College

We found 278 articles

How to be productive while wasting time
One thing that I didn’t really realize until I got into the middle of college is that concentrating is actually a really difficult and daunting task. Sure, when you’re in high school, you have much more frequent deadlines, and you may not necessarily have the luxury of NOT concentrating (even if you are a procrastinator). But coming into college, ...
Selecting quotes for deeper literary analysis
As academic writers, we are often told that quotes are important because we need them as evidence. What we are often not told is that a truly well-selected quote should operate not just as support for your argument but as an essential springboard for analysis.
Demystifying the cross product
The cross product is ubiquitous throughout linear algebra and vector calculus. It plays a major role in transformations of coordinate systems and is intimately related to the determinant. In fact, its definition in linear algebra courses is often given in terms of the determinant, which can seem mysterious and arbitrary. In this post, I want to ...
How to read a scientific paper for beginners
As a chemist, I’d say one of the most humbling parts of my job is reading scientific literature. Science writing is difficult to comprehend in its own right, and (even as someone who does science daily) I find the writing in academic papers can be unnecessarily confusing at times. That being said, I still dive into the weeds of a new paper about ...
Managing test anxiety
Studying and internalizing knowledge can be in a challenge in and of itself. Optimizing your study habits, seeking extra resources from your teacher, working with a tutor when needed, and more can help with this aspect of learning. But what about when you’ve got that part down - you’re following a study plan, doing well on practice questions - ...
Computational runtime: the concept silently constraining our lives
You may be surprised to hear that I declare computational runtime to be the silent constraint on our lives (compared to, say, money or conventional understandings of time). But much of the technology on which our modern world is built relies heavily on concepts of runtime.
How to ace STEM cumulative final exams
There’s always at least one course in a semester in which, after 12 weeks of learning new material every lecture, your grade is dependent on your understanding of the whole of the class’s information in the dreaded cumulative final exam.
My unconventional hack for understanding research papers
Reading peer-reviewed papers is an essential part of any kind of research, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. I’m often fairly lost on my first read-through of a physics paper; I might get the gist of the research and maybe even understand a graph or two, but it’s safe to bet that I skimmed over all of the included equations and most of the ...
Finance 101: deconstructing the time value of money, annuities, and perpetuities
Welcome to Finance 101! Today we'll cover the time value of money, annuities, and perpetuities.
The (un)real power of axiomatic mathematics
A postdoctoral fellow once laughingly told me, “Every mathematician needs to construct the real numbers at least once.” For most people in science and engineering, the existence of the real numbers is obvious. And that is a good thing; mathematics should describe things as they are or must be, not as we would like to see them. For the ...
Tips for informational interviews
Whether you're shopping around for graduate programs, making career decisions, or just learning more about something that interests you, informational interviews are a useful tool for gathering information and making connections that will enrich your professional network. So many of the opportunities that have been influential in my academic ...
What is structural biology (and why should you care)?
Within all of our cells, we have millions of proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, and carbohydrates serving various biological functions. Many of these molecules have structure which play key roles in understanding how the mechanisms of those biological functions work. Scientists who study structural biology seek to determine the structure of these ...
Breaking down the brachial plexus
These three words are enough to strike fear into the heart of even the most intrepid anatomy, pre-clinical, or clinical student. There’s so many nerves, some in front and some behind, some looping around – it’s easy to get tripped up trying to make sense of this complex structure.
Understanding omitted-variable bias
One of the most important equations in econometrics – and in economics in general – is the equation for omitted-variable bias. This simple equation is a powerful tool for reasoning about the ways in which correlations we see in the data may differ from the causal relationships we care about. In this post, we'll begin by learning exactly what the ...
Inheritance and polymorphism
Picture this - you’re at a car dealership and you’re eager to purchase your first car. You settle on a brand new Honda Civic, and your representative asks: sedan or hatchback?
Building a bibliography from scratch
You have your paper topic, maybe you even have a thesis statement ready to go. But before you can charge into the depths of the writing process, you’ve got put together your bibliography. In some cases, this part seems easy: you’re already familiar with the scholars who work on the topic; your instructor has given you a list of sources; or you are ...
What is a determinant?
This is a blog post about understanding linear maps and a special number associated to them called the determinant. A linear map f from Rn (n-dimensional Euclidian space) to Rm (m-dimensional Euclidian space) is any map which satisfies the following properties:
Hedging: a trick to making your arguments more persuasive
I’ve taught expository writing in the Ivy League for several years now, and one of the most common problems I see is student papers that overstate their argument. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to fix this issue—a trick that makes pretty much all argumentative claims much more convincing.
Hacking the unit circle
The unit circle is a handy tool that can help students learn the trigonometric values, sine, cosine, and tangent, of certain angles (30°, 45°, and their multiples) that the math “Powers-That-Be” have determined to be important. Unfortunately, for a lot of students, the unit circle can feel like tedious rote memorization with unfamiliar numbers ...
To biologists – why we should love math
The mention of mathematics often evokes mixed emotions among biologists. While some embrace it as a powerful tool, most merely view it as a black box for their collaborators to navigate for them or as intimidating and unrelated to their study. However, as a Biology PhD student, I firmly believe that math is not scary and an essential and ...
Three lessons I learned as a first-generation, low-income student at Harvard
My four years at Harvard were some of the most confidence-ravaging yet vibrant years of my life so far. I took a lot of physics classes, but the greatest lessons I've learned all happened outside the classroom. Here are some of the key takeaways I had at Harvard as a first-generation, low-income student.
Intermolecular forces: a basic, ground-up approach
Intermolecular forces (IMFs) are “electrostatic” interactions between molecules – a result of all the charges floating around and interacting in the system. IMFs influence the properties of substances that we can observe and interact with – for example, the phase of the substance or its boiling point.
Approaching Shakespeare
The first Shakespearean play that I had to read in school was A Midsummer Night’s Dream; I was in eighth grade. I found the kooky language insurmountable, and, truthfully, thought the plays were pretty boring. These challenges continued year after year, as we moved on to Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, and more. In short, I hated ...
How to build a bridge using Truss Analysis
Truss Analysis was the first engineering concept I learned at Cornell. It involves the Balance of Force and Moments, and can be quite confusing at first. I will break it down into a couple of steps that you can apply to every Truss you see!
From engineer to MBA
I've made it a point to live a life that satisfies my aspirations and dreams. I adopted the idea of chasing my "Personal Legend," which is my actual purpose and passion in life, after being moved by my parents' sacrifices.
Five tips for managing public speaking anxiety
Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is among the most feared things in the world—right up there with acrophobia (fear of heights) and arachnophobia (fear of spiders). But unlike a sheer cliff or a venomous spider, public speaking can’t kill you. But that doesn’t mean public speaking is any less terrifying, and building the confidence ...
Studying physics like it’s biology? There’s another way.
In my experience as an instructor and teaching assistant at the University of Washington, I have worked with many students who are biology or chemistry majors desperately trying to stay afloat in introductory physics. They describe the experience as a painful one and feel their hard work does not pay off. If you feel similarly, the good news is ...
Productive study tips
I always like to start off my study sessions with a bit of music. Especially if I know I need to focus up later, starting off in a light, comfortable mood helps to take the pressure off a bit.
Evolution is mostly random
Competition in nature is relentless. Predation, famine, disease, and disaster all threaten to prevent individuals from reproducing. In this competitive environment, mutations that make survival more likely are more likely to appear in future generations, and mutations that make survival less likely probably won’t stick around in the population for ...
How to prepare for data structures and algorithms interviews
When preparing for data structures and algorithms interviews, it’s crucial to put in time reviewing concepts and solving practice interview problems. However, it’s almost equally important to practice the structure of the live interview itself. Here are some tips for communicating and organizing your thought process as you’re being interviewed.
How to figure out the kind of mentor you need
Everyone has their favorite season! Some people adore summer because of the good weather, time off from school, and fun vacations with friends and family. While autumn is my favorite season, I believe the summer is a great time for a person to check in on their needs, goals, and progress. Especially at the halfway point of the year, it’s a good ...
Demystifying the path to mastering science learning
Looking back after almost thirty years of using science to build new technologies and companies, I realize that learning science in college could have been much more efficient and enjoyable for me. I spent almost all my time focused on details of how to do the coursework (to balance an equation, to get the right answer, to figure out what was ...
What fiction teaches us about writing application essays
While writing fiction and writing application essays may seem, at first, like two fundamentally different skills, the two have more in common than you’d think. Both are, in essence, a story: one of growth and transformation. As such, narrative strategies from fiction are essential in writing a personal statement that stands apart from the pack and ...
The writer’s palette: color-coding as a revision strategy
Revision is an essential part of the writing process, but it can feel daunting. You’ve toiled over ideas, finally gotten words onto the page, and now you need to revise. This step can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re pressed for time or tired of looking at the same draft.
An introduction to potential energy
Potential energy can be easy to understand, tricky to define, and confusing to use. Here, we not only define potential energy, but explain what it means, why physicists use it, how physicists calculate it, and examine why potential energy is only associated with certain types of forces.
How to self-study mathematics
Mathematics is a topic that is notoriously difficult to learn on one’s own. Sadly, this often causes people to think they’re not “math people” or that learning mathematics perhaps isn’t for them. In the contrary, I think that learning math is something that is accessible to everyone, but requires a different approach from reading a novel, or ...
A brief introduction to the infinite
Set theory is the branch of mathematics that studies the infinite. The discipline was founded by Georg Cantor in the late 1800s. Cantor is responsible for many of the notions we discuss here. A set, according to Cantor, is a collection of definite, distinguishable objects conceived as a whole. A set consists of its elements. There is exactly one ...
How to balance good grades and a social life as an undergrad
When I was a senior in undergrad, the number one question I got asked by first year and prospective students was: how do I get good grades while also enjoying my time at school? Is it even possible?
My freshman year checklist
Ah, the first year of college. It’s a time many of us look back on with nostalgia, a time to which we crave to return. But in the moment? It’s terrifying!
Motivating matrices: why do we care about linear maps?
If you’re reading this, you probably already know what a matrix is. But just to be clear, a matrix is a rectangular array of numbers. Here is an example:
functions(): the silent heroes of programming
Are you ever nostalgic of the days of long division? Or annoyed that a tape measure makes determining the dimensions of a new couch so simple?
Tips for effective note-taking in college
The beginning of the school year is an exciting and slightly overwhelming time during college. Start off your science classes right with these tips for effective note-taking and studying techniques!
Relativity: from Galileo to Einstein
Imagine sitting in a car and pressing the gas. You can tell you're moving since you feel the car's acceleration and see things moving around you. Once you're traveling at a constant velocity, you no longer feel the acceleration but see the outside world moving around you.
5 tips for managing writing anxiety
Some writing anxiety is inevitable and even useful. But if your anxiety is keeping you from producing your best work, try the strategies below to improve your writing process.
Perfecting the interview: how to master behavioral and traditional questions
In today's competitive job market, it's crucial to be well-prepared for all types of interview questions. In this blog post, I'll break down the main types of questions, as well as how to answer them thoughtfully and thoroughly.
What’s going on with electric vehicles?
There are very few among us who haven’t seen or heard of electric vehicles (EVs). When thinking of EVs, what comes to mind might range from wishing for a stylish Tesla to wondering how anyone could put up with so little range and charging infrastructure. However, it’s tough to have an academically informed opinion when so much information comes ...
Generating a scholarly argument in the humanities
Many if not most humanities papers, essays, and articles require that you make a scholarly intervention into an academic conversation. The nature of this intervention varies: if you are doing advanced research, it will be expected that you have read other criticism on the text(s) or object(s) under consideration and respond to a body of criticism ...
Centrifugal force explained
Fictitious forces such as the centrifugal force are fake forces – they don’t really exist! However, fictitious forces are helpful when working in non-inertial reference frames (a fancy term for reference frames that are accelerating, like when we use the rotating Earth as a reference frame). In these frames, F = ma doesn’t hold, and you’ll need to ...
The Taylor Series
If you’ve taken a high school physics class, you probably started by learning about position, velocity, and acceleration, ubiquitous concepts in physics that are also well-motivated by our daily life experiences. But soon after that, the course probably moved on to less familiar concepts, such as energy and simple harmonic oscillation modeled by ...
Tips for crafting art portfolios for Art & Design schools
It’s been a little over ten years now since I applied for design school, and in the time since, I’ve gone from student to teacher in my own right. As a lecturer at the Rhode Island School of Design, I’ve learned firsthand how effective a portfolio can be for your creativity, skills, and unique perspective. More so than your application essays, art ...
Attempting to become a theoretical physicist: initial steps
If you've clicked on this blog, you must be captivated by the beauty of relativity, quantum mechanics, dark matter, or black holes. Now, you're eager to delve deeper into these subjects. Maybe this moment just happened recently or a few years ago. Regardless, you want to get paid to study nature and attempt to describe it using mathematics. As I ...
Escape velocity
Escape velocity is the speed an object needs to escape the gravitational influence of another object. Here, we explain escape velocity, derive the right equation, and discuss what this equation does (and doesn’t tell us) about how objects actually move in space. For example, how fast would you have to throw a tennis ball for it to fly off into ...
How to map the Milky Way with tiny hydrogen atoms
All you’ll need for this project is a computer that can run Python, 30 hours of free time, and an 18-foot aperture parabolic antenna.
How to think like a mathematician
Behind every mathematician is a beautiful mind: one that has been forged through years of critical thinking. Their minds are molded by countless failed attempts at solving problems and refined by the exposure to remarkable ideas explored along a lifetime of learning. How can we train our minds to see the world more like mathematicians do? The map ...
A guide to organic chemistry mechanisms
The dreaded weed-out class. A pre-med’s worst nightmare. Students often approach organic chemistry with apprehension, and a particularly sore spot in the class is mechanisms. Arrows, electrons, charges, and structures all drawn out like a map. Now, make that 10 maps – or 20! What’s a pre-med to do?
Why you should use original historical sources for your English papers
One thing I wish I had learned as an undergraduate (who geeked out on medieval lit) was how to find and read facsimiles of original manuscripts. The Internet is a treasure trove of public works, with classic, canonical, and contemporary literature available in html or as PDFs. This is awesome. It meant I could teach a survey course of British ...
The value of seeing: why everyone should make art
“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.” (John Berger, Ways of Seeing)
How to revise your writing in 3 easy steps
So, you’ve finished the first draft of an essay, paper, short story, or personal statement! You’ve done the first hardest part: sitting down and putting pen to paper. But writing, like any other creative pursuit, is “10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” In other words, the first draft is just a start. Revising is where the real work happens.
How to ask a professor if you can conduct research in their lab
You might learn during your classes that your professor's research is quite fascinating. So, naturally, you want to be a part of it! Here are some tips toe help you clinch that research opportunity.
How to find the mentor of your dreams
Are you a pre-med student feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn? You may consider finding a mentor to help you on your journey. Having a mentor can be an invaluable tool to help you stay motivated, gain advice, and support your success.
How to get the most out of your questions
Even at the doctorate level, many students struggle with phrasing questions in a clear way that will result in thorough and informative responses from others. This can leave the student feeling discouraged and unsatisfied with their effort to speak up, leading to a decreased willingness to ask questions in the future. Here are three key aspects to ...
Does reading poetry make you feel grumpy? Lean into it.
Poetry can try the patience of even the most willing of readers. John Milton’s extended similes mysteriously belabor seemingly arbitrary comparisons; T.S. Eliot’s famously infuriating footnotes obscure more than they reveal; and Lyn Hejinian’s non-sequitur-fueled “sonnets” boggle the mind, refusing sense and logic at every turn. If you’ve ever ...
The hydrophobic effect, explained
If we had to pick one go-to answer to explain as many things as possible in biochemistry, it would probably be “the hydrophobic effect.” It’s responsible for protein structure and function, cell membrane organization, and the distribution of drugs and metabolites. It’s often an important consideration in drug design. But what is it, and how does ...
An introduction to action potentials
Have you ever wondered how our brains work? Our every thought, every emotion, and every movement are generated by our brain through a vast network of cells called neurons. Neurons make connections and talk to each other through electrical signals called action potentials.
Five design tips for a presentation your audience will remember
Whether for class, a project proposal, or a lab meeting, you’ll probably need to make a slide deck at some point in your career. To make it stand out and stick with your listeners, here are some psychology- and research-based design tricks that you can easily add to any presentation, technical or otherwise.
Solving constrained optimization problems using Lagrange multipliers
Among the most important topics covered in any college-level microeconomics course is that of how to solve constrained optimization problems, which involve maximizing or minimizing the value of some objective function – such as a utility or cost function – subject to one or more constraints – such as a budget or production target. Although these ...
Tips for picking your college course schedule
Picking your course schedule in college might seem daunting. Chances are, your college offers hundreds of classes each term, and you have all sorts of major requirements and general education requirements to satisfy. Picking a course schedule involves answering questions like: Which classes will help you learn the most? Which classes fit best in ...
How to use the ideal gas law
While you might not think about it very often, gases are everywhere around us, from the air you breathe to the natural gas you might use to heat your home. To use gases safely and effectively, chemists use the ideal gas law to understand how much gas is in containers and pipes.
The next-generation of DNA sequencing: understanding modern genomics technologies
On October 21st, 2004, the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium published a near-complete draft of the human genome, a 100 million dollar initiative to understand the genetics of our species. By 2022, the cost to sequence the human genome neared $1000. This drastic price reduction has led to new advancements in understanding cellular ...
How algorithms changed my perspective on biology
When I first started studying biology, I thought the discipline was mostly about memorizing facts and figures about different organisms and their characteristics. In high school, I was more interested in physics and chemistry, which seemed to involve learning general principles and laws that could be applied to many problems. In other words, I ...
4 reasons why to-do lists improve your daily life
If you tend to forget things, miss deadlines often, feel overwhelmed by tasks, or have generalized stress or anxiety, to-do lists are the solution for you.
4 tips for better papers
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of dread that settles in the pit of your stomach when you sit down in front of yet another blank Google Doc with a paper due at midnight. You might even tell yourself you’re not getting the grades you want because you’re just not good at writing.
A math puzzle (for fun!)
I'm going to introduce you to my favorite math puzzle. It's a doozy, and I hope you'll find it as intriguing as I do. And maybe a bit more intuitive than I did when I first encountered it.
How to ace intro to physics (using McDonald's)
“One Oreo McFlurry, please.” I hand the cashier my card, take the receipt, and then wait. “Pull up to Window 3, sir, to get your order.” Stretching out in front of me are four windows in a series, one after the other, after the other. But I can't get to the third window without waiting for the car at window two to finish. The system is inane. ...
The top five places to study in London
Maybe you’re in the Big Smoke for your semester abroad, or perhaps you just need to grind for a few hours between sightseeing on a family vacation. In either case, I’ve got you covered. Finding a study spot in London is harder than you’d imagine, especially if you’re doing work in the evening. Unlike most big cities in the US, coffee shops in the ...
How can I connect my work to a larger audience? 
You may have the best proposal to present to a Principal Investigator at a T1 research institution. You may have drafted a fascinating schematic imagining a new building for an architecture program. Your work is solid but you need to connect with others outside of your narrow field to show how your proposal engages a wider audience. What can you ...
Electric potentials, fields, and forces
You started your electricity and magnetism course and now all you hear about are potentials, potential energies, fields, and forces. It’s overwhelming. The purpose of this post is to help you understand each of these quantities and how they are related.
I’m failing chemistry—does that mean I shouldn’t be a doctor?
Ask almost any premedical student about chemistry, and you’ll get the same set of reactions. If they haven’t finished the chemistry prerequisites, it's a gulp and a look of fear. For those who have completed chemistry and are still premed, it's a sigh of relief: the hardest part is over! And for those who are currently struggling in chemistry ...
Orgo 1 tips: organizing the acid-base basics
Acid-base chemistry is a fundamental unit in orgo that provides a platform for many of the other reactions you’ll learn about throughout the semester. Not only that, it’ll follow you to many other classes (like biochem and inorganic chem). If you’re still puzzling over what acids and bases even are, let’s take a minute to get everything straight. ...
Breaking into research: a guide for undergraduates and high schoolers
Research is the crucible of scientific innovation. But to many young undergraduate students and high schoolers, participating in this space can seem daunting, untenable, or even impractical. However, if you keep reading, I hope to demystify getting involved in research as a budding scientist and convince you that working towards a publication and ...
How to be a good mentee
If you’ve ever attempted to find a research mentor, you know how daunting it can be. Without existing research mentors who can vouch for your work ethic, breaking into the research world can be challenging. So, once you’ve found a research mentor, it can be even more overwhelming to think about how to develop that relationship. Whether you’re in ...
An economics survival guide
For those who are not naturally math inclined, the first exposure to economics can be daunting. With a little extra work, those of us with a math aversion can grow fond of the subject. I employed some of the following strategies to get the most out of my economics courses and share them with the hope that they will help you too.
How to generate ideas for a literary essay
Students are expected to think and write with greater sophistication, specificity, and self-direction as they get older. This can be a stumbling block for writers used to receiving topics from instructors. One day, instead of a general prompt, you’re handed an unfamiliar novel and asked to determine your own line of research and argument. It’s ...
How do chess engines work? An intro to AI.
Before we consider how computers play chess, let’s talk about how humans do it.
How to tackle 10 tough admissions interview questions
Applying to college or graduate school? Interviews will likely be part of the application process! Although interviews can be nerve-wracking, they are a great chance for you to show your personality and give the admissions committee a sense of who you are as a person – in real life, not just on paper! Read on for tips for tackling 10 tough ...
Making the most of office hours
We’ve all been there. You’re standing in an empty hallway, nervously tapping your foot, waiting for your professor to finish meeting with the student before you. You can’t help but listen in, and, gosh, does that other student seem like they have their act together. It seems like everyone you know goes to their professors’ office hours to wax ...
The magic of induction
What is the sum of the first n positive integers? Phrased mathematically: 1 + 2 + 3 … + n -1 + n = ?. The answer, it turns out, is n * (n + 1) / 2. How do we show this is true though? How do we prove this?
An introduction to resonance
Arguably one of the most important topics you will learn in your organic chemistry course, resonance is something that seems like it makes absolutely no sense upon first glance. What does it mean, why should I care about it, and how do I use this information to supplement my understanding of organic chemistry at large? All great questions!
Writing advice: know your audience!
Writing, in all forms it takes, can be very scary. This is because writing is hard! If you’re anything like me, you may also worry about what others will think of your writing. It’s inevitable that some people won’t like or agree with what you say, but what you can do is make sure that your writing is as foolproof as possible. You’ve probably ...
Medical Physics: a little known career path
Whenever I tell people what I’m studying in grad school, they seem pleased for a moment, but it doesn’t take long for them to look totally perplexed. It’s as if I told them I study gopher economies.
How to start writing about a piece of art
One of the things that makes art history such an interesting analytical discipline is that it examines both the anthropological and creative value of an artwork. Artworks are historical objects that can give us insight into the culture of a particular place and time. Yet artworks also transcend their time and place through their creativity, ...
Quantum Mechanics in 5 minutes
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard the word “quantum” before. It’s a real buzzword: “quantum computing,” “quantum gravity,” “quantum information,” “quantum entanglement”. But what is quantum mechanics, really? My goal in this post is to give you intuition for what quantum mechanics is, where you can find it in real life, and why it’s so ...
Perfecting the internship process from start to finish
Internships for undergraduates help build professional skills, marketability, and experiences for resumes. During an internship, you might learn what you do or don’t want to do after you graduate, and start to understanding how “the real world” works by gaining experience in a professional work environment. Most importantly, companies will look at ...
Why learn to write? 
In school, we devote time and energy to learning many different skills, in many different subject areas. Some of these skills may feel more relevant than others. A student who dreams of becoming an artist may bemoan the hours spent calculating derivatives in Algebra, while a future chemist might wonder why she should bother with Social Studies’ ...
How to participate in class without saying a word
Does your grading rubric include a category like “classroom participation”? In my experience, when students learn they are being graded on their participation, their first reaction is to participate more: more frequently, more vigorously, more visibly. They raise their hand as often as possible, even before they’ve had time to really think through ...
Decoding and comprehension: the two components of learning how to read
Reading is a fundamental mode of communication and therefore a prerequisite of active participation in today’s world. There are two components to reading: decoding and comprehension. Decoding refers to understanding the relationship between letters and sounds, otherwise known as phonics; comprehension refers to a student’s ability to make sense of ...
The physics behind hybrid vehicles
The advantage in fuel economy that comes from driving a hybrid-electric car instead of a non-hybrid has not one major contributing factor, but three. Even if you don’t drive a plug-in hybrid, these innovations drastically improve the vehicle’s efficiency using clever applications of physics and optimization.
How to navigate a computer science major
Computer science is a major with some of the most varied outcomes for their students. Computer science majors will go on to be professors, software engineers, hardware engineers, machine learning engineers and data scientists. A good computer science program will provide introductory coursework that offers glimpses into each of these various ...
The three pillars of time management
The broad scope of ‘time management’ essentially boils down to three aspects: priorities, organization, and commitment. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when creating your schedule, especially as you enter a new school year. Maybe you’re trying to juggle what feels like a million activities as you’re applying to college or wondering how you are ...
Breaking down glycolytic regulation
You can stare at or redraw the pathway for glycolysis to memorize it, but obtaining a deeper understanding of cellular and tissue metabolism requires an understanding of the regulatory mechanisms governing glycolysis. Below you can find a figure of the steps for glycolysis as a reference as we discuss the regulation.
Steps for solving organic chemistry synthesis problems
The time has come. You are past the introductory chapters of your organic chemistry class and now must dive into one of the hard parts: synthesis problems. These types of questions can be intimidating at first because they rely on your knowledge of a variety of reactions and can be like little puzzles. However, there is no need to be scared. By ...
6 steps to ace any technical interview
Technical interviews can be very overwhelming. Where do you start when you are given 45 minutes to solve a coding problem? How do you organize a plan when you don’t even know what the question is asking? But, whether over Zoom, on a whiteboard, or through an online portal, if you follow these six steps on each practice problem you do, you will be ...
Tips for persuasive personal writing
Personal essays pop up across admissions processes, from high school admissions all the way through graduate admissions. They often feature open-ended prompts or encourage you to dig deep into your core values and beliefs. This is a daunting task - so where do you start?
How to turn around a bad semester
For most of us, entering a new environment or learning a new topic can really shake up our usual routines. Maybe your high school study habits just aren’t working for college courses, or your AP class is way more intense than expected. You might find yourself treading water to keep afloat while fighting the ever-growing burden of a large workload ...
How do I know if I want to be a doctor (MD) or a doctor (PhD)?
Contrary to what I knew in high school, a person who loves biology does not have to become a physician. That is why I began undergrad as a bright-eyed pre-med student, convinced I would be a pediatric neurologist. Spoiler alert: I did not pursue medicine. I didn’t even stick with neuroscience. I am now a PhD student in a microbiology laboratory. ...
How to construct a literary thesis statement
Before dive in, here are a few things that will hopefully make the whole process of writing a thesis a bit less stressful. First of all, it’s important to remember that your thesis will change throughout the writing process and that’s perfectly fine (even good!). Second, your thesis doesn’t have to be just one sentence; two, or even three, ...
Clarifying summary, analysis, and synthesis
Many writing assignments in college, especially in the liberal arts, will require elements of both analysis and synthesis. Understanding the differences as well as the complementary relationship between these two moves will help you write stronger essays.
Three tips for writing a persuasive essay
At some point in your academic career, you’ll likely have to write an essay where you argue for or against a specific point of view. This may be for a standardized test or for a class you’re taking, and it’s important to always follow the directions that are specific to that assignment. Still, I’m going to offer some advice about writing ...
Capacitor confusion: basic pointers to salvage your sanity 
You have recently started to learn about electrical circuits, and even though the occasional, particularly tricky circuit still proves challenging to solve, you feel like you “get” what batteries and resistors are and are starting to grasp fundamental concepts such as voltage and current. Forever dedicated to your torture, your physics teacher ...
How to become a successful software engineer
The realm of software continues to evolve, as does the architecture within education to become a software engineer. While some experts come from various university programs in Computer Science, others break into the industry through boot camps or self-guided study programs. Unfortunately, not every program can cover every base, and as the field ...
How to prove the Pythagorean Theorem
The Pythagorean Theorem plays an essential role in many facets of math from Euclidean Geometry to complex numbers to trigonometry. Today we’ll explore one of its many proofs.
What are the soundness and completeness theorems in logic all about?
If you’re interested in logic, you’ve probably heard of the soundness and completeness theorems. They’re the first major results proved in a logic class. Their proofs can get messy and technical, especially the proof of completeness. What the theorems are really supposed to tell us and why it’s interesting often gets lost in all that technicality. ...
Go from surviving to thriving during exam prep
There’s no question that preparing for standardized exams can take a toll on our emotional and physical well-being if we are not intentional about our approach. To reach your highest potential on a standardized exam, you must take your wellness schedule as seriously as your exam prep schedule. But what should you focus on? The following 5 pillars ...
Simple linear regression: what you need to know for data science
Given the recent rise of big data, there continues to be growing interest in the field of data science. One of the most basic, yet most useful tools for a data scientist is the linear regression model. Let's walk through the basics behind simple linear regression—a statistical model used to study the relationship between two variables.
The value in understanding algorithms from a theoretical perspective
Computer science majors across many universities often dread their introduction to algorithms course, especially if it is proof-based. It can feel out of place compared to the rest of their classes that focus more on learning standard coding practices, the fundamentals of how computers work, or just generally courses that seem to directly prepare ...
Demystifying operating systems
I have tutored a great number of students in undergraduate operating systems. Personally, I enjoy the topic. My dissertation is in the field of distributed systems. Distributed systems is an academic offspring of operating systems research where partial failures are expected and allowed. The operating systems course is almost universally taught ...
How to land your dream internship
Internships help college students gain experience and try out different fields before graduation. You can think of internships as a 10-12 week job interview with a company. Many companies look to hire a certain percentage of their internship class back as full time employees. But not all internships are created equal, so use the following tips to ...
How to solve (almost) any math problem
Math is all about problems -- questions for which you don’t currently know the answer -- and problems can be really frustrating. That feeling of being stuck, for me, goes from a scattered confusion to a mind-numbing blankness. It’s really easy to shut down and give up, so the first step to solving any math problem is to persist! Don’t let the ...
Units: the hints hidden in every physics and engineering problem
In many science and engineering classes, units can be seen as an additional step that needs to be taken into consideration when completing a problem. In some problems on the Fundamental Engineering exam, mismatched units are intentionally used in an attempt to confuse students and measure their understanding of key concepts. Nonetheless, units ...
How to be a prodigy (in two very difficult steps)
You’ve probably heard of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. From an early age, he was known as a child genius. Before the age of ten he could play multiple instruments, had composed many musical pieces, and had a little gift known as perfect pitch. Perfect pitch is the ability to hear a musical pitch and be able to name it, on the spot. It’s incredibly ...
3 tips on how to find your first research mentor
Are you an undergraduate or high school student looking for your first research mentor? Doing research is an incredible experience that teaches you to look at the world in a different way, work together in teams, plan out tasks for hours, days, weeks and even months in advance but, most of all, research teaches you patience. That last lesson ...
3 tips for more effective studying
Whether in high school, college, or graduate school, studying is an important skill. Most students do not have an abundance of free time, and even if we occasionally do, we’d probably rather spend it with friends or pursuing personal passions rather than trying to re-learn or re-study material we didn’t quite absorb the first time around. So how ...
How to study for Chinese dictation quizzes
听写 (dictations) have been used to evaluate how much effort students put into learning Chinese. Dictation often tests vocabulary memorization. How do you study/prepare for 听写 effectively? Do you spend hours of writing characters? Have you experienced cramming with flashcards, only found that you forget everything on the day of the quiz?
How to ask good questions during information sessions
So you’ve signed up for an information session – now what? One of the only times applicants can make an impression with admissions counselors in these sessions is during the Q&A. It can be challenging to figure out just what you should ask. What will make a good impression? A bad impression? In that light, here are a few tips to help prepare ...
An introduction to phrase structure rules and word order typology
Fluent speakers of any language will have intuitions on what word order sounds "natural" or "correct", but languages differ in what order they put words in. Linguists (specifically syntacticians) are interested in figuring out what ways languages can differ in how they organize sentences, as well as how they are similar. In this blogpost I will ...
Be a STAR: strategy for college interviews, job interviews, and more
Talking about ourselves can be hard, especially in a high-pressure situation, like a college interview. The STAR method is a strategy that will help you knock the interview out of the park!
Understanding the central limit theorem
The central limit theorem (CLT for short) is an enormously powerful tool that makes much of what we do in statistics possible. But if you just read the actual definition, which you can find below, it’s pretty hard to understand why this theorem is so important. This blog post will help you understand both what the CLT is and why it is important ...
Einstein’s proof of E = mc^2
In this post, we’re going to prove the most famous formula in all of science, E = mc^2! We’ll do this using a simplified version of Einstein’s original 1905 proof. In this post I will assume that you are familiar with special relativity and Lorentz transformations.
The dreaded “P” word
What’s the most dreaded letter that could appear on a transcript? I’ll wager that it’s not a “B,” or, gulp, a “C”, but a “P” as in “plagiarist.” In fact, if Hester Prynne were a 21st century student, instead of the protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 19th century novel The Scarlet Letter, she’d probably be less concerned about having the letter ...
Suitcases and schedule scrapes: “packing” more punch into limited study time
In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell lays out criterion that in some ways has become the anecdotal darling of pop-academic culture. You’ve likely heard of it: the 10,000-hour rule. Mastery, Gladwell purports, is a matter of numbers. Put 10,000 hours of focused practice, and you can achieve mastery of a complex set of skills. Imagine the ...
Succeeding as a STEM major
So you’ve decided to major in STEM. Congrats! If you haven’t already, you’re probably going to hear all about how there are certain courses that are absolutely horrible in your major, whether they’re meant as weed-outs, taught by, well, let’s call them distant professors, or just plain hard. This post is meant to give you a few tips for how to ...
Good writers start as good readers
Writing is a conversation. Whether you anticipate your audience to be a friend, a panel of scientists, a room full of legislators, the owner of a pizza shop, the divine universe, or oneself, to write is to put forth one’s wish to be heard. By extension, to read is to be in the position of the listener. Just as we learn to speak and to express ...
Why medical students should care about the history of medicine
It’s undeniable that medicine and science have transformed our world. From novel therapeutics that combat various diseases, new technologies that allow us to better understand how our bodies function, to transformative surgical interventions. Yet, often, since we know that medicine and science “work”, we fail to interrogate and challenge the ...
Where ideas come from
A lot of people who sit down to write a story are worried they don’t have any ideas. They think people who do have ideas are very special, or different in some way to people who don’t. It’s for this reason that authors are so often asked where they get their ideas from. The people asking think that the author will reveal the magical secret of ...
How to tell the difference between mitosis and meiosis
If you’ve ever taken a biology class, you’ve most likely come across the concept of the cell cycle. Put simply, the cell cycle is the growth of cells, the replication of DNA, and the subsequent division of DNA, organelles, and cytoplasm that creates new cells. For eukaryotes, cell division is an essential part of both growth and reproduction. ...
Why you should join a writing circle
Whether you’re pitching a concept over email to your boss, working on a personal statement for an application, or scribbling in a personal journal, you write on a daily basis. Often, the quality of your writing is key; it can be the make-or-break factor between your stories or thoughts being compelling and understandable. Students and peers ask me ...
Can you “hear” the Fourier Series on a guitar?
As a musician, I had always wondered why different instruments sound dis tinct from one another, despite being in-tune and playing the same note. Why is it so easy to distinguish someone singing a C major scale versus someone playing the same scale on the piano? Timbre, tone color, or tone quality of a sound are those characteristics separate from ...
Looking for life on Titan with NASA Dragonfly
Hi everyone! It's your friendly neighborhood astrophysicist here to tell you a little bit about my work with the NASA Dragonfly Mission.
How to write an effective transfer application essay
After completing a semester or more at one university, you’ve decided to apply elsewhere as a transfer student. Maybe you earned an associate’s degree at a community college, and now you’re ready for more. Or maybe the university you chose for your freshman year didn’t live up to your expectations. Regardless of your motivations, you’ll probably ...
How to study when you need a study break
There is a viral video of a little boy pretending to scoop the information from a book in front of him and place it in his head. Believe me, there were many instances where I wished this feat was possible. However, after taking the countless tests in school and standardized tests for the past 17 + years, I've realized that studying doesn’t always ...
Pseudocode: a must-use tool for Computer Science
My number one piece of advice for someone entering college and studying computer science is the following sentence: write pseudocode before writing your actual code. If you follow this piece of advice, you will save yourself hundreds of hours over the next four years of your life.
How architecture tells a story
When we look at building, we are often not told how to look at a building, or what exactly to look at. Oftentimes, we’re given to notice certain things: the shape of the roof, the presence of wood or glass or concrete, its size, its ease of access, but we often stop there. Rarely, if ever, are we asked to think of why a building has particular ...
How to succeed in college-level history courses
Success in college-level history courses requires that students develop a specific set of habits and practices, few of which are ever clearly spelled out by history instructors. While this is not an exhaustive list, the following paragraphs offer a few tips to help you get the most out of your history courses and excel while you are at it.
It’s time to rethink your note-taking strategy
During your time in school, you may have encountered the following scenario. After a long day of in-class learning, you have to muster the energy to complete homework assignments. With darkness falling, you have to prioritize these assignments, beginning with the most pressing. Once you’ve gotten through that punishing problem set and polished ...
The beauty of a reverse outline
Are you having trouble organizing your thoughts for an essay in your Humanities class or for an application? Have you tried outlining before writing only to feel defeated before you even get started? Do you struggle with editing a paper you’re sick of looking at, one that you know has some gaps that need to be addressed? Look no further than your ...
Artificial Intelligence: breaking ground or repeating the past's mistakes?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become embedded in nearly every aspect of our lives. The purchases we make, the people we virtually connect with, even the mechanisms to unlock our phones (if the phone was made in the last four years) are all influenced by AI. That said, should there be a limit to what parts of our lives AI touches? Moreover, how ...
Data science in risk management: value-at-risk and expected shortfall
Have you just started your investment journey and wondered how much to invest? Did you follow promising strategies but still see your account in red? Are you worried about the risk that you cannot foresee in your holdings? If you are nodding along these questions, know that you are not alone. In fact, these are what professionals like quants, ...
How to identify and avoid dangling modifiers
One of the most common grammatical pitfalls students encounter when writing essays and personal statements is the dangling modifier.
A brief primer on the secretory pathway
The secretory pathway is arguably one of the most important pathways in the body. It deemed ‘Secretory’ primarily because it’s the pathway that controls how the cell secretes proteins int extracellular environment.
How to do more with less time: the 3 P’s
As a medical student, I often feel as though there is more work in the day than there are hours to do it. To succeed in medical school, I’ve had to learn how to effectively balance clinical rotations with board exam review, research duties, extracurricular activities, and personal relationships. I’ve also seen younger siblings and students ...
Chromatography: purifying your understanding
Maybe you were studying for the MCAT or just in your college chemistry lab when it dawned on you: why are there so many different types of chromatography? What do they have in common and what are their differences?
How to communicate better: unlocking language’s hidden meanings
We all know that language is a powerful tool for communication. Sometimes it can be surprising how much meaning is conveyed in the shortest of sentences. Language is composed not only of the direct meaning of the words used, but also of many additional layers of meaning that arise through prior knowledge, background information, word choice, and ...
5 easy steps to good writing
Great chefs don’t cook wonderful meals on the first try. They’ve been in the kitchen for many sessions trying things out before they put a dish on the table. Writers need to do this too. Plan, practice, and prepare for the writing project you have in front of you. Break it into manageable chunks of about 2-3 hours each. These chunks need to be ...
Slide rules, logarithms, and analog computers
Growing up, one of my favorite films was Studio Ghibli’s The Wind Rises—an animated historical drama about a 20th-century Japanese engineer named Jiro Horikoshi. Each time I rewatched it, I was always intrigued by a device that Jiro used for performing calculations. It consisted of two wooden rulers, with the top one able to slide freely. Somehow, ...
5 tips for taking the MCAT in college
I knew going into college that I wanted to go to medical school and that I did not want to take a gap year. It’s important to keep an open mind and be flexible about these decisions, but if you know exactly what you want, then you should make a plan and go for it. As such, I ended up taking the MCAT two weeks after the end of my junior year.
What I love about psychology
I have always been fascinated by human emotions and behaviors, as well as the unique ways in which we interact with ourselves, others, and the world. I initially learned about a field that addresses these very phenomena—that is, the field of psychology —when I was in high school. However, I didn’t consider it as a possible career path until ...
How to streamline a draft
One way to make sure your writing is clear (beyond writing "good sentences") is to take a look at the content of your paragraphs. The technique I'm going to detail in this post is perfect for a first draft, but can be used for final drafts too. I like to use this method when I need to cut some words to make a paper shorter, or before and after a ...
How to plan and organize historical research
Designing and executing historical research for a short essay, seminar paper, or thesis can be daunting. How do you find a primary research question, and how do you know which sources will help you answer this question? How do you read and take notes on sources once you've found them?
How to ask for feedback that will actually improve your writing
We’ve all received feedback on our writing that just wasn’t very useful. Maybe you wrote a paper for class and received back a list of grammar and spelling mistakes that you’ll never look at again. Maybe you showed your personal statement to three different people and were confused when you received three contradictory pieces of advice for ...
Tips for studying biology
I am often asked the question, “Brooke how do you study for biology?” We know to use practice problems to study for physics, or pathway diagrams for chemistry, but biology is different: it is a lot of memorizations!
Things I wish I had known as a premed
Writing medical school applications is a prime time for self-reflection. Both during the writing process and in preparing for interviews, I’ve found myself reflecting on the things I wish I had known as a premed. Below are the things that I wish I had known in undergrad, especially as the first in my family to pursue a career in medicine.
Working out your brain
My first day in the gym was intimidating. I always thought the gym wasn’t for me, and so I had tried to avoid it as much as I could. I remember feeling slightly embarrassed as I picked up the smallest weights in the gym with my slender arms. However, overtime I was able to pick up heavier weights and noticed that my arms were slowly filling up the ...
What’s the difference between stiff, strong, and tough?
Though the average person might think the words stiff, strong, and tough mean the same thing, engineers know that they in fact have very different meanings. Learning the difference between these terms will help you sound like a pro when discussing material properties.
Dreaming and designing: a short guide to your many lives
One of the most impactful books I’ve read this year is Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, a phenomenal guide by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, who lead the Design Program at Stanford University. Evans and Burnett break down the principles of design thinking and demonstrate how they can be used to build a life that is ...
The role of insurance and common threats in health insurance markets
Growing up, the GEICO Gecko and Allstate’s Mayhem were frequent fixtures of TV nights with my family. “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance” and “You’re in good hands” were slogans I knew for as long as I could remember. Clearly, the services these companies were selling – different types of insurance – were marketed as taking ...
How to solve an empirical formula problem
In this blog post, we will review how to determine the empirical formula of a compound using the mass percentages of the elements from which it is formed.
Quantum numbers
In this blog post, we explore the four quantum numbers, which allow us to describe the properties of each electron within an atom. According to the Pauli Exclusion Principle, no two electrons can share the same combination of quantum numbers. A carbon atom has six electrons, for example, and each of these electrons can be described by one of six ...
A painless introduction to VSEPR theory
Today we will discuss VSEPR (pronounced “vesper”), which stands for valence-shell electron-pair repulsion. The basis of VSEPR is that the electrons in bonds and lone pairs repel each other. To minimize the instability that results from these repulsions, a molecule will adopt the shape that places electron groups as far apart as possible. VSEPR ...
Tips for success in organic chemistry courses
Organic chemistry is historically considered a “weed-out” class for pre-medical students and often the cause of much frustration for students. After spending 3 years during college serving as a teaching assistant and tutor for organic chemistry courses at my undergraduate university, here are some tips for studying for your organic chemistry ...
Think quickly: can you ace the world's shortest intelligence test?
Below is the world's shortest intelligence test. See how many questions you can answer!
Ask the right questions: how to know what you don't know you don't know
Have an assignment due tomorrow, and have no idea where to even start? In office hours or class and so lost that you don't even know what your question is? No matter the context of your confusion, you're not alone!
The finals crunch: a roadmap to working smarter, not harder
It’s the end of term, and your grade comes down to just one score: the final exam. On top of that, you’ve got a whole term’s worth of material to review! Fret not — we’ve all been there. Here’s how to make the best of it!
Tips for getting a 4.0 in engineering
College is intimidating enough as is without overworking yourself in pursuit of a perfect GPA. However, if you have decided that graduating with a 4.0 is a top priority for you, here are some tips that helped me achieve a 4.0 in engineering.
What makes a good descriptor?
Cliche is natural; originality, not so much. Pre-packaged phrases like “bring to the table,” “at the end of the day,” or “read between the lines” are overused and now lack their meaning, becoming a kind of automatic thinking, according to George Orwell. But why? Because triggering automatic thinking in a listener is helpful to a speaker if he or ...
Why and how I learned seven languages (and am learning two more!)
English and Japanese: Growing up bilingual but also investing time and effort The first two languages I learned had no reason to be learned other than geographic, structural factors — I spoke Japanese at home and English at school. Though there have been numerous studies on the inherent benefits of multilingual environments for language learning ...
The draft-drain-refine approach for personal statements (and other writing)
When I worked at Boston Consulting Group, my teams often produced 300-slide presentations within a few weeks of a client engagement. BCG had a mantra for producing detailed analysis efficiently that I find useful for all forms of writing:
Five steps to flawlessly edit your writing
There is no such thing as a perfect essay, but there certainly are imperfect ones. Botched grammar, careless typos, and ineloquent wording will be sure to raise the eyebrows of admissions committees, teachers, and professors alike. When the stakes are high, careful editing can make all the difference.
To succeed as a historian, question what you think you know
On an April 2021 episode of SNL, Bowen Yang appeared on Weekend Update as the iceberg hit by the Titanic. Yang’s ‘iceberg’ is ostensibly there to promote his new album, but after prodding by Weekend Update host Colin Jost, he gives in and starts talking about The Sinking.
How to organize a paragraph: the MEAL plan
Composing a clear paragraph is a foundational skill in academic writing. In high school, you may have been taught that a paragraph requires a certain number of sentences – maybe three, maybe five. But paragraphs come in different lengths, and rather than follow strict rules about word count or a requisite number of sentences, it’s important to ...
Starting a premed journey: first-year edition
You've just started college. Part of you wants to follow your new friends in trying out new experiences, but then there's the go-getter in you, thinking that you may need to start looking for the best possible things to do to help a potential grad school app.
Academic Success vs. Personal Wellbeing
It’s no secret that higher education has become increasingly competitive in recent years. Starting in high school (or earlier), students may begin to experience pressure to “perform”—get straight As and a perfect SAT/ACT score while juggling 37 extracurriculars to get into your dream college, make Dean’s List every semester and launch a start-up ...
Four essential tips for premeds
The journey to medicine is rewarding and exciting, but also incredibly long and challenging. For many, including myself, the path to medicine begins with college. I remember entering my undergrad with a burning desire to pursue medicine, but also a sense of uncertainty with how to make that happen. The point of this post is to share a couple of ...
Drawing the chair conformation of a pyranose ring
In this blog post, we will complete the following example problem:
How to most effectively memorize in premedical courses
As an English major in undergrad, I did not have much experience with studying for tests, as I was often writing papers with little need to memorize facts or material. When I started a postbac program to complete my premedical requirements, I realized that I needed an efficient and effective way to memorize large amounts of material. Premedical ...
Making your personal statement stand out in just the first two lines
A personal statement is the best (and sometimes only) chance you have to make your application jump off the page. Even if you have outstanding test scores, those scores alone do not guarantee you admission. Which brings us to the personal statement, your chance to show your readers how engaging you are, how you are a future leader in your field, ...
How to balance redox reactions in acidic and basic solutions
Balancing redox reactions is an essential skill for the Chemical and Physical Foundations section of the MCAT, the GRE Chemistry Subject Test, and the AP Chemistry Exam. Today, we will learn how to use the half-cell method for balancing redox reactions in acidic and basic solutions. We will first balance a redox reaction in acidic solution, then ...
Top grammar errors to avoid
Throughout the years I’ve spent reading and writing, I’ve seen my fair share of grammar errors. But few are peskier, or more pervasive, than the two I’ll discuss in this post. So common are these two grammar errors that I regularly encounter them in professional writing — sometimes even in articles by full-blown professors! These two errors often ...
Hormones of the female reproductive system
The female reproductive system can at times feel like a difficult jumble of hormones that all seem to be related, but fluctuate in unpredictable ways. To make sense of the particularities of the female reproductive system, especially for exams like the MCAT, it is important to not only know what hormones are involved, but also to understand what ...
Gametogenesis and spermatogenesis and oogenesis, oh my!
Meiosis is one of those processes that we all learned about in high school biology as a deceptively simple concept. You take the diploid cell, divide it twice, and it becomes four haploid gametes that are each capable of participating in fertilization. Easy, right?
Using pKa to predict protonation state
When you've learned about pKa, you've most likely used it in acid-base calculations. However, some exams may ask you to apply a conceptual knowledge of pKa to predict whether a chemical compound is charged or uncharged.
Up close and personal: how to prepare for a close reading paper
Close reading? Shouldn’t we already be reading “closely” for class? Correct! But the term “close reading” also describes a very specific type of literary inquiry in which one pays careful, prolonged attention to a small chunk of text (or art object) in order to produce an argument about that text and how it works. Close reading is the ...
How to “find your voice”
You will often hear writers talk about “finding their voice.” It sounds like a simple task, but honing one’s voice can take years of practice, study, and trial and error. When you are putting together your applications for college or graduate school, you are likely facing a fast-approaching deadline—so time is a luxury you don’t have.
Calculating flood risk using probability and statistics
If at some point you ever want to buy property near water, a variation of this question will undoubtedly pass through your head: what are the chances that my {insert name of your expensive piece of property close to water} floods?
What I learned about the writing process from bread baking
Working from home means I can adapt myself to the capricious schedule of bread making. Dough waits for no one (and it will not rise more quickly if prodded!). I’ve loved baking since childhood, but I discovered bread more recently.
How to approach initial value word problems
We’ve all been there: on a homework set or in an exam, you turn to the final page and, to your dismay, it’s a wall of text. The dreaded Word Problem. Some of the words are useful, but some of them are meant to distract. Let’s look at a strategy for answering initial value word problems.
5 tips for authentic interviewing
There’s something comical about reading articles that coach you on how to be yourself. If you Google “authentic interview tips,” you’ll find articles titled “How to Sound Authentic” and “How to Be Yourself,” which evoke truisms like Oscar Wilde’s “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” and Shakespeare’s “To thine own self be true.” But what ...
S’more fun: simplifying limiting reactants using chocolate
Stoichiometry: it’s the bane of many chemistry students’ studies. It’s so easy to get tangled up in a jumble of numbers without any idea of what’s actually going on.
How to revise anything
The most important part of writing is rewriting. Whether you’re working on a term paper, a personal statement, or a lab report, getting words on the page is just the first step. Even if you’re writing from an outline, the process of writing inevitably leads you to unexpected and interesting places. That’s part of the joy of writing, but it’s also ...
5 Tips to make you a more successful writer!
Like many other tutors, what has been most useful for me is building myself up to writing. I use a lot of “tricks” to get around my anxiety about writing, and it often takes me several tries to get started. And with the pandemic, there are even more reasons to be distracted. Here are some tricks that have worked for me!
Choosing a research lab as a premed student
So, you’re a premed student trying to choose a first research laboratory. You might have done your research on how to approach mentors, and why research is important for your application, but how about how to choose a lab? Well, look no further – here are three important qualities to keep in mind when considering a number of different labs:
Pituitary gland hormones made simple
What is the pituitary gland? Even though the pituitary gland is about the size of a pea, it plays a very important role in regulating a lot of our body’s endocrine functions. Located in an area known as the sella turcica at the base of the brain and suspended from the hypothalamus by a stalk, the pituitary gland consists of two parts: the ...
Remote vs. online learning
With students unable to currently attend school in person, students, teachers, and staff are working to improve education at all levels. Some universities now find the need to articulate the difference between Remote classes and Online classes. This distinction allows us to think through some important issues in distance learning that can help us ...
How to write more clearly in six steps
Whether you’re writing a medical school admissions essay, a high school book report, a college research paper, or a personal statement for graduate school, clarity is key. But writing clearly is trickier than it looks. In my ten years of experience as a writing teacher and tutor, I’ve found that there are a few steps that students can take to more ...
Understanding a confusion matrix
One of the major tasks in machine learning and statistical testing is classification. In classification problems, we use a training set of labeled data to train our model to classify an unlabeled observation into one category or another. At the simplest level, this method uses observable data to make a related yes-or-no classification (like: will ...
Five quick and easy English words to elevate your writing
Anyone studying English will at one point or another recognize that the language is quite a hodgepodge. Centuries of outside contact – from Viking and Norman invasions to importations of Latin during the Renaissance – led to what would become the rich vocabulary of Modern English. But what should a savvy writer do with so much variation when ...
Explaining eight common Chinese idioms (“chéngyǔ”)
“Chéngyǔ” (成语) are Chinese idioms that usually occur in groups of four characters and often originate from old fables in classical Chinese writing. As a testament to China’s long history and rich culture, chéngyǔ have persisted as a fundamental component of modern Chinese language in both formal writing and in everyday language. There are over ...
Six ways to brainstorm more effectively
At its core, writing is about discovering relationships between words and ideas. Your brainstorming process can and should reflect that central goal from the very beginning of the writing process. Here are a series of investigative approaches to help you expose and explore these relationships:
Editing for parallelism: one writing lesson from the proverb
When I teach my students to become their own editors, I often tell them to be on the lookout for opportunities to use parallelism. Parallelism is the repetition of the same grammatical structure in successive parts of a sentence. (Grammatical structure is just a fancy way of saying some combination of nouns, verbs, and other parts of speech.)
I just want to be a doctor, so does organic chemistry really matter?
Imagine: you’ve made it through your first semester or two of undergrad and weathered all the storms that come with this transition. And, now you find yourself facing a dreaded academic giant that has stricken fear in the hearts of scores of pre-medical students. A chemistry course unlike any other. If you are anything like most pre-medical ...
Finding research opportunities as a premed student
Research is a fantastic way for premedical students to learn about and explore their prospective careers, and stand out as future applicants. However, finding research opportunities can be a daunting task. I have outlined the process based on my experience, and I hope these steps help you find research that interests you.
Introductory statistics: are my data normal?
Statistics is fun, I promise! But before we can start having all the fun, it is important to describe the distribution of our data. We will need to handle problems differently depending on the distribution.
Working with lenses and mirrors: how to draw a ray diagram
Ray diagrams can look intimidating, but they don’t have to be! In this blog post, we will tackle five examples of ray diagrams.
Extracurricular activities for premed students: how to do it all
You don’t have to be a superhero to go to medical school If you pick up a dictionary, you'll find the following definition: "pre-med student (n.): a frantic adult trying to do a million things at once with absolutely no time." (I promise you—if you look closely, it’s there). Sound familiar? Many college students, including myself a few years ago, ...
How to make the most of COVID-19 as a premedical student
We are living in a time of uncertainty. No medical school or hospital was prepared for how much this pandemic would affect our world. As a premed student, it can be difficult to prepare for an application cycle when this is uncharted territory for us all. Add on the stress and anxiety of the medical school application process and it can all feel ...
Statistical mediation and moderation in psychological research
One of the most commonly identified challenges in statistics for psychology is differentiating between mediation and moderation. Fully understanding these concepts can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be that way! All concepts that seem tricky can be broken down into simple, comprehendible steps.
Tone and mood
When attempting an analysis of a text for English literature classes, such as the IBDP course, some of the advanced features that students have to understand concern tone and mood. It is customary to associate tone with dialogue and speech, and mood with the setting of novels. However, tone and mood are not just features of fiction and can also be ...
How to fit you into your personal statement
The question “what do you like to do for fun?” has always stressed me out. As someone who preaches work-life balance and champions new experiences, I like to imagine myself as the type of person who would quickly rattle off an impressive and well-rounded list of hobbies and activities. The truth of the matter is that each time I am confronted with ...
What is implicit differentiation and how does it work?
One topic that seemed a bit mysterious and magic to me when I first learned calculus was implicit differentiation. In this post, we’ll start by reviewing some examples of implicit differentiation and then discuss why implicit differentiation works.
Pareto efficient allocations and fairness in economics
A very important concept when it comes to thinking about markets in economics is the idea of Pareto efficiency. An allocation of resources is Pareto efficient if it is not possible to make anyone better off without making someone else worse off.
Two common grammatical mistakes to avoid in polished writing
There are no hard and fast rules in writing. But even if an experimental poet or an avant-garde novelist has dispensed with capitalization or written an entire novel without the letter E (yes, a novel like this really exists!), this does not mean that you need to follow suit. Your personal statement, for example, is not the place to defy the ...
Writing: knowing your audience
“Where do I even begin?” is probably the most common question students ask me about writing—and understandably so! Many writing projects can seem almost impossible to visualize, much less to get started on. So what to do when facing that blank screen?
The music of Mandarin: learning the five tones of the language
Learning Chinese is challenging but fun! Even the parts that require repetitive practice can be enjoyable with the right framework and point-of-view.
Learning the basics of Game Theory
Imagine that you and a friend are going to the movies. You like comedies more than action movies, while your friend likes action movies a lot more than comedies. If you go to see a movie alone, however, you’re probably not going to have as much fun, regardless of what type of movie you see. What is the optimal behavior for each person in this ...
Becoming a good test taker
You’ve heard it over and over: “She’s just a good test taker.” The phrase clings to standardized tests, where some students have the luck of Steph Curry sinking 30-foot shots while others feel like Shaquille O’Neill at the foul line. Like shooting a basketball, we often treat test taking as innate and immutable, but any basketball coach will tell ...
Checking your answers in physics
Having worked through a long physics problem, you finally have an answer. How do you know if it’s right and all that work wasn’t for naught? In this post, I will cover a few quick strategies that can help rule out wrong answers.
How to survive a proof-based math class
Probably the most common challenge that I see my students struggle with is understanding and writing out mathematical proofs. Although most higher-level college math and computer science courses rely heavily on proofs, there aren’t many courses that really prepare students before they’re thrown off the deep end. I wanted to discuss some tips and ...
4 ways to beat writing anxiety on the personal statement
Writing is a daunting task. To transform your nebulous thoughts into a linear string of words requires a special kind of concentration. And when it comes to writing personal essays, like those required for most undergraduate and graduate applications, you are asked to not only concentrate but also be introspective. It’s no wonder that many of us ...
Five questions premeds should ask before committing to medicine
So, you want to be a doctor. Maybe you remember playing with your plastic doctor’s kit when you were little, examining all your stuffed animals’ fuzzy ears. Maybe someone in your family works in a healthcare profession, and you always admired what they could do. Or, maybe in school, you realized that you excelled at science and enjoyed learning ...
Understanding elasticity of demand in economics
You may have heard in your econ class about a good’s elasticity of demand, or about “elastic” or “inelastic” goods. Consumers’ elasticity of demand is just a fancy way economists talk about how sensitive people are to changes in a good’s price.
Which is bigger?: Set cardinality, injective functions, and bijections
Comparing finite set sizes, or cardinalities, is one of the first things we learn how to do in math. From a young age, we can answer questions like “Do you see more dogs or cats?” Your reasoning might sound like this: There are four dogs and two cats, and four is more than two, so there are more dogs than cats. In other words, the set of dogs is ...
Maximizing the gap years between college and medical school
If you’re a college student planning to wait 1-3 years after graduating before attending medical school, I was very recently like you. Yay, we were the same! Although you or the people around you may have doubts about prolonging your training or entering the nebula of a life unstructured, I think the time you spend during your gap years can have a ...
What physics equation sheets can do for you, and what they  can’t
In your time taking physics courses, you will likely run into one that deals with equation sheets. These can be note cards or an entire sheet of paper, and anything that can fit on it is fair game and can be brought into a test. The natural reaction might be to try to cram and squeeze an entire textbook on those sheets using really, really tiny ...
So, what is chemical engineering for, anyway?
Chemical engineering is a comprehensive and vast field of study with far-reaching impact. I have been a practicing chemical engineer in the biotechnology industry for the last 5 years, and prior to that, I earned my doctorate in chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Over the last 10 years, I have seen the evolution and ...
How to Pick a College for the First (or Second) Time: Advice on Selecting a School for First-Time Applicants or Transfers
Well-meaning parents and older friends will probably tell you that college will be “the time of your life.” “You will find your people,” they might say. As a rising high school senior, I found this exciting and disconcerting: Would my peak be in college? And, how would I find my people anyway? I remember feeling both thrilled to graduate high ...
5 tips to improve your writing
I was recently helping someone with a comparative essay they had to write for school. This person did not like writing—a common enough state of affairs. They felt that they had no talent for it. The process frustrated them. I could see that they were struggling in part because they were trying to do everything at once (come up with ideas, write ...
Our top 10 summer study spaces in NYC
Whether you’ve got summer classes or are looking to get a jump on course reading for the fall semester, NYC offers some incredible spots for all your studying needs. Here are our top 10 summer study spaces in NYC:
How to write with clarity and brevity
1. Harshly criticize everything you write as you write it Ask yourself: is this sentence necessary? Could it be five words instead of ten without losing meaning? Is it a digression into something you find interesting useful, or a distraction?
How to Draft an Essay in College in 4 Easy Steps
Making the switch to college-level writing can be tough, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Aside from the fact that papers in college are often long (although the short ones with strict word limits can be tricky, too!), the subject matter is often complicated and requires a good deal of analysis. Professors often expect that you already have a ...
The key to mastering mathematics? Quit memorizing.
There are many misconceptions when it comes to the subject of mathematics. One of the most common myths I encounter is related to the way one approaches learning math.
Complex solution composition problems: knowing where to start
Thanksgiving dinner conversations can be uncomfortable… but solution composition problems don’t have to be! Recall that a solution is a homogenous mixture of two or more substances. Chemists have come up with many ways to describe the composition of a solution. Some ways are more appropriate than others depending on the situation.
What is a thesis statement?
Every paper you write in college should have it. Sometimes professors call this a “thesis statement,” sometimes a “claim,” and sometimes they don’t really specify what it is. But it’s essential — and sometime elusive. But it shouldn’t be!
Dimensional analysis: why the factor-label method is a lifesaver
Ever lost points on a test because you forgot to write the units? Rightfully so! Numbers have no meaning without their units of measurement. Two can be greater than 12. Three can equal one. This is all dependent on the unit of measurement being used. In your general chemistry class, you will encounter measurements of all sorts. These measurements ...
Formal charge: what they didn’t tell you in your chemistry class
Formal charge is the charge that a bonded atom would have if its bonding electrons were shared equally. Note:
Tips for writing an exam essay in 80 minutes
We've all been there. The teacher is at the front of the classroom with a pile of blue books. She begins handing them out. You scrawl the name and date on the front and wait for her to start the timer. As you open the first page, an overwhelming white page stares back at you. And you panic. Luckily, there are ways to prepare for essay exams that ...
3 ways to better analyze poetry
“Cikgu Tess!” “Pagi.” “Miss. Look lah.” “Alyaa—why?” “Girl’s bathroom,” she says. “Cikgu, you touch?” Our state has the highest concentration of venomous snakes in the region. “Is it poisonous?” I mime the action of being bitten (by my hand) and then dying. “Mm, don’t know.” In 2017, I taught ESL, literature, and political science at a rural ...
7 essential tips for ANY standardized test
Whether you’re applying to college, graduate school, law school, medical school, or even some jobs, standardized tests are often part of the process. They can be intimidating, long, arduous, and confusing, but with some practice, you’ll learn how to overcome any test-taking anxiety and stay focused. Here are a few tips and tricks for going into a ...
Things I Wish I Knew During My First Year in College: Four Tips To Follow As A Freshman
The transition from high school to college was inevitably one of the most challenging changes I have encountered, both intellectually and emotionally. I was two parts excited and one part anxious to experience an unfamiliar landscape and pursue whatever route I found most fitting for me. By the time I was a senior in high school, school was easy ...
The physics of martial arts
As a practicing biomedical engineer and martial artist, I belong to two communities that, at a glance, seem to conflict with one another; engineering requires rigorous thought and thorough validation of proposed innovations, while martial arts focuses on sensing subtle body motions and quickly reacting to one’s environment. When I first became ...
How to have success as a student athlete: tips from an insider
Ah, the student-athlete. In today’s landscape of college admissions and college scholarships, many of us recognize the importance and opportunity given to the student-athlete. In performing well and playing on a school’s team, you earn both a spot in the classroom at that institution and a “salary” (i.e., a scholarship) for attracting revenue to ...
How to make introductory physics exciting (when you're bored out of your mind)
Why do many students find physics so boring? Cutting-edge physics research gets to address amazing, deep questions: "What is all the stuff in the Universe fundamentally made of?” and “Where did all this stuff come from anyway?” Yet college-level introductory physics courses on Newtonian mechanics can feel quite...mechanical. Why does introductory ...
The power of anecdote: creative strategies for academic writing
Many of the freshmen I instruct at CUNY enter the first few sessions of my Expository Writing class wearing metaphorical top hats and monocles, armed with—and comforted by—the five-paragraph essay structure and other basic compositional building blocks. College-level essay writing, in their understanding, requires a stuffy, exacting formality—a ...
An introduction to choice theory: are humans really 'rational actors?'
If you are a student of economics, one of the first axioms you are instructed to adapt is that everyone should be considered a “rational actor.” What this means is that all people who take part in economic decisions and transactions are informed by self-interest and do so in a manner that maximizes their potential self-benefit. This is essential ...
An introduction to enumeration using generating functions
In the year 1202, Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci published the extremely influential Liber Abaci (Book of Calculations). The book's most significant contribution was to bring to Europe the Hindu-Arabic number system that we all use today. But it also contained a curious thought experiment about the reproductive patterns of rabbits, which ...
3 surprising reasons why Social Science prepares you for medicine
One morning during winter break, as I was sitting on my couch with a mug of coffee in hand, I remember reveling to my mom: “It’s incredible how much majoring in anthropology kept on proving itself useful in medical school. Who would have known?” In college, I chose to major in a social science, anthropology—surely the less traditional route for ...
An introduction to proofs: the structure of induction
Induction. It's a mathematical concept that is no doubt familiar to any student taking an introductory proof class. It is also a concept that can bring complex feelings---the excitement of learning a new cool proof technique, the fear of being asked to prove something "obvious", or the confusion of where to start.
How to write a killer essay in 3 easy steps
We’ve all been there: staring at a blank document, practically able to feel the creeping imminence of our paper’s deadline. For so many of us, it’s really hard to sit down and actually channel our thoughts into a coherent form, let alone one that’s structured and based on an argument worthy of praise.
New Year’s Resolution: Get More Sleep
If you’re in college or grad school and your New Year’s resolutions include plans like “earn higher grades,” “complete more work on time,” or even just “be more productive,” there’s one more resolution you should add to your list: get more sleep. It might sound counterintuitive—how do you get more done by making a resolution to spend more time ...
What are lymphocytes? A guide to your immune system
The immune system is designed to prevent disease and fight infection and is critical for human survival. It specializes in the ability to attack foreign microorganisms, but what stops your immune system from eating you alive? Given that cells of the immune system can essentially eat microorganisms, you may be wondering what mechanisms are in place ...
Orgo 2 strategies: “taking home” carboxylic acid derivatives
I’ve already covered how to easily manage carboxylic acid derivative formation and manipulation using the Reactivity Hill. Say we’re tired of whatever derivative we just created and want to bring the derivative back to its parent acid (the particular acid the derivative came from). There are two ways to “take home” any acid-derivative. We can ...
Golden rules to nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) analysis: part 1
Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, or NMR, is a fundamental analytical technique used by chemists to determine the structure of organic compounds. Unlike other analytical techniques, such as infrared spectroscopy or mass spectroscopy, NMR allows for the complete interpretation of molecular structure and can be quantitative.
The top 3 reasons you should study Latin
There comes a moment in the careers of most middle- and high-schoolers learning Latin, and also among some college students considering it as a possibility when picking classes; a moment when they ask themselves (or their parents, or their teachers), “Why do I need to study this?” After all, Latin is a dead language; unless you plan to become a ...
How to solve kinematics problems: a guide to vectors
This article is the third chapter in a series on how to understand and approach kinematics problems. The first chapter covered position, velocity, and acceleration. The second chapter covered solving kinematics in one dimension Now we are going to take a quick detour into vectorland so that we’re ready to approach kinematics in two (and even ...
Two ways to determine equilibrium position in organic chemistry
A common exam question that comes up in both Orgo 1 and Orgo 2 requires students to determine a reaction’s equilibrium position. The question usually looks something like this:
Orgo 1 strategies: finding and comparing alkene hydration products
We all know Orgo 1 professors love stereoisomers. Consider the equation A + B = C. Most professors expect you to fill in the question mark with all possible products and then indicate the major product(s), while other professors may provide you a potential C and then ask you if the statement is True or False.
How to get oriented to organic chemistry: 7 pillars of the course
Organic Chemistry (OChem or Orgo) seems like a scary course. But it should not be if you know what to expect. This road map is your guide to orientate yourself to Orgo1. It teaches you about the main topics covered in Orgo1 in the typical order they are taught in class. So, take a breath and sit back as you read, skim, or view the images that ...
Speech is silver, silence is golden: how pausing transforms communication
Many people probably recognize the second part of that proverb -- "Silence is Golden" –– as an oft-quoted adage to dictate the importance of quiet in our busy, noisy lives. The full version, as written above, originates in English thanks to Thomas Carlyle, who translated it from part of a larger German work in 1831. The translated passage begins, ...
How do enzymes work? Catalytic strategies and models of substrate fit
In this post, we are going to do a brief Q and A to review what enzymes do and how they work. This post will be slightly beyond a basic introduction so it is probably most appropriate for a student who already has a sense of what enzymes are.
Orgo 1 strategies: protocol for acid-base problems
Determining which of two molecules is more acidic is tricky if you haven’t yet organized those factors that influence acidity. The protocol is a method I learned from my mastermind Orgo 2 professor to keep these ideas in order when they come into conflict. Namely: Size is more important than Electronegativity, which is more important than ...
What is the phospholipid bilayer and what determines its fluidity?
All cells are surrounded by a cell membrane that forms a barrier between the cell and its surroundings. This membrane is often referred to as the phospholipid bilayer. As you can probably tell from the name, a phospholipid bilayer is made up of two layers of lipids. The fluidity of this membrane must be maintained within a certain range for the ...
An introduction to blood types: genotype, phenotype, inheritance, transfusion, and more!
What determines blood type? Contained within their cell membranes, some red blood cells have special glycolipids called A and B glycolipids. People with blood type A have the A glycolipid in their cell membranes, people with blood type B have the B glycolipid in their cell membranes, and people with blood type AB, have both glycolipids in their ...
How do we classify mutations in biology?
In the previous post, we discussed some of the built in mechanisms that help to prevent mutations. Sometimes, however, mutations occur in spite of these systems. There are a few different ways that mutations are typically classified in an intro biology course and there are often overlaps between these categories. Here is a brief review of some of ...
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