"I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment... and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn." -Thoreau

Friday, July 20, 2012


Hello, hello!

How quickly life enters a whirlwind state!
That, or I have become incredibly lazy this summer. Certainly, relative to the school year, Northfield has become more of a sleepy rural town- in the correct way. Evenings pass by with a strange sense of leisure and rapidity, as though processing time has slowed down. It is a bit amusing that by 7pm the day feels largely over, whereas during the school year that would give me at least five to six more hours of ideal work time- essentially an entire work day!

But even despite this newfound slothery and small-town sleepiness, the level of excitement in my life took a sharp rise in recent days. This is due almost exclusively to the MU3C Conference I attended at the beginning of the week. (MU3C = Midwest Undergraduate Computational Chemistry Consortium). My relatively slow-paced workdays of reading papers, learning Fortran, and trying to get a handle on how things worked hastened considerably as the conference approached. I learned how to smoothly submit jobs for computation, worked on developing my talk for the conference, practiced said talk way too many times, learned how to lift data (not difficult, but it's amazing how things can get mysteriously screwed up...), learned how to use gnuplot (in retrospect, way better than Excel!), struggled to get a sufficiently good grasp of Ewald summation to be able to explain it to a room of people, and frantically gathered preliminary results to demonstrate to others that we (my research partner and I) are not fully incompetent and have actually achieved something during the last five weeks.s.

Consequently, the past week and weekend  were a little crazy and stressful, and the size of my to-do list was, at a point, rather alarmingly disproportionate with the time available for the completion of its items... but it all worked out just great.

The conference itself was very...chill. I would estimate (I am terrible at such estimations) there were 30ish people in attendance? Talks were given by undergrads presenting their research, and also from faculty members (mostly from University of Minnesota, our sponsoring institution), we got a nice tour of the University's Supercomputing Institute (which I know was impressive, but my ignorance impedes me from knowing just how impressed I should be. I suspect I should be pretty darn impressed though), talked to current grad students about computational chemistry at the U, and lunched and dined with fellow conference members. I was happy to be able to meet other students doing work similar to my own, and on the other hand, it was interesting to see how we all had different skill sets. Some people were using quantum mechanical methods, others molecular dynamics (which uses classical mechanics), and others (such as myself) Monte Carlo techniques (which are awesome and use random numbers to run everything!), in addition to a variety of unique systems being studied-- from collisions between CO2 and H, the chemical pathways involved in acid rain, the study of a protein key to a virus analogous to HIV, CO2 separation and sequestration, astrochemistry, and more. Exciting stuff. As for my own talk, in case you were wondering, it went much better than I would have hoped! I was fortunate enough to receive very kind compliments, and it was gratifying to know that my professor was proud of the work we had done. :D Huzzah!

Now I am afraid I must prepare for a new work day. The day promises to be demanding... Dani (my prof) is a strong advocate of the immersive method of education. To translate, it means she enjoys pushing us into the water and leaving us to figure out how to swim... while she stands in the sidelines and glances over every now and then to make sure we don't drown. Terrifying? A little. But surprisingly effective.

So au revoir for now, dear Reader. At some point I must sit down and compose something that is actually interesting and thought-provoking, but I felt it was necessary to explain the cause of my extended absence.

до свидания!     

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