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Scholar Highlights for Week Ending May 4, 2012

May 7, 2012

Kamille:

“Well since I have returned from my travel excursions around Europe. I have put my nose into the books to start mission Finals Aced. I was fortunate to only have to finals and two projects due for all of my classes. To me its less stress with only two finals to sit for than four finals for all of my classes. I have a month to prepare for each final. Right now for my study schedule I am spending 3 hours for each class totaling up to 12 hours a day on studying. I really want to get an A out of all my classes. It will be a dramatic boost for my GPA.  I want my transcript to reflect the hard work that I have put in while studying abroad as a Chemistry major while doing research. Since Spelman is a liberal arts college, it has allowed me to branch into other disciplines. I was able to take classes that were fun and let me think differently. In thinking differently I mean I was not thinking as a scientist but honing my skills as a historian or artist or musician. I was just looking at styles of education and careers.

As for research my time is winding down so I am working on the same experiment as before. My supervisor and I was able to synthesize the complete functional monomer that was made in the background research that created the hypothesis for the project. Since we started with a small amount of materials we were able to synthesize a small amount of the monomer.”

Shekiaya:

“My paper is finished! I am very excited to be able to say this, but I am also aware that my work isn’t officially over until the 1st of June. I began working on the paper much later than I planned, so I did not have as much time as I would have liked to work on it. Looking back, though, this could have been remedied quite easily. A typical day working on this project included mostly looking up things on the Internet, reading through textbooks, and going over discussion topics from meetings with my mentor. I do not partner with other students for the project, so all of this is done independently. Considering this, there were many things I could have done to “ease the pain” of the writing process; things I could have done to complete the paper with a significant amount of time left for further instruction. Hindsight is always 20/20, so I am not very moved by how things have happened. Still, one thing I could have done for sure is fully utilize “step 4” of my “modified version” of the scientific process.

The accepted definition of the “scientific process” or “scientific method” does not quite describe the process for my project. Generally, the steps for the “scientific process” include gathering data, making a hypothesis, making a prediction, and waiting/searching for corroboration of the prediction (and repeating if hypothesis is incorrect). I think the steps that describe my experience are more like the following:

  1. Research: Search the internet for sources related to the topic which will aid in understanding
  2. Use Experience: After gathering information, relate it to other areas of math you are familiar with to make connections, i.e. consider the problem in the context of your experience.
  3. Ask Questions: Ask questions (to mentor and/or to self) regarding the information you found and it’s relevance to any previous info gleaned from research or mentor
  4. Record: Write down original questions and answers, and any insight gleaned from steps 1-3

The fourth step is probably the most important due to its relevance for producing a paper on the topic at hand. I found that when it came down to putting everything together in an organized way, the amount of information to be explained was somewhat overwhelming. It became difficult to organize things in a way that would be most sufficient. Overall, I didn’t perform these 4 steps as religiously as I would have liked. There were many days between steps, as opposed to 1 or 2 days. This process is one I would greatly encourage other students to make sure they adhere to on a daily basis, even if it seems redundant. In math, there’s always something you thought you knew very well, and later realize you could have developed a much more holistic understanding if steps were taken each day.

I have truly learned a great deal from this project. Though it was grueling, and at times unbearable with all other work I had to complete, it has added much value to my experience as an undergrad math student. There is an independent-study option at Spelman which will most likely be a substitute for the module I have taken here at Queen Mary, but I really do feel that a much smaller version of this course should be available to students in their first or second year as a math major. We are not always as focused as we should be when we enter Spelman’s gates and I think something of this nature forces responsibility in a way that helps the student decide whether or not they are serious about mathematics.”

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