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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Chemical Engineering Overload

Ivan asks, in regards to my recent post on procrastination, what exactly I am meant to be doing so early in the year, so far removed from the exam period.

Answer: A heck of a lot of Chemical Engineering!

This is the result of two factors, the old Monash Engineering course stucture, and the cramming, "put my head down for two weeks before exams" study style I used (to comparatively unsatisfactory effect) at the end of last semester.

The first factor boils down to having six four-credit subjects a semester instead of four six-credit subjects. Theoretically, each four-credit subject should have less workload than a six-credit one, and this is probably the actual situation. However, I still feel that having the six subjects is more difficult. Since with six subjects, the variety of content is greater, material is considerably harder to mentally link together. As each subject is taught over a number of mostly one hour lectures each week, by the time your mind gets "in the zone", the lecture is mostly over.

As for the second factor, some subjects/topics which I glossed over in first and second year are returning to have their revenge. If any future engineering student or current first/second year engineering student comes across this, the following, which appear prima facie to have no practical relavence may come back to haunt you:
  1. Fourier Series
  2. Taylor Series
  3. Integration by Parts
  4. Integrating Factors
  5. Solution methods of ODEs and PDEs
  6. Grad, Div and Curl
I knew the concepts during the relavent exam period, but now? Back to the books.

With all this Chemical Engineering I've been inundated with, I think I'm starting to develop symptoms of Chemical Engineering Overload, including:
  1. Engaging in Chemical Engineering humour - e.g. bringing up the Ideal Gas law with regards to toilet humour
  2. After a hefty dinner, starting a sentence with "If we assume that the digestive system is a CSTR and PFR in series...." then thinking it would be cool to do a fourth year design project describing the rudimentary workings of the human body as a series of unit operations
  3. Thinking it would be equally cool to put together a small pilot-scale production plant in the garage (Soy-drink, ginger beer or chocolate production were the priorties!)
  4. When I was feeling particularly proud of myself for overcoming my procrastinatory tendancies, saying something along the lines of "Yes! I'm approaching Carnot efficiency"

Really, sometimes I worry even myself.


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