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Monday, September 8, 2008

Last Year of Undergrad

This morning my last year as an undergraduate student started. It seems like this has been a very long time coming, due to the fact that I have spent two extra years being an undergraduate thanks to losing a year in the transfer from engineering to science and the year-long internship I did while still in engineering. Anyway, in preparation for this year, I decided I would post a list of the courses I am going to be taking. It might not be interesting to anyone else, but it's interesting to me.

Computational Complexity and Computability: The name pretty much sums up what this computer science course is about. I am not particularly excited about this course, but neither am I dreading it. It should be interesting enough, and I may even be pleasantly surprised if it turns out to be engaging beyond a passing interest.

Knowledge Representation and Reasoning: This is a fourth year/graduate computer science course that I was actually signed up to take last year, but ended up switching out of due to the fact that I would be taking it at the same time as its prerequisite (which I was also taking while skipping its prerequisite). The content of this course follows fairly traditional approaches to artificial intelligence (constructing knowledge bases of known facts and using logic to reason about further facts). While I find traditional AI quite intuitive, I also think it is impractical and unwieldy when faced with large-scale problems. I am looking forward to this course quite a bit because I like what I have seen of the professor, and he co-wrote the textbook which I also like from the bits that I have read so far.

Neuroscience Laboratory: While overall self-explanatory from the title, I'm not quite sure what to expect with the details of this one. I have heard fairly unfortunate reviews about it from other students I know who have taken it, but, while I would like to focus on theoretical work, I think a practical knowledge of the laboratory is a useful thing to learn. I haven't really done much wet-lab work (really just high-school chemistry and the summer I worked at the Columbia Brewery in quality control), so I'm a little nervous about some aspects of the course.

Neuroanatomy: Also a fairly descriptive title, while I was initially thinking of not taking this course due to the fact that I tend to find the memorization of anatomy incredibly dull, I heard very good things about the course and its instructor. Also, there is a laboratory component to this course as well which should be interesting.

Linear Algebra II: I am not at all looking forward to taking this course. I know linear algebra is an important area of math, and I have been upset with myself for not learning it better in my first year of university those many years back, but that doesn't mean I enjoy it. Oh well, learning cannot always be fun, sometimes it is just necessary...

Chaos, Fractals, and Dynamics: This is my fun math course for the year. While I heard wonderful things about the professor who normally teaches it, he is unfortunately out on sabbatical for the year. I actually had my first lecture this morning, though, so I got a look at the professor who will be teaching the course. While he has an unfortunate tendency to mumble, he is interested in the material and doesn't give the impression to hate/look down upon the students he is teaching, so I'm calling that a win (I know it is stereotyping, but it seems like hatred of and/or disdain for students is a little too common in the mathematics faculty. I won't mention names, but I think of several examples).

Neuroscience I: Systems and Behaviour: A full year grad-listed physiology course, I think this should be a good one. It is taught by several of the same professors who did the motor control systems course I took last year, including the professor who I did research with this past summer. The material looks interesting and challenging.

For those who are counting, you might have noticed this is only seven courses. That is because Systems and Behaviour is a full year course, but even then I only have four courses per semester, rather than the normal full load of five. That is because I am still planning to add a project/undergraduate thesis course, I just need to finalize a professor under whom I will work. This has taken a fair bit longer than I had thought it would, mainly because almost the entire machine learning department is away on sabbatical this year (which has the added unfortunate side-effect of meaning several of the courses I had planned to take are also cancelled, as well as the remaining professors are too busy to take on a project student). Anyway, I have tentative contact with a professor in aerospace engineering (I do recognize the irony here) who does work in robotics, but we still have to find the time to meet in person rather than just through email.

EDIT: Oops, I forgot to add the other activity I am going to be doing this year. Combining my desperate need for physical activity, my dorky love of history, and my male aggressive instincts manifesting in the desire to play with weapons, I have decided to take a fencing class at the athletic centre.