Spring 2012 Schedule

by Lorien E. Menhennett

My lovely schedule for next semester …

The friends with whom I am staying in Nashville are most definitely not morning people (and I most definitely am), so I’ve had some nice quiet time curled up in this awesome, oversized chair that they have. This morning, I decided to enter my schedule for next semester into my Google calendar, and also to figure out when, exactly, classes actually begin. Just so I know how much time I really have off. Turns out classes start Jan. 11, which means I have a little over 3 weeks of vacation. Hooray!

But as I was inputting my schedule into my online calendar (which also syncs to my iPhone, of course), I was also getting excited about the classes I will be taking next semester:

1. Organic Chemistry II (with lab). As much as I was terrified of orgo going into last semester, my fears have abated. Not that it’s an easy class – I most definitely earned my A (yep, an A!) this past semester through hours of hard work at my dry erase board. But for some reason, somehow, orgo makes sense to me. (At least, most of the time, after I have puzzled through it for several hours.) Crazy as this may sound to all of you who have taken or are taking orgo, I actually like drawing reaction mechanisms. And that’s what second semester is all about: more reaction mechanisms and synthesis, which to me is like deciphering a giant puzzle. I’ve always liked puzzles. Plus, Organic Chemistry II is a co-requisite for the next class I’m going to talk about.

Ribbon diagram showing 3-D
structure of a protein. We’ll
be studying these guys in
detail in Biochemistry.

2. Biochemistry. Some people claim they like biology, but not chemistry. In my opinion, this is absolutely impossible. Biology is all about chemistry, when you break it down to the molecular level. That is, if you actually want to understand how things work in a cell, you have to understand chemistry. And I’m definitely a “process” person. By that, I mean I like to understand how/why things work, at a deeper level. Biochemistry, to me, is about unraveling some of the mysteries of biology through chemistry concepts. For example, by learning about the structure and properties of the 20 common amino acids, you can gain a better understanding of how a protein structure develops, why certain mutations (genetics!) cause a loss or alteration of function, etc. In addition, there are so many organic chemistry reactions that are pertinent to biological functions. Life IS organic chemistry, when you get down to it. I know that we will only scratch the surface in this class, but it will be a good preparation for taking biochemistry in medical school/graduate school in the future as well as (hopefully) interesting.

Chi-square distribution graph. This is
the one statistical test I do know; we
covered it in Genetics. I look forward
to learning more such tests in Statistics
this coming spring semester.

3. Statistics. This is another class that, for me, will hopefully be of great utility. Many medical schools (and graduate programs) suggest that pre-medical students take stats; a couple of schools require it. So having taken stats will look good on my application. But that’s not my main reason for taking the course – my real purpose in taking it is to get a foundation in basic statistics so that I can better understand the statistical tests that are used in many of the research articles I read. P tests, T tests … I don’t even know the basics of stats, so I can’t interpret the statistical analysis. (The one bit of stats I know is the chi-square test, which we learned in Genetics.) I know this course won’t give me everything I need – at some point, I’ll have to take a biostatistics course, I think – but it will be a good start.

Drosophila melanogaster, the
subject of the research I will
be doing with Dr. Kreher this
coming spring semester.

4. Research. In addition to my three classroom-classes, I’m going to be doing 2 credit hours of research work with my Genetics professor from fall semester, Dr. Scott Kreher. I will be working with Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies), most likely doing behavioral assays with the flies related to odor perception. I really enjoyed working with Drosophila in my Genetics lab, so I look forward to this work. It will be nice to be in a research lab again, for sure!

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