Can I Get A Side Of Research?

Studying in Powell Library

One of the many things that I love about UCLA—strike that, there’s everything to like about UCLA—is that students have the ability to literally put education into their own hands by taking up research positions regardless if it pertains to one’s major, and there are initiated student courses where current undergrads can facilitate a class. I took up a research position at the North Campus Student Research Program (SRP) during my first quarter at UCLA.

Being that one of my main reasons for transferring was to research in Sociology, which is quite untraditional as research is normally correlated to science, I wasn’t able to find it in most other institutions and I was inspired to pursue it at UCLA. So, as soon as I got accepted, I upheld my personal promise to find research and looked no further than the opportunities of the SRP. Although I was quite intimidated jumping into this right away, I was pleasantly surprised how accessible it is for students to not only find research but also find research in the social sciences.

I settled with Professor Walker’s sociological and economical effects of food trucks. I know what you’re thinking, am I eating food all day or what? I was shocked myself! Professors are so passionate about eclectic subjects and it’s so inspiring to be given the chance to network as well as study beside them in their research. Basically, this research is much more than the curb-side food joint as I am involved with a team of four undergraduates—who are currently studying various subjects from political science to biology, meaning that the constraints of majors are irrelevant in research curiosity—that code the menus of food trucks across three United States’ cities: Los Angeles, D.C., and Chicago.

To code these menus, we start with their Twitter handles (@name) to locate Google images, Twitter images, and Web images (in regards to their website) of their menus. By looking at their menus, we get a feel of what cuisine is on their menus and are able to code them by Yelp categories (e.g. Mediterranean, Japanese, Asian Fusion, etc.) to see how the relation of their prices and cuisine type are affected by the food truck legislation of that particular city.

But please note that this research didn’t come with a warning that I’d be staring at food all day, which makes me starving at the end of the 8-10 hour commitment per week. Despite that minor repercussion, I love every bit of researching. I have been working with Professor Walker for about two quarters now, and I hope to continue until the end of this academic school year to see how and where this research will ultimately lead!

Finals Survival Guide: Winter 2015

powellIt’s that time of the quarter again for UCLA students: finals. Before you run and hide in your dorm room, binging on Bruin Cafe whilst watching the new 3rd season of House of Cards.. again, keep these tips and tricks of the trade in mind so you can go from intimidated and hopeless to confident and knowledgeable! Whether you have 50+ pages of reading left, a 6-8 page essay, or just a classic free-response final, you have no need to fret as long as you tackle finals week with preparation:

1. Form a study group

Sometimes, sticking your head in a book for hours on end with a cup of hot caffeine as your closest friend is not the call (and by sometimes, I mean most times). By forming a study group with fellow peers in class, you will catch information you didn’t absorb the first time around in lecture and also re-emphasize important topics in class. Verbally discussing concepts is much more effective in long-term memory and will enhance your performance on your finals.

2. Time management is key

Scenario A: It’s Sunday. Your 6 page paper (mostly written.. ish) is due tonight, your organic chemistry final is Tuesday at 8 AM, you have work tomorrow from noon to 4, it’s your best friend’s birthday on Wednesday and you promised you would go to all-you-can-eat sushi, and your Poli-Sci final is on Thursday and you haven’t even started reviewing! Stop, breathe, relax. Open your agenda (if you don’t have one, then go get one! Or make Google calendar your new best friend) and assign time slots to everything on your to-do list. Make sure to base this on priority and deadline. For example, edit your paper now so you have time to practice O-chem tonight as well!

3. Take care of yourself

If you can’t remember exactly when you took your last shower, then something needs a little tweak in your finals lifestyle. While it can be easy to forget the fundamentals (showering, brushing your teeth, eating healthy), be motivated by how much better you feel – and hence, how much better you study and perform – when you truly take care of yourself. A wise friend once told me, “look good, feel good,” which means to say that you will be more confident in your studies and finals endeavors when you take the time to maintain proper hygiene, eat healthy, and exercise to manage stress.

 

Happy finals and have a great spring break!

A Summer in Spain

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As a fourth year here at UCLA, I have had many memorable experiences that have helped to solidify my love for this school. However, one that truly stands out was my time studying abroad in Spain this past summer. It has been a dream since I was a tiny freshman in High School to travel abroad and soak in the language, food, and lifestyle of a foreign country. Finally this summer that dream came true.

I applied through UCLA’s travel study program during the fall of my junior year with high hopes of taking off across the world just a few short months from then. Upon the arrival of my email acceptance, I was ecstatic, but also REALLY nervous! I am lucky to have a family that has traveled with me to many international locations; however, this was the first time I would be taking on a foreign part of the world by myself. Winter and spring quarter rushed by and by the end of June it was already time to hop on a plane and begin my journey abroad. I decided to take advantage of the close proximity of countries in Europe and began my travels in London where I spent eight cold, wet, but beautiful days exploring the London eye, Westminster Abby, and training my pinky finger to be classy at High Tea. Although my days in London were wonderful and filled with lots of photo-taking and tube-riding, I was ready to get out of the rain and into the sun! The adventure continued in Venice, Italy where I met up with two of my closest friends who were also studying abroad for the summer. Venice was definitely a change with an abundance of sun, pasta, tanned bodies, and GELATO. While my friends would take class in the mornings I would take a vaparretto across the canals and find myself lost in a maze of tiny streets filled with vendors, street artists and little Italian kids playing handball in the courtyards. It was bliss; a bliss filled to the brim with pistachio and coffee gelato.

Barcelona was the next destination I found myself in and was also the start of my Travel Study program through UCLA. The first three days were spent in Barcelona exploring the city, meeting and making new friends, and beginning our intensive Spanish language program. Then we traveled to Madrid for two days and then on to Granada for five weeks. The program was big, 80 students or so, and I was worried that I would have trouble making friends and finding my group to travel with for the next six weeks. However, my worries shortly subsided as I met some of the most kind, exciting, and open individuals of my UCLA experience. Students mainly from UCLA and some from other UC’s came together to create a lively community of travelers each bringing something unique to the program.

My favorite part of being in Spain was learning the language. My professor, Juan-Jesus, was one of the best professors I have had at UCLA thus far and he made my experience with learning a language that had always stumped me, easy! I promised myself to try to speak Spanish at least 75% of the time that I was in Spain and doing so helped me excel in class and my studies. My most memorable moment in Spain was when my friend was sick with the stomach flu, and I went to the pharmacy to pick up medication for her. I felt so accomplished after I had to converse with the pharmacist in only Spanish! Over the course of the program, I became extremely close with many students in the program, and we were able to travel to new places on weekends, try new foods and drinks, and spend nights dancing our feet off in salsa clubs. It was an experience that truly helped me discover who I am and what I want out of life; an experience that I would encourage all students at UCLA to discover!

Survival Kit for Premeds: MCAT prep

Inside Ackerman
Photo Credit: Copyright 2013 Coral Von Zumwalt

After spending three long months of prepping for the MCAT, I wanted to summarize a few tips for prospective MCAT takers.
First of all, the format that you guys will probably take is different from the one that I just took. As you already know, AAMC is changing the format of the MCAT in 2015 that will incorporate a few more subjects and lengthen the exam by a couple of hours. The following tips regarding test prep will apply to MCAT regardless of the format.

Let’s jump right in:

1. “To take a course, or not to take a course. That is the question.”
Many people wonder whether prep courses are worth the bucks. Personally, I did take an online Kaplan course, partly because I was able to get a discount through a UCLA premed organization. If you could afford it, or get a discount off of it like I did, I would suggest that you take an online on-demand course, so that you could get access to their study materials but you are not bound by it. For Kaplan, there is a course called Kaplan Advantage-Anywhere, which allows you to go online to listen in on lectures at designated times. Given that they are live lectures, you could easily interact with the tutor. Or, you could also go online at any time and just watch the pre-recorded on-demand lectures. I personally just watched the on-demand lectures when I had time and emailed my tutor to ask about anything that was unclear. The best part of the course for me was the practice tests. Their PS and BS section tests were challenging, which expanded my knowledge and increased my speed. I really appreciated that they gave all of the AAMC practice tests, which I recommend that you finish by at least a week prior to your test.
If you do decide to take a course, be careful not to monopolize your study material on just one prep company. Aside from Kaplan material, I personally had workbook pdf for Berkeley review, Princeton review, and Examkrackers to refer to. Of course I did not read through all of them, but I did refer to them when I was struggling with certain concepts. Also, the lecture tests at the end of sections exposed me to a variety of questions and helped me to tackle topics from different angles.

2. “Before you start anything, make a schedule.”
Whether you take a course or not, you do need to make a schedule that will give you a general idea of how to spend the next three to four months. The sample schedule posted on SDN (Student Doctor Network) helped me, and I hope they make one for the new version of the MCAT. The schedule helped me to keep me on track, and it gave me an assurance that I was following through with my plans. With that said, I did not strictly stick with my schedule. I did change it up a little throughout the preparation to accommodate for my weaknesses.
Three months, or longer for some people, is a long time, and you definitely want to keep track of your work to make sure you will be ready by the test day.

3. “Don’t underestimate the ‘MCAT burnouts.'”
When I heard about the burnouts, I thought to myself that those are for weak bums, and I completely disregarded the thought of experiencing one of my own: arrogance.
Three months is short in the sense that you don’t have time to review EVERYTHING, but it definitely feels like forever when you are waking up in the morning, sitting in the same spot, reading and solving problems for hours on end until you find yourself reading the same line over and over again with nothing being processed in your brain. Challenging yourself is good. Having ambition helps. But that doesn’t make you a superhuman who can handle spending 10 hours a day for three months.
So make it as enjoyable and as sustainable as possible. Change it up a little. Get out of the house. Visit different libraries and cafés. Take short breaks in between studying. Definitely take a break during lunch and dinner to be recharged. Some people recommend taking a whole day off per week. I personally couldn’t do that, because taking long breaks made me more anxious than relaxed. But do whatever works for you. Be careful not to be too harsh or over-ambitious. Be realistic. Listen to your body.

Best of luck to you, premeds. If you have any questions, post away.

Bruin in London

Piccadily Circus at Night— Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

Four weeks into my study abroad experience via UC EAP at the London School of Economics, I have barely had time to write— London is constantly buzzing with things to do! I can’t even believe that I have midterms next week and finals the week after… this has definitely been one of the most exhilarating experiences thus far in college.

So first off, I’d like to chronicle my experiences in the fantastic city by location, rather than time. More to come later!

 

The London School of Economics

This school is one of the leading institutes in the world for economics and the social sciences. I’ve chosen to take two electives here: MG101 (Marketing) and MG133 (Management). These two courses have offered me a chance to get a glimpse of the theories behind strategic marketing and management tactics in the business world. Each course is structured with daily three hour lectures and one hour seminars (much like discussions at UCLA). I’ve had plenty of opportunities to interact with my classmates from all over the world and grow in the process. The fact that approximately a third of my classmates have real world experience working in major companies has further created opportunities to hear about what the adult life is like! These courses have definitely been intensive but definitely manageable, as I have had plenty of time to explore London in my time off! The school itself has a very different vibe from UCLA as it is not so much a college with a town but rather a big city that has a school planted right in the heart of the city. This has allowed me to fully integrate myself into the life here and experience “the true London”.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace—-Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

Buckingham Palace is magnificent. It’s located near Victoria Station, only a short bus ride from the school. On our day off, a fellow Bruin and I traveled over to watch the changing of the guards, unfortunately, we picked the wrong spot to stake out and thus only saw the entry and exit of the guards. Yet it was still quite a sight to see as guards dressed in royal red and black outfits marched by and policemen galloped by on magnificent stallions. We also paid a couple of pounds to get an in depth tour of the state rooms, which were displaying the Royal Childhood Exhibition at the time. The splendor of the palace cannot be described… unfortunately we couldn’t take pictures inside the palace so I have attached a photo of the statue outside just to give you all a taste of the grandeur!

Musicals: Wicked and Mamma Mia

London has a vibrant arts culture. Every corner of each major street probably has a ticket stand selling tickets to various musicals in London, which run six to seven days a week. I was fortunate enough to see Wicked and Mamma Mia here! I was quite impressed with Wicked. The vocals were incredibly powerful and the storyline contained all the components of humor, romance, and friendship. It was definitely worth it! The stage itself was also a magnificent work of art: a dragon leered over the top of the stage and large stage props were automated so that they rolled in by themselves during transitions. I liked the twist the story put on the original story of the Wizard of Oz. For those who haven’t seen the musical yet, I definitely encourage you all to try it!

Covent Garden, Piccadily Circus & Oxford Street

Bruins in London!— Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

These three places are probably London’s premier shopping destinations. Granted, London does have fashionable shops everywhere, but these three attract large crowds on a daily basis! Piccadily Circus even had a “Street Musician Month” where they completely closed off the length of the road from Piccadily to Oxford Circus and invited artists to perform and sing. It was quite a sight!

London Eye, Big Ben

Thames River at night— Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

Of course my visit to London wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the most popular attractions here! I didn’t get to actually go on the London Eye, but even from afar the ferris wheel was majestic. Big Ben was quite on time. You can hear the chimes at the top of each hour from afar (even from my building!). One night, two other fellow bruins and I decided to climb the bridge looking over the Thames River in the dead of the night and the sight was so beautiful.

Oxford University

A friend and I took a 1.5 hr bus to take a tour of this top institution on a random weekend! Though we didn’t actually get to set foot in many of the colleges, the architecture from outside was still amazing. (Think Royce Hall meets Powell times infinity).

 

Well that’s a quick summary of a couple of the places I’ve been thus far in London! I’m so incredibly grateful to my parents and UCEAP for providing an opportunity for me to study in one of the greatest city in the world. I’m enjoying my time here and am quite sad that I only have two weeks left. London, you have truly taken my breath away with your fantabulous architecture and fast-paced lifestyle and men in suits. Now for midterms and finals…

Shoutouts to any Bruins abroad/ from abroad right now! Let me know where you’re from in the comments below. 🙂

 

A Bittersweet Time of Year

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

 

Just last week I watched so many of my best friends graduate at commencement. This time of the year is so bittersweet because it reminds you of the great times you’ve had with those friends who are graduating and you know that they will do wonderful things in the future, but it’s so sad because you don’t want them to leave! Many people are going all over the country and all over the world upon graduation which I think is really awesome, but of course for selfish reasons I get a little bit more happy when others tell me they’ll be staying around the LA area for some time. Seeing my close friends going off into the real world causes me to reflect on the fact that I only have one more year here. I cannot believe that this time has passed SO fast and I can’t wait to make this next, last year of mine the best one yet!

 

Literati Cafe

 

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

 

During 10th week and Finals week, campus can get a little depressing with students living in the libraries, forgoing showers, and replacing their meals with caffeine. However, some places in LA make for great less-depressing and more colorful study spots, such as Literati Cafe. I went here for the first time last weekend and had a delicious Spanish latte and enjoyed sitting outside in the sunlight and seeing the artwork inside. The best part was running into so many other friends from UCLA! While it can get a little crowded at times, I thought it was  a great experience.

The Best Decision I’ve Ever Made (So Far)

 

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Since admission decisions have been sent out to high school students, I have seen a multitude of confused families wandering around campus, unsure on where to park, what to eat, and where to go to learn more about UCLA. Tour groups have been packed with much more students and families than usual and I’ve been stopped a great amount more by people asking for directions around campus.

This reminds me of when I first made the personal decision to attend UCLA about three years ago. Since I came from a very small high school– I basically grew up with my graduating class– and I had no clue what attending a huge university like UCLA would be like. I was so unsure of what the campus would be like (or what college would be like in general) and I was frightened to enter this gray area of life that I knew so little about with people I knew nothing about.

But now, looking back, I am so extremely glad I chose to attend UCLA. I have grown immensely as a person and learned so much about myself I never knew before. I have learned so much more about different cultures and the world in general here by interacting with such a diverse range of students. I have met some of my best friends here that I am sure I will be friends with forever. I’ve also discovered my passion for education here, my love for Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles and long hikes with great views, and my working style and strengths and weaknesses. Learning to navigate Los Angeles and myself has been a long journey, but I enjoyed it every step of the way and it was well worth it.

With only one more year left at UCLA, I am actually so sad to leave. This place has literally become my home– the place I feel the most comfortable at surrounded by the people I know will always be there for me no matter what. However, I also think I am so much more ready to enter the “real world” with the help from the relationships I made here and the skills and knowledge (inside and outside of the classroom) I’ve been able to develop.

Here’s a picture of my best friend helping me move into Hedrick Summit way back in Fall 2011. Welcome, new Bruins!

 

 

Survival Kit for Premeds: Organic Chemistry Lab

Photo Credit: Copyright 2013 Coral von Zumwalt

While organic chemistry class itself is daunting on its own, the lab portion is flat-out terrifying. It requires knowledge from organic chemistry as well as general chemistry, which most people in the class took at least a year ago. I heard how difficult the class is and I kind of tried to prepare for it by reviewing some old chemistry material, but I felt overwhelmed with the amount of information and didn’t really know what to focus on. So this is my attempt to give you guys an advice on how to endure through one of the toughest lower-division science courses here at UCLA. I specifically took the CHEM 30BL course last quarter, and I will be basing my advice on that class.

1. Reviewing general chemistry concepts

The class requires you to know some key concepts from general chemistry that is readily used in the laboratory. By knowing some general concepts, you can better understand what is going on and learn how to make adjustments to reactions when things don’t turn out as expected. Some of the key concepts you should know are solubility (what determines whether compounds are soluble in water or organic solvent?), polarity (what makes a compound polar?), acid-base chemistry (Arrhenius and Bronsted-Lowery; what does it mean for a molecule to be acidic/basic?), and equilibrium constant (calculations involving molarities of products and reactants; pKa values/meaning). Polarity seems to be the hardest for people to really understand, and it was definitely the hardest for me on the final. Knowing these concepts inside-and-out will greatly benefit you throughout the quarter.

2. Organic chemistry knowledge

While the lab obviously does not cover all reactions learned in organic chemistry classes, it does cover some of the most simple reactions. The reactions themselves are not what makes the class so challenging. So do not stress over having to know all of the mechanisms for the reactions. But the reactions that my class covered were acid-catalyzed dehydration, phase transfer catalysis, various oxidation reactions, Diels-Alder, Grignards, and Fischer esterification. What is most important while doing the experiments is that you understand the reasoning and logic behind each step of the experiment. Why are you using that particular solvent? What will the sodium carbohydrate do to the crude product mixture? Which layer is the organic layer? Why do we reflux the mixture? What does this color change indicate?

For data analysis, you will need to know how to interpret basic IR, H-NMR, C-NMR, UV-Vis Spec, and polarimetry. Also, make sure to review and understand how TLC (thin-layer chromatography) works. Understand what determines the Rf value (retardation factor). This will be covered in lab as well as in the final.

3. Prepping for final

The score breakdown for my particular class (CHEM 30BL) consisted of weekly online quizzes, in-lab quizzes, pre/post lab reports, in-lab assignments (not every week), lab notebook, and a final. So there is no midterm and the only test you get is the final. Start studying for the final EARLY and you’ll be glad you did by the time finals week rolls around. I recommend getting started in week 5 or 6, so that you’ll have time to go through the practice tests as each test takes a pretty long time to go through. For 30BL, you are provided with a booklet of past finals. Use it! Know it inside-and-out. If you don’t understand something, visit his office hours! The instructor is very generous about giving up his time and has office hours everyday. Go in there and befriend him. He’ll help you out.
As for what to study for the final, I would focus mainly on the reader and the practice tests. Make sure you know all of the experiments that were done in the lab (including the questions listed in the back of each experiment!), and go through all of the practice tests and try to understand the reasoning and general concepts. The final consists of a experiment/mechanism section, TLC section, polarity section, lab technique section, IR spectra, and structure identification (given: molecular formula, IR, H-NMR, C-NMR/dept).

Overall, just stay on top of the material. Read over the experiment thoroughly before attending lab, visit office hours often, and study hard throughout the quarter. It may be intimidating at first to visit his office hours, but I swear he’s a nice guy! He makes an effort to learn the names of people who show up during office hours, and he calls you by your name by like the third time you come in!

It is definitely a challenging course, but hopefully you will come out of the class saturated with applicable chemistry knowledge.

Good luck! And contact me if you have any questions.

Survival Kit for Premeds: Physics

Physics is notorious for being one of the most tough subjects, especially for life science majors. Going into my first class of the physics series (Physics 6A), I was really nervous. Since my high school didn’t offer AP Physics, the only physics class I had taken was a regular physics class during my junior year that was very conceptual with little math calculations involved. Here are a couple of things I learned from my first quarter of physics at UCLA.

1) Previewing the material beforehand is very helpful. If you can set aside some time before the start of the quarter to preview the chapters that will be covered in class, you will definitely be able to understand the concepts more easily when the professor goes over them in class. Also, preview the material covered by the lecture before going to lecture. It will keep you from getting lost during lecture, especially if your professor is not a native speaker.

2) Do ALL of the masteringphysics homework problems. I don’t know if my professor was the only one who uses the homework problems for the exams, but he used the same exact problems from the homework numerous times. Make sure you know how to do all of the homework problems within 15 minutes each. The midterms are only 50 minutes long with 4 problems, and I assure you,, they can get a little bit stressful because of the time pressure.

3) Get a solution manual for the textbook. The solutions to the homework problems are posted after the deadline, which often times is too late for you to look and study off of for the midterms and finals. It’s better to just get the solution manual yourself, so that you’ll have it right there when you need it. But don’t be tempted to look at the solution manual every time you get stuck on a problem. Try to solve the questions on your own first, then check the answers. I realized that unlike other subjects, like biology, chemistry, or math, physics requires a longer critical thinking period. It wasn’t uncommon that I spend 30 minutes or longer to solve one single problem. With my short attention span and impatience, I struggled with this aspect of physics, but I think I kind of got used to it by the end of the quarter.

4) Visit the test bank for practice midterms and finals. As with any other class, it is always helpful to have sample tests to practice with. Don’t let these practice tests go to waste though! Set aside the allotted time to do each test like you would during the actual test. Time yourself and grade your tests right afterwards. Trust me. It will help you during the actual test. Sometimes, the professors will post a practice test online, but from my experience, those tests are easier than the actual test. So, do visit the test bank, and it may actually save your grade.

Physics was definitely one of the hardest classes that I took last quarter, but I noticed that the more time I spend on physics, the more I understood the concepts. I remember thinking to myself, “when will physics ever get easy?” but physics was a constant struggle for me until the very end. Good thing that the class is curved. Physics is hard for most people, if not everyone. To those who will be taking physics 6 series in the near future, stay on top of the material covered in class and don’t ever give up! You’ll be done with physics before you know it!