Caitlyn

 

Graduate School Life (First Year)

So this post will reflect some of the things I have figured out during my first year as a graduate chemistry student at WCU. Some of them to me I feel dumb for not knowing and some of them I wish I would have figured out earlier! Overall my first year (and first half of Summer 2013) has been filled with awesome memories, interesting classes and even more amazing people!  So here it goes!

  • Life as a teacher (of labs) is not as exciting as I would have thought. Sure I enjoyed teaching the Chem 139 lab , both semesters, but at times I did not look forward to it ( mainly when final grades were due). I never imagined a student complaining about a final grade of a 98.4 and I never thought I would have a student try to skip out midway through lab! I did think that teaching these labs would inspire more people to want to study chemistry, but I was also wrong, they were just very glad to be done with it FOREVER!
  • Figuring out my research was not as easy !!!! It took me about 3 weeks after hearing all the professors research talks to finally decide on who I wanted to work with. Then after talking with him (and the other students who knew more about him) I thought about jumping ship and going into a topic that was something that I didn’t feel passionate about. I am glad that I didn’t, I stuck with the original professor that I wanted to work with ( even with his warning and the others).
  • Life could have been easier if I would have just went straight to working. This is something that I had considered before coming to WCU, just get a job, work and begin to pay off school loans. This was an idea in my head simply because of a amazing internship and company that I worked for during a summer. I thought apply there, get a job, and work ( that is if I got a job). But in the end I know that I LOVE school and I really wanted to be able to figure out my area in chemistry!
  • Follow what you think will interest you, no matter how off-the-wall   it may sound. As you have gathered I am hopefully going into the field of Art Conservation or Historic Preservation ( mainly material identification) after this and chemistry  is a amazing tool set to have in these fields. I want to study/ live in amazing places and be able to explore, so these fields fit perfectly. These areas are also something that I am interested in because it isn’t the typical (organic, medical, nano, bio) chemistry that is generally though of, it is truly something different ( or atleast in my mind it is ).
  • Last but not least, enjoy your time here. There are classes, labs and research that needs to be done, but if all you do is that then life gets dull. The first semester I had slightly enjoyed my time here, but was still in the I am new here phase. The spring semester was drastically different! I went out with some other students, took ceramics ( I was horrible at it) and also began to make sure that every week had some “fun” time in it. I really learned how to better balance classes, teaching, failing research, studying, and going out time. Graduate school is different then undergrad, you have less classes and more responsibilities, but it is still college!

Overall, I love being a graduate student (which is why I will be hopefully going to another program after this) . It has allowed me to develop my research skills, my chemistry knowledge, and find a field that I am passionate about. So if you are ever thinking about grad school, I say go for it and don’t think twice about it!

 

How you feel in grad school!

How you feel in grad school!

Science Is Hard, So Avoid It?

Note: This is not in any way meant to offend people from other areas, it is simply a vent for me!

Well this being a blog that includes all the randomness from the scattered life of myself, I find it OK to share my opinion on why studying chemistry(science/math in general) is important. This post is coming from the possibility of WCU cutting the Master’s program during the program prioritization this year. Tomorrow is the day when we find out, graduate program or no graduate program. The good news is that I am grandfathered in so I am safe and will be able to graduate from a possibly extinct program. So here it goes….

I recently stumbled upon an article stating that people have the intentions to come into college and major in science and math until they realize that the classes are hard. As someone who had the same thoughts as the students in this study, I thought about going into an easier” major. In the end my GPA wasn’t amazing, but I stuck it out and got my B.S. in Chemistry.

So what happens  in these ‘hard’ classes(majors) that is so bad that you change your major/life plan? Well with any major there are exams, readings, homework, and labs/projects; but with science is it harder to succeed with all of this? In my opinion, it can be. You have to learn to study and not just the night before a test ( which can be done in many other classes). You also have to learn to actually learn(as dumb as this sounds it’s true). In some of my ‘general’ courses that are required to broaden my education, I felt that it was a huge waste of time and that anything I needed to learn for a test/quiz could be done the hour before the class. Most of the time, I at least got a B (about 40% of the time a A) and  if I did bad, the professor usually had a curve or a dropped assignment in place to ‘help’ bad grades. To top it off in the ‘easier’ classes/majors , about 60% of the time the professor allowed some outside help on the assignments (in the form of your text-book and/or notes), so this just made the class even more of a ‘wait to the test to figure it out’ kind-of class. But what I found in my science classes is that your grade really reflected what you knew or didn’t know. Yes, there was still a dropped test in most of the classes, but curves were never heard of (at least in my first 3 years, pchem is a little bit different). The grade that you received on you assignment truly reflected your knowledge of the subject, because on these test you had to apply what you had been learning and you had to think! After my first two years in college, I figured out how to study and retain the information into my long-term knowledge.

Now on to the possibility of getting rid of the graduate program here at WCU. The main reasons that have been discussed is out low graduation rate. This simply means that in a 2 year time period, there are not enough Master’s students graduating. Now my goal is to be done in 2 years, but I can see how it could take longer. Science isn’t a fast subject! It is slow, time-consuming, and at times disappointing. This is now almost the year mark of me being here and all I have gotten done (that is useful) is 8 pigments spectrums for the library I am making and a 75% complete prospectus! Yep, that is it. It isn’t alot but does that mean I don’t work enough, in my opinion and my advisor, I work plenty. Last night I was in the Raman lab till 10pm ( I got here at 9:30am). So why is this all I have gotten done? I first had to come up with my own research projects, learn how to use an expensive (aprx $400,000) instrument ( and pray that I don’t mess it up), fix the messed up instrument ( up to 7 times now) and figure out the best way to make the measurements I am doing. That may not seem like a lot, but it is ( or at least to me it is). Now if a ‘prioritization committee’ or person is ever questioning why there are not enough people finishing, I would be more than happy to let them spend a week with me and see how slow doing research is!

In the end if they get rid of the slow working grad students in the chemistry program, I just see it hurting the school. Not only is science about discovering new things, it is also about inspiring more students to get into this ‘hard’ major. We all teach undergraduate labs (3 each and 10-ish grad students total) and that will be alot of faculty to hire to cover all we do ( and we work for much less!). So to WCU , I certainly hope you keep this program, because we made it through the ‘hard’ major and now we are here to do bigger and better things, and the school is part of that.

So till tomorrow, the Decision Day for the graduate program.

-Caitlyn

Link to ” A Major in Science? Initial Beliefs and Final Outcomes for College Major and Dropout”  Paper that was mentioned

And to anyone looking into a ‘hard’ major go for it!

And also this was not in any way meant to offend people from other areas, it is simply a vent for me!

Finding the Right Graduate Program…

So when I started my search for a Chemistry Graduate Program, I had no idea what to do. Now I am again on the search for a graduate program, this time in Art Conservation or Historic Preservation!  So this being my second time around  I feel drastically more prepared and wish that I would have known all of this stuff  the first time. So here is a list of some helpful hints for searching/finding a graduate program!

  1. Start early!!! I wish that I would have done this the first time, because before you can believe it’s deadline season! This means that you need to finish up all you personal statements,online applications, CV/Resume,  somehow get you professors to submit your recommendation letters, and submit your GRE scores  and transcripts. This all takes tons of time and effort, so the earlier you start the better.
  2. When you think you have found a program that interest you ( hopefully over the summer or early fall) email the advisor and/or  professor in the area that interests you. Why do this? Well I have had a few occasions where I think a program sounds amazing and that it would fit what I want to do, but then I never heard back from them after my email to them about the program. Now this may be harsh, but I know now that any program that doesn’t have time to email me back is a program that I wouldn’t apply to. My reasoning for this is that I want to go to a program that will care/help/ give advice to me along the way and if they don’t have time to email a prospective student back then how will it be if I go there.
  3. If you have a chance go to a conference during the Fall (right before applications are due) , make sure and go to it. For me this was the Regional ACS in Richmond, VA (Oct 2011). During the conference they had a graduate fair there with tons of schools  with information, students, and professors that were more than willing to answer your questions about their program. When your done talking to them (if the program sounds promising) make sure to get a business card with the professors email address, then make sure to email them within a few days of the conference ending. This will get your name remembered by one of the professors at the school there and could possibly improve how your application looks when applying to that school. Why is this? You were at a conference (always good because this means you probably had a poster presentation or a talk), you are now a person and not just a application, and lastly you showed that you were interested in the program !
  4. My final suggestion is before sending out your applications and spending all of your money, try and visit the school if you live close by. I plan on doing this over my Fall break and venturing 4ish hours to visit a school that I am interested in. This to me is always the best way to really get a feel if you would like it there and is also a way to talk with students about how it is in the program. For me this is also a time to talk to professors about my interests ( I want to stay in the lab doing research) and a way for professors to see if you would fit in the program. This is a great final step to do if you think that you have found a program and are planning on applying!

Now with all this advice, start your search now for your program and have good luck with applications!!!

Hope this helped!!

-Caitlyn

Why Chemistry?

I have asked myself this question many times over the last 5ish years of college ( and so have others). So here is how my college career went….

Freshman Year

Came in as a pre-pharmacy major, along with 200 other students at Wingate University, thinking that if I could make it through pharmacy there would be a nice pay check at the end. Had 2 chemistry classes, 2 calculus classes (at 8am EVERYDAY!) , intro into biology and the other courses outside of my major area. Didn’t do very well my freshman year, it was a hard adjustment for me considering high school was very easy for me, which lead me to realize that Pharmacy school wasn’t going to happen! So change of major I was undecided!!!

Sophomore Year

This year to me can be summed up with one dreadful topic, Organic Chemistry! This was a class that seemed to crush quite a lot of dreams for pharmacy school, but for me it was just on the track for what I needed for a Chemistry degree (still have a undecided major though).  Throughout this year I spent countless hours at “the boys apartment” studying till well past midnight for Organic and cramming even later at my apartment with my roomie Danielle. I must give a shout out to the boys though, there were 8 in the apartment, with 3 boys now on their P4 year ( and so is Dani!!!) and one who is a graduate student in Biology at UGA. So needless to say half of this apartment was dealing with the same stress as I was (I didn’t have the pharmacy school applications and GPA requirements though). Studying with the boys, mainly two (Chris and Papa Bear Jeremy) really got me through this year. The boys were even my lab partners in Physics 1&2 and Organic. It was a sad day though when all of them were into the Pharmacy program at Wingate because I knew they wouldn’t be in my classes for the next 2 years.  Well at the end of this year my advisor ( who must have hated dreaded dealing with me changing my major ) put that I was officially a chemistry major.

Junior Year

This year is when things started to turn around, minus the next two sentences. I came into this year switching my major again, this time to a chemistry business degree. I took 2 business classes that fall ( Accounting and Management)  and quickly went back to just Chemistry! This year is probably when I got hooked on the idea of really trying to do something with chemistry, all because of research and the classes! This year I took 2 Analytical courses ( learning about different instrumentation ), a Hazardous Materials ( we set things on fire, set off explosions,etc.) and Inorganic Chemistry.  All of these being upper-level chemistry courses meant that there was a lot more “real” chemistry involved. “Real” chemistry to me is doing things that involve more than reading a lab manual like a recipe book. I also worked on a basic research project that involved using GC and some GC-MS to try and identify components of two similar aromatherapy oils ( easy and basic, but was a way to start researching). I then went on to getting a summer internship at Goulston Technologies R&D Department (Monroe, NC) working on research involving textiles. This internship gave me the experience to see how it is working in a  R&D department and using chemistry in a real-world scenario.

pchem

Senior Year

This was my favorite year , if I can disregard  the having to think of the what to do after graduation.  I went out more, had a lot more fun and still did better in classes. I attempted to improve my Organic Chemistry grades by retaking both classes ( not much improvement in the end) and had the capstone course of any undergraduate chemistry degree, Physical Chemisty. A favorite bumper sticker that was at the ACS regional that year in Richmond, VA explains exactly how I felt after passing it!  In the end I did more research ( 4 posters and a possible publications worth), finally found a direction/major, and had to start thinking about graduate programs.

In the end I would say that I eliminated other options of majors and that left me with Chemistry, unless I wanted to spend another 3 years to restart completely. I wouldn’t have thought that at the end of my 4 years at Wingate, I would be graduating with my B.S. in Chemistry, but that’s what happened. To be honest I know that it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the professors that guided me in the right direction (Dr. Hall , Dr. Dahm, Dr. Voegtle (now Clontz)) and for some amazing chemistry/pharmacy friends that made hours of work much more enjoyable.. Chemistry simply  became the best option at first, then turned into something that I enjoy studying, a topic that I could see myself in for the future, a possible career path, and something that challenged me on the daily basis.