Friday, July 3, 2009

The end of the first week!


Yesterday was the end of our first week at Columbia University, class-wise. The class overall is loaded with information. Everyday is a new lecture and sometimes I might understand what's going on and sometimes I might not. The labs are also becoming steadily more complex as we delve deeper into the class. In the beginning, it was a simply placing a test tube of ethanol into ice water and recording the temperature. Now we're synthesizing aspirin! The actual lab itself wasn't very hard, but it was tedious as there was a lot of standing and waiting. If we weren't patient, our aspirin wouldn't be pure or our aspirin crystals wouldn't form and we would have bad aspirin or very little of it. What I found most confusing was how the functional groups break and reform bonds in order to get aspirin.

Although I only understood a little of how the electrons orient themselves to form bonds, I doubt I would have had any idea what was going on when the mentors were explaining how and why the salicylic acid and acetic anhydride reacted with each other if I hadn't taken AP Chemistry. My group had a 72.2% yield when we finished our lab and on Monday we will be doing tests on the aspirin to test its purity. Although I did this lab before when I took chemistry, the way we approached the lab was totally different. When I did this lab for regular chemistry, the class was looking at the reaction overall; what are the reactants and what are the products? But when I did aspirin synthesis here at Columbia U, we were looking at what specifically reacts with what and how it reacts and why it reacts. It's like we're going more in-depth about what is happening on a microscopic level. I like how the things we learn are starting out simple but then as we progress, we elaborate on the topics that before had to be dumbed down for us to understand it.

Today though, we were able to meet up with the Ivy League Connection group at Brown University. After meeting up with them, we headed for Ellis Island. It was actually really fun to be able to meet up with another ILC group while at Columbia and exciting because I know some of the people at Brown. It was nice being able to hang out with friends even though we're so far away from home.

One thing I noticed about New York since getting here, it seems that everyone is always in a hurry or rush. The subway trains don't stop or wait for anybody unlike BART trains back at home, so there's this feeling like people are less patient (or more efficient!) in New York than in the Bay Area. I'm not sure if this is true, but it's what I'm getting so far from New York.



Charles Tillman Ramsey said...

I appreciate your comprehensive post that took us from the classroom out to the streets of New York. So far in your posts you have discussed your impressions from the class, now I need to have you couple your impressions of the course with the students that attend the class. Do you feel that you are as strong and as prepared as they are with the subject material? Is your readiness on par with the students from other schools? If so, why? If not, why not?

I know that you cannot speak for other West Contra Costa Unified School District High Schools, but you can speak about El Cerrito High School and whether the curriculum and instruction measures up and gives you what is needed for the next level. What do you learn from the other students, how do they challenge you? Let me know. I see that the experiments are not giving you a great deal of trouble, but what are you taking from the lectures?

Do you see Columbia as a school that would be on your radar? We now have had two consecutive years of students from El Cerrito High School going to Columbia. Kia Walton and Malcolm Carson accepted admission into Columbia. Both of these students were "phenomenal" at El Cerrito High School and chose Columbia as they alma mater. What about you?

You mention the difference between the Bay Area, which is not small either, and New York City. Can you see yourself on the big stage or will yo settle for the UC's or CSU's. What is your vision and what is your desire? Take us "inside your mind" and give me a better sense of who is Julie Liang. What do you want for your future and how does being at an Ivy League School make you feel.

Tomorrow you get a chance to visit Vassar, another heavyweight academic institution. I am saddeded that we could not get an alum or current student to give you a guided tour, but you need to see the campus and community anyway. I do hope that when you are on campus that you may have a chance to "flag down" a student who can give you some information about the school.

Vassar is new to our rotation and so any words of wisdom would be valued and helpful to us. Next week, we will have someone with you at UPENN and this will probably be a more productive visit. Nonetheless, it is a start and I am glad that you are visiting campuses outside of New York City. However, give yourself a day to visit NYU. This is a rising giant and now seen as one on the "Hot list" of schools to attend.

Julie, you have a lot of talent and ability. I know that you have a bright future ahead and I hope that you will be open to looking at Ivy League Schools. You are a strong and capable student. This is your chance to find yourself.

Take care and enjoy the balance of the Fourth of July.

Charles T. Ramsey, Esq.
School Board Member
West Contra Costa
Unified School District

Don Gosney said...


No offense but I think I’ll be buying my aspirin from Gabe. His seems to be more pure.

When you’ve completed this class we’re going to need an evaluation from you and the others telling us whether you think you were properly prepared before being enrolled in this class. Throughout your college career there will be classes that may look good to you but once you examine the prerequisites more closely you may find that the class is at a higher level than you’re prepared for at that time. We need to do the same before we send our ILC kids to these classes.

I’m glad that you had an opportunity to step away from the classrooms and see the sights of New York. I hear that Ellis Island is quite a sight. Spending some of that time with friends and people from your own community can really enhance the experience.

Your observations about the way things work in New York have been mirrored by others this week as well as the perceptions of New York City portrayed in so many movies and TV shows. I’m not sure that efficiency plays into it but patience probably does. I think, Julie, it’s a different set of priorities.

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