I’m at the end of week 2 of my biology class, and wow, it has been a lot. On the first day of class, I learned that the listing was wrong, and that the class wouldn’t in fact consist of 9 hours of mandatory synchronous lectures (plus 6 hours of lab and additional an addition hour or two of discussion), but instead all the lectures would be pre-recorded to watch “at our convenience” and instead, the 9 hours of synchronous lecture would be used for review.
That means they doubled the lecture hours from 9 to 18.
In effect, it isn’t quite that bad. The synchronous lecture often “only” lasts an hour, and the recorded lectures are actually 80 minutes, not 90. Still, this adds up to about 16 hours of lecture. Each lecture comes with on average a full chapter of reading, where a chapter is 30 pages or so of dense information-packed reading. So at night, I need to read a chapter, which takes one to two hours, and watch 80 to 160 minutes of lecture. I get Saoirse in bed by 8:15 or so and am usually ready to start working at 8:30. I need to be up at 6:30 to run. You do the math. It doesn’t really add up.
Nevertheless, I’ve been soldiering along and catching up / getting ahead on weekends and doing staying caught up so far. I have a babysitter for the synchronous lectures during the day and for the labs, and I may have to get her for a few more hours as the summer progresses. (The reason not to, obviously, is cost.)
I’m really enjoying learning again. Of course I learned on the job. Heck, I started in a whole new industry in 2019. However, it’s just not the same as taking dedicated unpressured time to just learn something new over the course of weeks or months. Some of the material is straight memorization, but other parts have a sort of logic that appeals. I enjoyed learning about how all the various building blocks of proteins, lipids, carbs, and nucleic acids work, and how the bonds are formed and so on. It’s like you learn various building blocks and can then put them together like puzzle pieces. Jonathan learned a lot of this stuff (in less detail) in high school, but I never took Bio, so I’m seeing it for the first time, and it’s fascinating and intriguing. One thing that is different than aerospace is that the textbook often states, “it is thought” or “it may” or flat out “it is not known.” In aerospace, we may not have a perfect approach to solving all the equations, but most of the basics are known without much ambiguity. That is not necessarily the case in biology. There is uncertainty about many fundamentals that one encounters even in an introductory course.
On a personal front, the increased hours mean that I have completely dropped all hobbies except for a short daily run, and making time for that has taken some commitment. Jonathan and I have basically not spent any time together since it started. We used to spend an hour or so together in the evening most nights, and that has stopped completely. It’s a 5 hour semester class compressed into half a semester, meaning it’s effectively a 10 hour class. In any case, it’s only eight weeks. I think it would be a lot more sustainable if I’d taken it over the course of a normal semester instead of in the summer.
The lab is online and lame. Perhaps I would like it better if it was in person. I think I’d like it a little bit better, but probably not much. Thinking back, I’ve despised or at least disliked pretty much every lab I ever took – chemistry, particle dynamics, emag, aerospace structures, aerodynamics, and, yes, controls. Were there any others? If so, they didn’t make a big impression. I don’t know what it is, but I just do not enjoy labs. The question is whether that is incompatible with biology in general, since so much of biology appears to be experimental time in a lab. I suspect not.