We're a little crazy, about science!

The homework rush

Not the most exciting of topics, especially after yesterdays news that I’m giving a presentation at the BRAIN conference, but my homework is due tomorrow. This will be the first time this term that I haven’t finished it early. Normally I will have turned it in days in advance to get it off my plate, but there’s so much going on that I’m not even certain that I will have the chance to finish it. What do I do in that situation? Well keep calm and carry on… I’m not British, but I think that’s how the phrase goes.

Statistics is one of those black arts that we use a lot in neuroengineering, but ironically enough there’s no formal requirement that I take classes on statistics. I have nothing in my degree plan for example that even mentions needing a statistics course, but it’s something that’s incredibly fundamental to the work we do. It’s kind of surprising when you think about it, it’s like going to medical school and not having to learn biology. Or going into art school, but never learning about the different types of paint brushes. I wasn’t going to go blindly into the field without having an understanding of how this stuff works, so here we are, in the last month or so of my statistics class (actually if I do the math it’s like 3 weeks, where does the time go!?).

I’ve probably mentioned it in the past, but I’m too lazy to check (fine, twist my arm why don’t you!). This class is brutal. It’s not just the subject matter, it’s the workload for the course. We have a three part project, worth 40% of our grade and each piece of that project alone is a huge undertaking. I’ve spent weeks getting everything done for it and while I’ve managed to do all the work, it’s incredibly overwhelming. The instructor has already extended the deadlines for both parts of the project because students haven’t been able to finish it in time, the last deadline can’t be extended since it’s the last week of the course, so I don’t know how that is going to work.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s also weekly after class (literally right after the three hour course) mini-assignments we have to do. Those aren’t too bad even though it adds another 30-60 minutes to the class time, ugh! But we also have homework assignments and those are incredibly long and complex. Over the course of the class we have five homework assignments and assignment four is due tomorrow. It was only five questions, but most of them are multiple parts and very detailed. I’ve spent basically every waking free moment (within reason of course) working on the assignment and I’m only on question four now. In total I’ve sunk about 16 hours into this assignment, if not more, and I’m barely over half way done.

The worst part is the third portion of the project and homework five are due the same time. I honestly don’t know what’s going on anymore with this class. I have never taken a class with this much work to do, even as an undergrad and those are the courses you usually get more homework in. I don’t recall a Master’s or PhD level course I’ve taken that even really had homework in the traditional sense, we usually do the project thing. My state space modeling course for example had a few projects we did over the course of the class, but no homework or exams and the workload for that course was on the extremely high end for a course as it was.

All that to say, it’s a little late to change my mind about the course. So far I’m doing well, with most of the stuff we’ve turned in graded. I’ve turned in the second portion to the project and have not even started the third yet since the homework and my main-PI have been taking up all my time. I don’t want to fumble here at the end since I’m so close to the finish for this course, but it’s definitely not looking to get any easier.

I don’t think I have to worry about my grade for the course, I’m pretty sure if I walked away from it now I would still pass, but that’s not the point. The point was to learn some statistics and how to apply them. I think we’ve done that and there are still several lectures left that will give me the chance to learn more. Overall my opinion of this class has been mixed. On one hand I appreciate everything we’re learning. On the other hand I feel like a more appropriate title for the course would’ve been Rstudio for statistical analysis or something like that. Especially since the focus has been primarily on the software and not understanding the methods we’re applying.


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