Saturday, February 9, 2019

What We Learned: College Senior Edition



The graduate explains a complicated
piece of equipment in the chem lab.



I’ve been waiting a year and a half to post this.   Back in 2017, my middle child, fondly known here as “Son,” graduated from college.  He just this month found his first full-time job, for which we are all thankful.  Now it's high time I posted this. 

In June 2017, I asked, “What did you learn this school year?”

Son’s answers, forthwith. 
Believe it or not, these answers are abridged from the original.  Younger Daughter added to the conversation.

Son: I learned what the eight types of corrosion are.  And Goedel’s incompleteness theorem.  I recently found a youtube video that explains Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem.  It’s on a youtube channel called NumberPhile.

Younger Daughter:  Girdle needs to get a new name.

Son: In my other math class I learned all about solving numerical differential equations by numerical methods.

YD:  What other way is there?

Son: Analytical methods.  The numerical method is basically a trial and error method.

YD: Oh, so it’s Newton’s method.

Son: Yes, essentially.  Did you learn Euler’s method?

YD:  Oiler?

Son: It’s pronounced “Oiler” but spelled “Yuler”.  I’m surprised you didn’t learn that in calculus.

[Much discussion of f(x) type stuff, with writing of equations on a poster board that just happened to be lying there.  In an activist’s home in 2017, there was always poster board lying around.]



Son: In my research I learned that the problem is never where you expect it is.

Son:  This equation (writes on poster board) describes heat conduction.  So solving this equation is of interest.  Sometimes the equations can be way more complicated than this, and it becomes impossible to solve analytically.

Me, yearning to get out of equation mode: What about band? What did you learn in band?

Son:  Never underestimate how many times you will play “Candide.”  Also, I learned that there is always a Sousa march.


Son: Last semester I took a senior lab.  I learned that the T.A.s are not always right.  When the TA tells you to do something, you usually just do it.  But then the professor comes around and says, “That’s not what you’re supposed to do at all.”

YD:  How long do your experiments usually take?

Son:  A couple hours.

YD:   Lucky.  In bio, experiments take weeks.  For us, we cannot artificially speed up the hatching of a fly.

Son: I also took Surfaces and Adsorption. 

Me:     Absorption?

Son: No, with a d.  (college nerd pun alert --> ) The professor taught this class using a Microsoft “Surface”. … 
The professor reminded me of Grandpa Bill.  He had a white beard and explained things as if he was teaching them to his grandchildren. You could do however badly on the homework assignments and still get a good grade.
Words like "reflux", "pot", "head", and "rust"
mean something different to
 chemical engineers.


In Corrosions we actually did a real project and I lucked out and got a lab partner who worked in an electrochemistry lab, and so he knew how all the equipment worked.  Electrochemistry is basically the same thing as corrosion.

Me:     I thought corrosion was rust.

Son:  Yeah. Rust is an electrochemical reaction.  … The coolest thing was the impressed-current cathodic corrosion protection.  That’s where you have a big piece of metal that you don’t want to corrode, and you have another piece of metal some distance away, and you set up a voltage source.  This prevents one of them from corroding. The drawback is that it uses a lot of energy and creates a lot of hydrogen gas.

Me:     That sounds dangerous.

Son: It’s more just that it’s environmentally unsound.

Me:     Isn’t hydrogen gas what was used in the Hindenburg?  And it exploded?

Son:  Yeah?  So?

Following the graduation ceremony, the graduate plays
ping pong with his father.


2 comments:

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

A job! A job!! A job!! Huzzah and congratulations!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Congratulations on the job!
I did learn a lot reading this, you always make me smarter when I read your posts.