chem major

Almost every time someone asks me what major I am, when I tell them “physics and chemistry” they are shocked, telling me how smart I must be. Occasionally making a self-deprecating joke about how they would never be able to manage hard sciences or how they were always bad at math.

I get sick of it. Not just because I hear it so much, but because it goes to show that people still honestly believe that science and mathematics are only meant for geniuses. That these are disciplines you just “get” rather than work at.

So whenever I answer that question and get no reaction I’m taken aback. Admittedly, some of it is because it fails to validate my desire to be considered smart. But it surprises me mostly because it suggests that maybe there is some shred of hope that people understand.

Understand that something like math is a field that must be worked at, much like any other. Whether it’s science or humanities. To be good at something you must work. Intellect alone can only take you so far. That being in one of these fields does not make you special.

It’s humbling. Something that physicists and mathematicians need to experience more regularly, to be perfectly honest.

These fields can be accessible to everyone, not just the intellectual elite.

A Brief History of Elsewhere

The Elsewhere is a deep place. It is beyond the grasp of human cognition, untouched by the cloying grasp of natural law, and indifferent to the rules of physics. Deep in the Elsewhere, the Courts play their games of Summer and Winter. They play their games with humans too. Dancing with those living too close to the soft spots of the world.

 Fae enjoy these games. The logic of pandemonium and disorder of the Elsewhere gets tedious for beings as eternal as the Good Neighbours, and so they surface from the shallows to crawl about the material world.

 They compel their flotsam, volatile particles into more constrained shapes. Taking inspiration from the dreams and nightmares of humans, they become named things, able to gleefully tread through a world bound by rules: kelpies, kitsune, banshees, huldra, púca, and nissies. 

 The Fair Folk emerged in Elsewhere University: a place of study for half-grown human spawn, a place built by a decedent of the old Éire homeland in the late 1800’s, and a place that became a home for the Hill thirty-three years later. The Founder of the University died before the Courts made it into their kingdom, but he gave it a special name. This name was lost, traded, or stolen (no one alive can recall) when the Gentry came calling, and the then Dean made deals that day to ensure a balance at the newly named Elsewhere University. They soon adapted to the sports fields, to hallways, to dorms, adopting the Campus as their home. They kept to themselves mostly, during this time. Almost all the students remaining Unaware.

 In 1953, the tentative tranquility of the University was broken. From their stronghold beneath the Grand English Building, the Fae were ousted by the Wyrm. They learnt fear that year, and fled. Fear of flame and storm and venom drove them from the western corner of Elsewhere University, out of their shadows and into the light.

 Smaller Courts were constructed in the aftermath. Summer and Winter became defined, and the Gentry walked alongside the students of Elsewhere University. Striking deals, taking what they liked, playing their games. The students learnt quickly. Through instinct, through dumb luck, and from the folklore of old Éire, they learnt.

 Although still bound by the Treaty, the Fae still enjoyed dancing with the students of EU. Changelings traded, and students Taken. Friendship and respect was grown, alongside hatred and fear on both sides. The balance of power, once thought by the Fae to be in their favour, was violently shifted in the 1980’s when they went too far and took the wrong professor. With Flaming Iron and Colloidal Silver, the Fae were reminded why the Earth belonged to the humans.

 In the recent years, a guidebook of sorts was created to help students co-exist with the Good Neighbours. Considered the most dangerous form of contraband, it was only distributed online to avoid the attention of the Fae. It was given the title; Coexisting With The Fair Folk Who Have Taken Up Residence In/Around/Beneath Your University: A How-To Guide. While disguised as a comic, an artistic expression that wouldn’t be taken too seriously outside of the Involved, it has been invaluable for those studying at Elsewhere University.

However, the Courts have noticed. They do not appreciate the Artist’s work, and while they are unable to remove the Guide, they can remove the Artist.  

Note: This is a brief history of Elsewhere University, as taken from the numerous posts and stories based around the work of charminglyantiquated. These were the main canon events that I could find and squash together to make a vague timeline of EU, but I’m sure I missed a few, so by all means let me know so I can update. 

Some of the more noticeable aforementioned events were originally prompted by dragon-saint, bookscrazygirl-blog, and of course, charminglyantiquated (sorry for turning the Fair Folk against you).  

the other day i was covering for one of our cashiers and a customer came through with a monster high doll. normally I’ll ask if the kid or whoever is a fan of whatever the person is purchasing and this person told me “yeah, she’s really into science and this one is sciencey, but i’m not too keen about the outfit”. i look at the box and nod and say “yeah, I don’t think open-toed heels are safe for a laboratory environment”. the customer just looked up at me with big eyes and whispered back “thank you for saying that”

The Four Chemistry Classes You Might Take in College

Because apparently my descriptions of chemistry are apparently amusing to @papalogia

Gen Chem: A mix of “hey I learned this in high school, this ain’t so bad”, “they lied about this in high school but it makes a bit more sense now”, and “I have never seen this before, but let’s roll with it.”

Organic Chem: You hate carbon. You hate bonds. You hate stereochemistry. You may or may not hate reactions, depending on if that makes sense to you. If you can’t imagine molecules, you hate your life.

Inorganic Chem: This isn’t organic! It makes sense! And then you get to Molecular Orbital diagrams and you cry a bit. Or a lot, depending on if you get them right away. Or at all.

Physical Chemistry: The bastard hell child of physics and chemistry. It has no soul, and you will come out of it hating every sentence that contains the words “particle” and “box” together. If your calculus skills aren’t up there, you will cry in frustration. If your calculus skills are up there, you will cry, but it will be out of joy. You may not know what’s going on, but you just solved an equation, so that’s something.

Two kinds of chemists

There are two types of chemistry students. At other universities, they are usually indistinguishable unless you get them drunk enough to tell you about how much they love chemistry. At Elsewhere U, these students meet with very different fates.

The first type pursues chemistry for knowledge. To them, nothing is more beautiful than the fundamental truth of how materials are created. There is no higher goal than the discovery of the structure of everything. These students are, generally, safe. The Fair Folk do not trust their knowledge, made from machines and mathematics, and they have a healthy degree of skepticism about superstition and an even healthier understanding of questions that Should Not Be Asked.

The second type is here for the beautiful creations of chemistry, and they are usually doomed. Each one of us has a story about the compound that entranced them so - for me it was the gentle violet of hexaaquovanadium(II) nitrate (also known by its older, traditional name of aqueous vanadous niter), but it’s different for everyone. We study chemistry not for any grand cause, but with the same obsession that sends moths to a street light. And for us, entranced by the beauty of things the strangers make, prone to long hours in the lab and unaccustomed to caution, it’s only a matter of time before we are taken, like the moth who loves the flame.


These are listed in no specific order! The following channels have seriously helped me better understand biological concepts and get great grades :) Enjoy!

CrashCourse (Biology)

Suitable for: Honors, AP

If you’ve been on youtube to find educational videos, especially if taking an AP course, you’ve most probably come across CrashCourse. Run by John Green (yup, the guy who wrote tfios), his brother Hank Green, and a couple of other teachers, CrashCourse is an amazing channel full of beautifully animated videos that illustrate concepts ranging from the Ancient Roman’s to the moon. In particular, their Biology videos, featuring Hank Green, are my go to videos for biology. I watch videos regarding topics we’re going to cover in class as soon as I find out what our next unit covers. All around a great, entertaining way to learn biology!

Rate: 10/10

Bozeman Science

Suitable for: Regular, Honors and AP

I first found out about the Bozeman Science channel run by Mr. Andersen in my Honors Bio class. It’s a great way to get informed about biology, as well as a superb way to learn examples of different concepts. He’s a solid teacher!

Rate: 8/10

Khan Academy (Biology)

Suitable for: Honors, AP

I’ve known about Khan Academy since the fourth grade, but didn’t know that he covered biology until August this year! He has really informative videos, so if you’re in an Honors class and want extra detail, or in an AP class, this channel is perfect for you!

Rate: 9/10

MocomiKids (Biology)

Suitable for: Regular, General understanding for Honors and AP

These videos are perfect for students in the regular biology course. The videos are informative and help to consolidate ideas. I find these videos to be good in studying for Honors Biology because they give me a general idea as to what a concept is, and from then I can get all the small details. 

Rate: 8/10

Great Pacific Media (Biology)

Suitable for: Regular, Honors and AP

I actually just found out about this channel, and I’m so glad I did. It has specified videos on basically every biological concept. Every one. It’s a splendid resource to use when you have specific concepts that you need to fine tune and nail down before a test.

Rate: 9/10

Pro-tip: When analyzing spectra of an unknown given a list of possible options, don’t just list out what peaks correspond to what.

Sure, go ahead and pattern match to figure out the most likely option as a first approximation. But then you need to go through and systematically justify why presence (or lack thereof) of certain peaks specifically support the compound you identified your unknown as. If every option is an alcohol, it is obvious that there will be a broad -OH peak. Don’t make it sound like that’s surprising; specifically note that that’s what is expected and that it’s not enough to support a specific identification. If all the options contain phenyl rings but all of them are nitro- or nitrile-substituted except one (like benzene), check if the relevant nitrogenous peaks are present. If they’re not, it has to be benzene, even though all the important peaks in benzene are also present in the others.

It blows my mind that people go so out of their way to only pattern match these things when there are much smarter ways to analyze it. I get spectrum analysis can be overwhelming, but if you don’t take the few minutes to logically consider these sort of things your life is much harder.

Elsewhere University- Feathers (part 2)

part one   EDIT: part three

Hey there!! Once again, playing in @charminglyantiquated‘s sandbox. the original comic this was inspired by can be found here (go read it!!), and the blog for everything Elsewhere is @elsewhereuniversity


(For all that you belong here, have the dirt and salt and scent and feathers to prove it, for all that, Elsewhere has a hold of you now. Time to see which hold is stronger.)

Part 2:

You go through security, board the plane. None of the metals pull at your bones. Just to see if you can, you spin fanciful lies about yourself as you make conversation with your seat mate.

(The words want to stick in your throat, but you’re mostly sure that’s from years (and years and years) of choosing your words ever so carefully with strangers, and not for any less …mundane a reason.)

Keep reading


04.09.2017 // Quantum mechanics and computational physics.

[I need to get better about posting my studygram pictures on here!]

My clipboard is huge in my homework organization. The file folders act partially as a smoother writing surface, but also as great storage. (And those Cynthia Rowley folders are so pretty!) One tab has extra blank paper and the other contains paper clipped problems sets I’m currently working on. On the inside of the “In Progress” folder I have index cards listing out which problems I have left, what Maple code to print out, and questions I need to ask my professor.

It’s nothing too complex, but it makes doing homework on the go that much easier when I have everything all in one place!


Don’t Let Calculus D(e)rive You Mad

I was always one of those people who thought some people were naturally good at math and if I wasn’t one of those people then there was nothing I could do about it. I thought I wasn’t “a math person” and would use that description as an excuse. Is math one of my weaker subjects? Sure but that’s mostly because I let years of bad habits get in the way of my current work. This caught up to me in my first semester of calculus (calc I) at university, where calculus was my worst class. Here’s the thing: if you’re not “a math person” make yourself one. In my second semester of calculus (calc II) I improved my mark by an entire letter grade (something I never thought possible). How? Through hard work and by understanding that I would have to work harder than some people because of my past study habits.

  • Know your pre-calculus well! You will struggle so much if you forget the basics. My prof said not having a good grasp of the basics is the number one reason why students will struggle with calculus. Invest time before/at the beginning of the semester to really review the stuff you learned in high school. (Khan Academy is the best way to review, in my opinion. They have challenge questions you can do for each section. Try a couple of questions for each section. If you can’t answer the question easily, watch the accompanying videos for that section first. Do this for sections you forget or know you struggle with.) Be confident in your basic mental math too, especially under pressure. I wasn’t allowed a calculator on any of my midterms or finals for calc and you don’t want to waste time on easy math that you should know lightning fast anyway.
  • Attend every lecture, especially if you’re even slightly confused. If you’re behind, try not to get even more behind by skipping class (obviously use your own judgement, but don’t skip unless it’s totally necessary). Don’t sit near the back of the class if you know you won’t pay attention.
  • Don’t just sit there and copy down notes. Be attentive in class and follow along with examples the best you can. If you get lost at a certain step in a problem put a star beside it. After class, study and attempt the problem on your own. If you still don’t understand, go to a TA or prof for help. They will be able to provide better help if they can see exactly where you got lost.
  • Keep your notes simple. I would use either blue or black pen for the majority of my notes and use one other colour to emphasize parts of my notes (indicate where I got lost, circle important follows, highlight which section of the textbook the class was at, etc.) Keep your notes neat and leave a gap, if you fall behind during a lecture (just remember to get the notes from someone else later). I also recommend using a grid paper notebook, for when you need to draw graphs.
  • Get a mini notebook! I bought a tiny notebook for cheap and filled it with a (very) condensed version of my notes, throughout the semester. I wrote down common derivatives and integrals, shapes of common graphs, important theorems and formulas, etc. This is especially helpful for calc II, because you’ll have all the necessities from calc I handy.
  • Advice for using Maple for math labs (if this applies to you): Pay attention to tutorials and ask questions. Complete as many assignment questions as you can in the lab/when a TA is present. If you have any other assignment questions to finish up make sure you work on them at least a few days before they’re due, so you have time to ask for help if you need it. Also, Maple can be a stupid program. You could be missing just one number, letter, or symbol and it won’t work. Or you could have it exactly right and it still won’t work (retyping your input in a new worksheet usually helps). To remedy these issues, I would work on assignments with friends and compare what our worksheets looked like. Oh and TAs love if you give your variables funny names or change the colours of your graph, because they’re all nerds (and so are you, so embrace it).
  • Do as many practice problems as you can. Calculus is a class where you learn by doing. Do questions till you understand the concept. If problems are recommended, treat them as if they’re actually due (otherwise you’ll just tell yourself you didn’t have enough time to do any practice problems). My number one mistake was not doing enough practice problems and just assuming I knew how to answer the problem (if you can’t answer the entire question from start to finish, then you don’t actually understand the concept).
  • Please don’t fall behind. Stay on top of things and prioritize what needs to be done (i.e. treat practice problems from the chapter you just learned on equal footing with the lab report you have due – if you treat it as a priority, you will get it done). But, if you do fall really behind, don’t wait until it’s too late to ask for help. Just remember, there’s always something you can do (even if you feel like you don’t know anything and there’s not enough time for any practice problems before your midterm). Identify what you need to learn before you can do anything else (i.e. work on understanding basic integration before you try to do something more complicated like trigonometric substitution) and fit in as many practice questions as you can.
  • Don’t give up! If you don’t understand a concept right away you just have to keep trying! For practice problems, try to find an answer without looking at your notes. If you can’t figure it out from there, look in your lecture notes and textbook for any relevant formulas, examples, or similar questions. Try to answer the problem again. If you get it, be sure to fully complete another practice problem without any outside references. If you can’t figure out an answer then you should seek help from another person!
  • Don’t forget everything you learned at the beginning of the semester – review, review, review! Check out this explanation on the curve of forgetting. If you continually review what you learned, for only short periods of time, you will remember so much more and save yourself time in the end!
  • Utilize the resources available to you. I have a list of online resources at the end of this post, but don’t overlook what’s right in front of you. Go to your prof’s office hours, ask a TA for help, and take advantage of any tutoring or study groups. My uni has a math and science centre where upper year students are always available to help other students with practice problems. If you join a course union, they sometimes offer free tutoring.
  • Study in a productive environment. This varies by person but personally I need a quiet environment, with ideally no noise or only instrumental music, bright/natural lighting, and nothing to distract me (I hide my phone and only have one pen or pencil out). If you like to listen to music when you study, math is one of those subjects where you can listen to music with words.
  • Improve your test-taking skills. (1) On an exam, understanding a concept is no use if it takes you forever answer the question. Do lots of practice problems till you immediately know how to answer any kind of question. Speed can be key on exams. (2) My strategy is to flip through the exam booklet as I get it. I answer the questions I can do easily, first, and leave the really difficult ones till the end. (3) Show all of your work! Don’t lose marks because you didn’t show all of your work. (4) Expect your exams to be challenging and prepare accordingly. Overlearn the material. Prepare specifically for the exam by completing past exams/practice exams in an environment that mimics the test-taking environment.
  • Get every mark you can, because the little marks make a big difference. If you don’t know how to answer a question on an exam, write down any formula or theorem that could relevant. If you try to figure out a solution and know that it’s most likely incorrect, but don’t have enough time/knowledge to find the correct answer, just leave your work there (don’t erase it). There’s always a chance you could be on the right track or nice markers will give you a point or two for trying. Something is always better than nothing.
  • Focus on the applications of calculus (it’ll make the semester a whole lot more interesting)! A physics major won’t necessarily use calculus the same way a bio or chem major might, but that doesn’t mean some calculus isn’t useful for all of those majors to know. I’ve always planned to major in biology and looking ahead at classes I will need calculus for biostatistics and genetics classes. Never tell yourself something isn’t useful because then you’ll never treat it like it’s useful. Also, my prof taught a whole lecture about how calculus could be used to account for all the variables that could affect population if a zombie apocalypse ever happened, so obviously calculus has at least one really important use :)


A bit of advice: These are called resources for a reason. It’s okay once in a while to use some of the resources to find a full solution for a practice problem, but don’t abuse it. It is so so easy to just look up the answer but you’re only hurting yourself in the end.

  • Desmos (Online graphing calculator - I’ve made it through so far without actually buying a graphing calculator)
  • Khan Academy (Step by step videos and practice questions! You can go your own speed with the videos! My top recommendation!!!)
  • Paul’s Online Math Notes (If your prof doesn’t provide you with decent lecture notes, these ones are great!)
  • Symbolab (They have a calculator for derivatives, integrals, series, etc. and I like the way they split up the steps to solve.)
  • Slader (find your textbook on here and they’ll give you all the solutions to questions!)
  • Textbooks: I used the Single Variable Calculus: Early Transcendentals (8th edition, by James Stewart) and it was awesome. The way it was set up and all the examples really helped me (I just wish I had used it more)
  • This post by @quantumheels is seriously fantastic (and she has lots of good advice for other topics too, one of my favourite blogs)

My Other Posts:

AP lit tipshigh school biologyhow to ace intro psychorganization tipsphysics doesn’t have to suck: how to enjoy and do well in your required physics classesrecommended readsreminders for myselfusing your time wisely on public transportwhat i learned from university (first year)what i learned from high school