I have a bad attitude today. Dear readers, aren't you happy I've chosen to vent to you?
Classes started this week. This time a year ago I was taking what I thought to be my last two classes. No more homework, exams, projects. All research all the time. With the NSF fellowhsip I am required to take four additional classes, two for two semesters. I've been cranky about it, but I haven't really expressed my crankiness because I know it will be received with, "Yeah, but you're making way more money than the rest of us. Suck it up." They have a point. And I should see it as "free education" since my tuition is waivered on top of it.
The classes are supposed to be not very difficult because they are mainly to promote an interdisciplanry way of thinking. I'm supposed to come out of them knowing how to speak with engineers, biologists, chemists, doctors, etc. You may be thinking, "You're all scientists, you all speak the same language, namely 'geek'!" You'd be amazed at how different dealing with these people can be. Even talking to physicists that have a different focus than I can be difficult. We are much past the age of the great physicists where you can contribute to quantum mechanics and relativity in the same lifetime.
However, the next generation of technology will have to incorporate all the natural sciences. Drug therapy researchers are turning to the nanotechnology researchers for more efficient, localized treatments and engineers are building sensors which use complimentary DNA strands to encode information. Society will reap the benefits of scientists using the best of all worlds to make better products. This sounds marvelous! But in practice it's terribly frustrating.
My first class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is called Chemical/Biological Sensors and Micofabrication. It is taught by the engineering department. I think it will ultimately be interesting if I can get over all the acronyms- MEMS, LOC, GMS*- I need a key just to keep all this straight. Plus it doesn't help that the teaching assisstant gave a lecture yesterday in wish he singled me out saying, "You're a physicist, right? Tell us what a Schottky barrier is." That simply won't do.
My class today was a nightmare. It meets Fridays, 9-12 which I'm afraid is just going to ruin all anticipation of Fridays in general. It is a class from the business department called Strategic Market Assessment for New Technologies. Cool, right? I have no f-ing clue what this means!! I sat through this course for three hours this morning and I have no more idea now than I did at 8:55 a.m. what the class is about, why I am taking it or what I'm even supposed to be doing. It is mostly business students so I was the only one not dressed in a suit (knit shirt, jeans and sandals, thank you). I thought I would look like a complete idiot raising my hand to ask, "What, exactly is strategic market assessment?" I know I'm supposed to put together by semester's end some sort of portfolio in which I assess something. I think. Most of today was spent listening to people from local businesses describe their products which I can't discuss because I had to sign a scary confidentiality agreement.
The only thing that makes these classes remotely tolerable is the fact that my grades in them won't matter. In October I will be doing my Ph.D. candidacy in which I gather together my committee and give them an oral presentation of my completed research and my proposed research for the rest of my time here. They look at that along with my Master's thesis, my grades and my publications and then sign off on whether or not I should be granted my Ph.D. under the condition I finish the research I propose. Luckily, the sheet of paper will be signed months before grades are due for this semester.
*MicroElectroMechnical Systems, Lab-On-a-Chip, Generic Microfluidic System