Free at Last! 4 Things I learned from the most difficult course I’ve ever done in my life

Ah…. There’s nothing like the relief found in finally finishing* a difficult masters course after months of academic turmoil. This semester’s Nanoelectronics was a nine-credit behemoth of a course that had me making the commute to school on an almost daily basis. Like clockwork, taking the T-Bana to school at 8 every morning became such an ingrained habit that I ended up slinging the ol’ backpack over my shoulder and coming to school only to find that the lecture had been cancelled more times that I’d care to admit.

Think: “Live, Die, Repeat” ‘with less bad-ass exoskeletons and more clueless headscratching.

A super-powered exoskeleton and all the time in the world with Emily Blunt? I’d switch any day.

This course was everything I envisioned a course this technical would be like, and then some. On the very first day, our instructor gave us a word of forewarning- “This is not an easy course.” And easy it wasn’t- The very first lecture began with him saying: “As I’m sure you’re all familiar with, from the Schrodinger wave equation…” It was then and there that I realized that playtime was over, this was grown up school.

I went from a rudimentary knowledge of what quantum mechanics was and how it worked, to actually modeling useful devices with it. Sure, it was grueling and I came close to throwing in the towel countless times, but here I am at the end of it all, not just satisfied that it’s finally over, but happy that it happened in the first place.

There was lots of tweaking and fine-tuning to my study methodologies to be able to pass. Do or die wasn’t enough anymore- I needed to hot-rod that noggin of mine. Here’re four things I learned along the way:

  1.  Slow and steady: Attempting to cram this subject would’ve been the epitome of futile. Many of the topics were so advanced as to seem completely overwhelming at first. Chipping away at them, bit by bit, day by day is ultimately what got them to stick.
  2. Mistakes are good: A sentiment that my perfectionist self had difficulty adapting to at first. But each mistake was a lesson learned and a concept solidified.
  3. Your weakest link: Learning to conclusively identify what your weak points are is a formidable skill when you’re constantly hitting  walls with a difficult subject. Tricky concepts were like Gordian knots- solving them had everything else come unraveled.
  4. Less is more: Adapting a quality over quantity approach to knowledge acquisition was another bold new step for me. Spaced repetition, mnemonics and quantified causal learning went from pedagogical concepts that I was enamored with to lifelines that I couldn’t progress without.

Throughout the course, there was lots of this:

Some of this:

And even a bit of this:

-But all’s well that ends well!

*It isn’t over just yet- 9 credits means there’re still seminars to give and reports to hand in to pass! Fighto!


Written by Mohamed

17 Mar 2015