I would like to say I can do everything I think I can do but I cannot and I think it has come time that you guys deserve an explanation. I’ve mentioned in class that I am suffering from a muscle problem but haven’t specified what type, today I got my diagnosis confirmed by a second doctor as a rare condition called dermatomyositis. It is an autoimmune condition (meaning it is caused by my own immune system attacking me) that attacks my skin and muscle tissue. On the outside, if you look closely you will see a dull red rash across the back of my knuckles and on my face (the hallmark of the disease), but internally I am undergoing a slow destruction of my core muscle groups. As of right now the muscle damage is manageable and can be forestalled (though not cured), but it does make it more difficult for me to climb stairs and stand for long periods of time. The disease mechanism is such that it also makes me overly worn out (imagine how you feel after a long day at the gym, that is my normal state). Within the next month I will be starting a low dose immune suppressant to try and stop the progression of the disease, but that comes with its own side effects.
I am not telling you this for sympathy or as an excuse per se, but rather to make you aware why I might not be going the many extra miles I normally would like to. In a normal semester I would be reworking all my PowerPoints with new materials, making up pages of practice problems and working up new labs… this semester I just don’t have the energy. So this term I am relying on some older PowerPoints, maybe not making as many practice problems and such, but I will always get the core of the material across. I will always be in class unless I physically cannot be there and will always be available for questions. As much as I hoped to not have this influence my classes I know it has and thought you all deserved an explanation.
Since this is a first run of a new class (CEM131 was restructured over the summer), I am not as sure of the dates for exams, but I guarantee you will have at least a week’s notice. After the first one I should be able to gauge better our pace through the material. The first exam will be next Thursday (9/12/13) and it will cover Chapters 1-3 in the text. I’ll be posting new Mastering Chemistry assessments and practice problems over the weekend to help you study.
For this first run with the new computer system I will be adding assignments as extra practice for you. I will not be grading these but the problem sets will help you expand on your learning so I highly advise you work through them. Note that each text should come with an access code. I have added an assignment set for Chapter 1. It is set to be due on 9/9/13 but this is simply to remind you that you need to keep up with the work, not to calculate a grade, you can access the course after this time point.
The course is located by the following information.
Ah, the start of semester. That fun time when students start to barrage me with questions like “when will you post this?” and “why haven’t you done this?” At the same time I am grading the daily quizzes which show for many of you that the idea of daily quizzes was just a joke. Yeah, even professors get a little bitter grading those first quizzes, especially after receiving a number of “hurry up” emails from the same students that got 2’s and 3’s out of ten.
Yes, I am working on materials and no I am not finished. Much like I am assume a number of you have taken time off for the holiday, so have I. My mom is visiting from California to see her new grandson and I would rather not be holed up for the entire weekend working.
The BIO161 PowerPoint files are up and the CEM131 ones will be up later this evening. I am still working with the service provider on MasterChemistry (yes, they take Labor Day off too). Yes, there will be a daily quiz tomorrow in both classes. BIO161 can expect material from Chapter 21 and the presentation on Thursday while CEM131 can expect some problems involving significant figures. My Bio161 class also needs to remember to wear appropriate footwear and clothing for a short (~1.5 miles) hike in the woods.
My BIO220 class will only meet on Wednesday (hope no one showed up today). We will be covering Chapter 2, which covers Chemistry. As I said, if you have never had chemistry then you have better be studying it very hard right now. We will cover most if not all of Chapter 2 on Wednesday. Next Monday (9/9) we will not being having class. It will be your first day to work on your talk topics (which I will assign on Wednesday). I always give one “library day” for students to work up their references.
Remember, each class has a daily quiz on Thursday. As stated in the syllabus you are allowed any handwritten notes of your own you have (but you cannot use copies of the PowerPoint slides). The quiz, as I said will be the first ten (10) minutes of class. If you come in late that does no mean you get extra time for the quiz.
The Fall 2013 syllabi for BIO161 (General Biology 1) and BIO220 (Introductory Microbiology) are posted in their respective course subpages. Just click on the course number above and look under “Course Documents”
The syllabus for CEM131 (Introductory Chemistry) will be added later. It has been added.
The picture at the top is a rash that developed on my hand the other day after being in the sun for five minutes. I have since had some amount of the rash for going on three weeks and am seeing a dermatologist for it, but it made me think about the things a rash can teach us about biology and microbiology. I was thinking about this because one of the hardest things I have to try and get across to students about science is that you have to go in with an open mind when trying to actually do science.
My dermatologist is currently trying to decide if the rash is the result of a benign condition called Polymorphous Light Eruption (PLE, a hyper-reaction to UV radiation common in people during early spring) or an autoimmune condition called Dermatomyositis (DM, an autoimmune condition where the body attacks it own skin and muscles). Either way it results from my immune system responding to UV radiation in an inappropriate manner and requires some steroid treatments to fix.
I bring up this rash because every year I ask my BIO220 students about how Dr. Sterne first discovered that Lyme disease was an infectious disease. The answer is fairly simple, that the disease was treatable with penicillin, yet a majority of students miss it. The majority of students opt for the distinctive rash of Lyme disease meaning it is infectious. I know most students intuitively realize that a rash is not, by itself, an indicator of infection (think poison ivy, psoriasis, or eczema), but the students get tunnel vision and fill their heads with visions or measles or Lyme disease before they think through the question.
The take home message is that you need to spend a moment in my classes to think before you answer and learn to rely on that huge amount of intuitive information you have access to.
Every term I get a new crop of students and they always tell me they are going to get a 4.0 in my class. I know this won’t happen (usually only around 10-20% will score that well) but I tell them to do their best and we will see how they do. Around half-way through the term a number of them come to me and ask what they can do to improve their grade and I try to help them, but by then the habits that are failing them are set in. So I thought I would take a moment to write down a few things I have observed.
Come to class, no seriously, come. If you skip class or worse, sleep through class, you can never hope to get an understanding of anything more than the most basic concepts.
A class is only as active as the students want it to be. I plan a number of interactive components into my lessons, but often they just fall flat because when I ask for your participation you just stare at me and wait for me to fill in the silence. Ask questions, respond to queries, these are the ways to make learning more active and it helps to integrate the information in your head better.
Do the reading. If class is the first time you have seen the concepts we are going to discuss, you are already behind the curve. Read all materials assigned so you can come prepared to ask questions about the materials that make no sense.
Take notes, and then rewrite them. I publish all my PowerPoint slides of my lectures, but again, learning is not a passive process. You need to take notes over materials before class and then go over them during and after class to fill in the blanks and reorganize the materials for your own cognitive map.
Your handwriting, spelling and grammar count. I know this isn’t a writing class, but at the same time I can only assess what you actually wrote (and can interpret), not what you intended the scribble to mean. Misplaced punctuation, careless spelling, poor penmanship can all lead to your answer saying something completely different than you intended.
Deadlines are there for a reason. Just like in a job, I have expectations of when your work should be done and I stick to them. This is laid out at the beginning of the course and you will suffer consequences if you do not meet the deadlines.
Come to me with solutions not excuses. As I learned in business, the person who comes with a solution to a problem they are presenting is listened to more than someone who just comes with excuses for why the problem exists.
Come to think of it, just come see me for starters. If you avoid me after class and then ignore poor grades, I assume you don’t care about your grade. If you need help, seek it out. I may be intimidating, but it is time to put the big kid underoos on and learn to ask for help. Your grade is your own, take responsibility for it and its outcome.
If you make a mistake, own up to it. If you do something you shouldn’t (we are talking academic dishonesty here), the consequences will be much worse if I have to call you out on it. If you do something you shouldn’t, don’t make excuses and hide from it, accept that you did wrong and face the consequences. Honest contrition can go a long way.
In the end, realize your grade is your own and it is a summation of all your work. The grade for a course is not decided on a single exam or project. The grade for a course is the product of many, many assessments all summed together. It is similar to when a basketball player is harassed for not making the last second shot, does he bear the whole burden of the team losing? What about his teammate who shot two for twenty from the free-throw line or the other teammate that kept laying bricks from the three point line, don’t they share some of the blame for the lose? Your grade is about your performance through out the term, if you do poorly at the beginning it will be hard to pull it up at the end. Likewise, if you become lazy at the end, the grade can plummet. No one gives you a grade, you earn it.