Friday, August 21, 2009

Math pwnage, math fail

So I might have mentioned before that all of us incoming oceanography grad students had to take a math exam last week. Students who did not perform satisfactorily on this exam have to take a math course this semester. Considering that I hadn't taken a math class in over four years, I was concerned about whether I could remember how to take derivatives, much less solve differential equations (which, as I had to explain to my mother, is very different--and a lot harder--than taking derivatives of functions). But I studied the practice exam, and even though the actual exam was twice as long and three times trickier, I still passed! My advisor said I even passed with "flying colors"! I think more than half of us incoming students didn't pass the exam, so this was no small achievement. I spent all weekend feeling pretty good about myself and my math background.

This week, that all dissipated. To make a long story short, I discovered that three of the five courses I was considering as possibilities for this semester had listed as prerequisites math classes that covered topics beyond any math I have ever studied. I talked to the professors of these three courses, and two of them basically told me I just wasn't good enough for them, and the third... Well, students who had taken the course assured me I would probably be fine in the class, and I didn't want to risk being rejected, so I just sent the professor an email asking for permission to take the course and was very vague about my math background, and he gave me the authorization to sign up. Being intentionally vague is not the same as being dishonest, is it? And if he had said I couldn't take that course, I would have had to fill the spot with something much less relevant to my research.

Anyway, it's really not such a big deal, because I was planning on taking three courses this semester, and I was able to sign up for three courses I need to take. The two courses I can't take I will do next fall after taking an advanced math course in the spring. It's just that those two courses I can't take will be important to my research, and completing at least one of them in my first year would have been a great advantage. And it's knocked my confidence down a notch. Last weekend I was feeling so confident about my math skills, and now I feel like I'm totally behind. Bummer.

My courses this fall:
Physical Oceanography
Geological Oceanography
Marine Hydrodynamics

After two years of work, it feels weird to say that I will be taking classes again. But there it is. Three classes, starting Monday.

1 comment:

Sebastian said...

Classes... for a PhD?

Or is the first year learning, and the last three research?

I thought the Masters covered the 4th year of learning and the last three for PhD were always research?

Or were they just too interesting to pass up? :)