Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Let the Classes Begin!

Today was the first official day of class. I woke up at 6:30 today so I could get an early start. I cleaned up, got my supplies, and headed to breakfast with Brian, Abheek (today I learned that his last name is Basu), and Fred. We also walked down with one of our other floormates, Richard Dong. We skipped the small-talk though and just discussed what we liked about Penn so far. One of our other floormates, Onur Soybir, joined us midway through breakfast. I met him last night and we got to know each other better today. Our group of six ate a quick breakfast and then returned to the quad so we could be escorted to class.

Thankfully the walk to class is fairly easy to remember. Once we leave the quad, all we have to do is make a left and keep heading down a straight road until we reach the end of the “home area”, which is the area that summer students are confined to. Once we reach that border, we just make another left and eventually we reach the David Rittenhouse Labs. This is where all of our classes will convene, starting at 9:00 every weekday morning. Our group entered the building together and we were introduced to our professor by the RC’s. Bill Burner is our professor and I can already tell I am going to enjoy his class. Bill has been teaching physics, at both the high school level and college level, for over forty years. Every day, Bill lectures us on the topic of the day for about an hour to an hour and a half and then we will break up into our lab groups to perform experiments based on the lecture. Following these experiments is lunch. We take a break for an hour and then come back. I believe that we will normally have another lecture followed by another lab, or we will have a guest lecturer. I am still a little fuzzy on how the class operates on a day-to-day basis though because we were not given any kind of syllabus. However, I’m pretty sure I’ll catch on quickly because Bill seems like the kind of professor that would prefer a class to be easily understood.

Today I performed two experiments. We were put into groups of four. My groupmates are Sarah Hale, Greg Dadourian, and Ana Carolina-Miranda. I wasn’t able to get to know them very well because we had to work quickly, but I’m sure we will come to know each other well soon enough. Our first experiment involved mechanics, which basically consists of movement. We only dealt with time, distance, velocity, and acceleration today. We were not testing what made these principles work, but we were told to observe them in action using a motion sensor and computer graphing. We would have to move a certain distance in a certain amount of time according to the plot of the graph or the instructions we were given on how to make the graph. It was not as simple as it sounds. The distance that we were confined to was only three meters and we had to do most of these experiments within ten seconds. We had to use precision and accuracy to perform the tasks that we were given and it was quite a challenge, much to everyone’s surprise. The second set of labs involved lenses and light (optics, as Bill called this section). We had to do a series of experiments involving refraction of light, distances between real images and virtual images, and focus magnified images through a lens onto a screen. I had never done optics in my previous physics class, so this was all new territory for me. Nonetheless, it was fascinating and fun. Our class concluded with the optics experiment at 4:00.

We returned to the dorms and unloaded our things for the day. After class, we are basically free to do whatever we want to do. We can hang out with friends, do assignments, play sports, etc. Thankfully, the only homework my class is going to have consists of answering surveys and questions about the day’s lab online. This will give me time to explore the Penn campus, Philadelphia, go on day trips, and participate in any of the other exciting activities the staff has planned. There is never a dull moment here at Penn, and I plan to take advantage of as many opportunities as I can.

The evening was very calm, but still enjoyable. We took a campus tour after some icebreakers and we learned where exactly our boundaries are on campus. Following that, we hung out in groups for the rest of the night. I met a few more people including Julia’s roommate, Noor, and a friend of Fred’s and Abheek’s from their biomed class, Alison Liu. We had a lot of fun just getting to know each other and we even found a rec room on the fourth floor. We played music, shot some pool, and even played some board games. Like I said, there is never a dull moment at Penn.

It is only my second day and I already love it here. My class is exciting, the people are friendly, and the sense of community that you can find here at Penn all make for a really positive experience. I hope to have many more days like today.

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