Written by Alex Tang
September 20, 201812:04 pm 2 Comments
me studying for my first freshman year gen chem midterm the night before (WHAT NOT TO DO)
Science 101 is Bwog’s weekly advice column for Columbia and Barnard students studying STEM. In this week’s edition, Bwog Science Editor and junior-year biology/pre-med major Alex Tang brings you advice he wish he knew as a freshman.
Class of 2022, welcome to Columbia! You’re currently confused, excited, nervous (and probably way too cool to admit it)… we’ve all been there. There’s a huge learning curve at any college, but especially so at Columbia, where students seem especially independent and campus just so happens to be in the biggest (and probably most stressful) city in the nation. Here are some things I wish I knew as a freshman, in my experience as a STEM student.
1. Take care of yourself first. Your friends might have your back, but the only person who knows how you’re truly doing is you. These next few years, you’re going to experience sleepless nights, stressful exams, and personal/social/professional challenges. While it never seems like it at the moment, everything always just happens to turn out okay. Get enough sleep, eat regularly, and go out once in a while. Try not to talk about schoolwork too much at dinner. Call home once in a while! Always remember that Columbia provides 24/7 support if things don’t seem to get better.
2. Make friends in your classes. As a STEM student, you’ll tend to see the same faces in your lectures, recitations, and office hours. You’ll soon recognize the same classmates in whatever it is you study – in other words, your fellow pre-meds, civil engineers, physicists, etc. It’s always good to have a few trustworthy friends with whom you can study, get notes from, ask to turn in your homework when you’re sick, gripe about exams with, etc. These classes are always easier with a friend.
3. Do all the problems. In my experience, the best way to guarantee a good score on a science exam is to simply do all the assigned problems. Doing this is way more important than reading the textbook and (in my opinion) even going to lecture. This piece of advice has helped me through a whole variety of STEM classes at Columbia, in math, chemistry, physics, and biology. [edit: you should still go to lecture, nice try]
4. Start research early, if possible. I started lab research during my last month of freshman year. Since then, research has become one of the richest, most rewarding activities I’ve been involved in. If research sounds like something you’d be interested in doing, don’t hesitate to reach out to professors early on, even during your first semester! While you’re definitely busy acclimating to college life during your first semester, it’s always possible to start with a lower time commitment in lab, just to get a feel for it. Science professors actually love it when undergraduates start research early, as an earlier start means more time to grow as a researcher. If you start during freshman fall (as opposed to late freshman spring as I did), it will also give you more time to collect great recommendation letters and open up more summer research opportunities. Check out our tips for getting into science research here. If you’re really busy your first semester, you can also start in the spring, or even sophomore year. It does tend to get tougher (but is still not impossible) to get started with research your junior and senior years.
Summer programs, choosing professors, and more advice!
Tags: bwog science, on wednesdays we wear sweat pants because i have 8:40 physics fml, raise your hand if you've been personally victimized by mowsh bio, science 101, the limit (to our suffering) does not exist, whatever im getting cheese fries
April 13, 20186:00 pm 1 Comments
check out columbia’s MD/PhD program here
Bwog Science is back with Science 101, our semi-regular advice column for all things science! Last week, Bwog Science Editor (and potential MD/PhD applicant (?)) Alex Tang attended an MD/PhD discussion panel, which included MD/PhD representatives from Columbia, NYU, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Here, he brings you the advice and information he gleaned from the session.
Are you currently pre-med, but absolutely love the work you do in your lab? Or are you torn between clinical practice or science research as a career? Are you interested in creating and implementing solutions to biomedical problems? If so, read on!
To the eyes of an undergraduate student, the MD/PhD path is a long, mystical path – one that is often misunderstood. Attending the panel discussion gave me a more grounded understanding of the MD/PhD degree, which I’ll talk about in this post. I’ll first begin to describe what an MD/PhD path entails, the outcomes of this dual degree, as well as what it takes to prepare oneself for an MD/PhD program.
Our country is in great need of future biomedical researchers, people who can power the greatest medical discoveries of the twenty-first century. MD/PhD programs around the country strive to address this fact, graduating cohorts of students each year who have undergone both the training required in medical school (for an MD) as well as intensive hypothesis-driven laboratory work (PhD).
The MD/PhD, the panel described, is designed as the interface between medicine and science. Medical doctors often know which big medical questions to ask, but don’t usually have the research tools to find out the answers. Medical schools focus on teaching existing material, on getting across the information a physician needs to diagnose and treat disease, but not how to design and conduct experiments that will create new scientific knowledge. On the other hand, PhD-only science researchers have the means to design and conduct experiments, but are oftentimes far from the applications of their projects. The MD/PhD, however, combines skills from both medical and scientific training. Essentially, after a long training (and the process is long – consisting of the 7-8 year MD/PhD program itself followed by additional years of residency/fellowship training), the individual will be able to practice medicine, and to use those clinical experiences to drive their own research projects. The good news is that MD/PhD programs are almost always fully-funded (NIH-funded MSTPs, or Medical Science Training Programs, waive tuition and grant stipends and health insurance to all students).
What do MD/PhDs do, and how does one get into an MD/PhD program?
Tags: apply early!!!, bwog science, bwog will write you your recommendation letter, i have mad respect for all md/phds, ready to spend your first 30 years of life in school?, science 101
March 23, 20187:33 pm 0 Comments
you’ve got this!
Do you have an upcoming face-to-face interview with a potential PI? A phone interview for a summer research internship? A panel medical school interview? Today, Bwog Science Editor Alex Tang brings you science interview tips, compiled from his own experiences and those of his friends and peers.
Chances are, as a science student, you’re going to receive an email or a call one day asking to schedule an interview, whether for an undergraduate research position, a summer program, or for medical/graduate school admissions. It’s a common misconception that doing well in interviews is an innate skill – in reality, being able to ace an interview is 90% preparation, especially when it’s a interview that might get scientifically technical. Here are some tips we’ve compiled on acing an interview for a science position.
More tips below!
Tags: bwog science, could you repeat the question?, no one likes a cocky applicant, no one likes a timid applicant either, phone interviews are the best! i've done them in bed tbh, science 101
March 02, 20181:00 pm 0 Comments
tank top and bikini weather! iced coffee! the MCAT! hooray!
Bwog Science is back with Science 101, our regular column which brings you tips and tricks on navigating science at Columbia. In this week’s edition, Bwog Science Editor (and token pre-med) Alex Tang provides ideas for ways that pre-meds can spend the summer.
With the warmer weather and the agonizingly oh-so-close approach of Spring Break, we’re reminded of the presence of that benevolent behemoth, summer vacation, lurking in the distance. Ignoring the constant bombardments of “what are you doing this summer?”, keep in mind that there are countless ways to spend the break, as long as you’re being intellectually stimulated and emotionally refreshed from the long prior semester. With that being said, here are some summer ideas tailored especially for our pre-med audience.
Click here for more ideas!
Tags: bwog science, can i take the mcat in cabo san lucas, science 101, shoutout to the nurses at mount sinai st luke's – y'all are lovely people, the mcat is my summer fling lol not, winter break is the new summer
February 16, 20181:30 pm 0 Comments
if you found this article helpful and get published in nature one day, please cite bwog in the acknowledgments section! k thanks!
This week in Science 101, we’ll be talking about reading scientific literature, a crucial skill for any science student. Biology major, Alex Tang, and astrophysics major, Briley Lewis, are here with some advice for tackling those articles with intimidating-sounding titles.
Scientific research is conducted by a broad international community, a network of university labs, research institutes, and industrial companies around the world. Like any community, scientists have to communicate with each others, in this case via published articles in scientific journals. These papers document the latest experiments, methods, and advances in a given area, and are critical for staying on top of current research in any scientific field.
If you are working or volunteering in a research lab on campus, or enrolled in a research seminar, you’ll have to delve deep into the scientific literature of your field. Oftentimes, the articles you’ll find are dense and filled with terms or concepts you aren’t quite familiar with. Here are some tips and strategies that a budding scientist could use when initially tackling published science articles.
Focus on the abstract, figures, and conclusions.
Research papers vary in length, but some of them can be quite long and difficult to wade through. The abstract is a paragraph-long summary that will give you the purpose and results of a paper, and is useful to skim over quickly when looking to find papers that are relevant to your objectives. When you do find a paper that you want to read carefully, pay particular attention to the figures and conclusions sections. Together, these sections will give you the data and experimental results, the most important part of any research project.
Circle recurring words and concepts that you don’t know.
Chances are, if you see a certain phrase repeated over again, it’s important. Each area in science uses a specialized language that will take time to get acclimated to. A few quick Google searches can clear up a lot of confusion when understanding a paper. If you find a paper that seems particularly significant to you, make sure you understand the experimental methods used in the project. It’s always a good idea to learn about the latest and most significant procedures and methods in your field.
Think big picture.
Everyone tends to notice the huge breakthroughs in science (think CRISPR or Higgs boson), but most of science happens in small increments of progress. Lots of papers tend to be extremely specific, dealing with particularly narrow projects that focus on a manageable scientific inquiry. Make sure to search for the broader significance of every research project you’re engaged in, as well as the projects of the papers you read. For example, ask how the project is contributing to humanity overall, and how the science could be applied to something that could be of practical use in the long run. Thinking big picture is a great way of maintaining your enthusiasm for science, and for asking the important research questions.
More tips and tricks below!
Tags: are there any other topics you want us to cover? email email@example.com!, bwog science, chasing the elusive undergraduate publication, if science journals were twitter citations would be retweets, luckily we learned how to read graphs in frosci, not your typical lithum literature
February 08, 20181:20 pm 1 Comments
Once, I had a nightmare that i couldn’t find my assigned exam seat in Havemeyer 309
Welcome back to Science 101, Bwog’s weekly column where we share tips and tricks on navigating STEM at Columbia. In this week’s column, Bwog Science Editor Alex Tang shares his tips for succeeding in large, introductory science courses. He draws from his experiences in gen chem, Mowsh bio, and gen physics.
Many students claim that the introductory lecture courses are the toughest part of being a science student. Just picture a large lecture hall (does Havemeyer 309 or IAB 417 strike fear in your heart yet?) and potentially hundreds of classmates (so much for the small class sizes touted by Columbia’s admissions department). We’ve compiled some tips that you’ll hopefully find helpful, whether you’re in gen chem or orgo, Mowsh bio or Physics 1402. You might find some of these tips obvious, but you’ll be surprised at how ahead of the curve you’ll be if you follow every single one of them.
Figure out what type of student you are, and work towards your strengths:
Some students are auditory learners, and learn best during live lectures. If this is you, make attending lecture your priority. This might mean signing up for a lecture at a reasonable time (maybe not an 8:40?). Others prefer to learn by reading (including yours truly). For these types of learners, reading the class notes or textbook may be sufficient, and might be more helpful than merely going to lecture. Note that we’re not condoning that people skip lecture! Just analyze your learning style and organize your time accordingly.
Do the assigned problems (the most important tip):
If you chose to ignore every tip except for one, follow this one! Introductory lecture courses tend to be straightforward; the questions that you encounter in your assignments will be very similar to the questions that you encounter on exams. For every practice problem you encounter in your textbook assignments, practice tests, or additional problem sets, circle the ones you don’t get right the first time. Return to them before the exam, and make sure you know how to do them. This may mean doing the same problem twice or thrice. (And even if you don’t end up getting through every problem until a couple of nights before the exam, it’s still good practice.)
Be mindful of details and know the exceptions:
This is particularly pertinent in biology and chemistry. Your professor will introduce a concept to you, and will test you on how well you know the details. Easy detail-oriented questions might ask about certain exceptions to concepts. Gen chem, in particular, tends to come with lots of exceptions to rules.
Never walk into a test or quiz intending to drop it:
Just don’t. The material invariably gets harder.
Click here for more tips!
Tags: also make sure your calculator is on the correct setting (rad vs deg), biology is still the best science, bwog science, curves are gross, do. the. assigned. problems., the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell
Written by Bwog Staff
September 09, 201812:00 pm 0 Comments
what’s your spirit organelle? ours is the mitochondrion!
Bwog Science is back, after a months-long hiatus spent doing research in a cold, air-conditioned lab (or was that just me?). Today, we have a call for new science writers, as well as the year’s first Science Fair, Bwog’s list of exciting on-campus science events happening this week!
Do you read Bwog and study science at Barnumbia? If yes, first of all, you’re awesome! Second of all, you should consider joining Bwog Science! Established just last semester, Bwog Science caters towards our readers who are interested in all things STEM. We’ve published a regular advice column for STEM students, covered lectures by some of the world’s most prominent scientists, created a CU Women in STEM column, and covered STEM at Columbia in a variety of other ways.
Whether you’re a brand-new freshmen or a well-settled upperclassmen, we’d love for you to consider writing for Bwog Science. We value the perspectives and experiences that STEM students will bring to Bwog, in terms of helping us cover science events and writing about issues that relate to STEM students. As a science writer, you’ll have the opportunity to get first-hand access to various events around Columbia, as well as practice and improve on your ability to write about science. No journalism experience is necessary. If you’re interested, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org, or even better yet, show up to our open meeting to chat with us (first one is tonight at 9pm in Lerner 510).
Without further ado, here is our first Science Fair of the year! Science Fair is Bwog’s weekly curated list of interesting STEM-related talks, symposiums, and events happening on campus. For science and non-science majors alike, our list will bring you events that will satisfy your scientific curiosity for everything from astronomy to zoology, and everything in between.
Click here for Science Fair!
Tags: bwog science, did you miss us? xoxo, science fair, seeking token SEAS student, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, visual salience whomst?, we love our science writers
April 20, 201412:03 pm 6 Comments
Bucket List represents the unbelievable intellectual privilege we enjoy as Columbia students. We do our very best to bring to your attention important guest lecturers and special events on campus. Our recommendations for are below and the full list is after the jump.
More Fun to be Had
Tags: a lotta history events, bucket list, hardened hearts with hope for the future, janet mock, NASA is awesome, upcoming events
March 30, 201411:05 am 1 Comments
Bucket List represents the unbelievable intellectual privilege we enjoy as Columbia students. We do our very best to bring to your attention important guest lecturers and special events on campus. Our recommendations are below and the full list is after the jump.
More recommended, and the daily events below.
Tags: bucket list, bwog is sorry for not recommending "botanically queer" last week, movies to see, science to do, there's a disney research department?
September 29, 20132:30 pm 0 Comments
Bucket List represents the unbelievable intellectual privilege we enjoy as Columbia students. We do our very best to bring to your attention important guest lecturers and special events on campus. As always, feel free to mention any events we may have missed in the comments section (and/or mock our typos) and we’ll add them. Our recommendations for this week are below and the full list is after the jump.
Tags: bucket list, bucket list gone wild, filed under getting cultured, learning for the sake of learning!, lectures where you don't fall asleep
November 18, 20123:15 pm 6 Comments
Read about a study correlating sadness and short-term gratification and by extension consumption of Ben and Jerry’s after the jump!
Zach Kagan PhD (Professional hummus Dipper) gives a rundown of what is happening in the medical world.
Here’s the problem with modern medical science: it’s just too damn productive. In the past medicine was all about leeches, treacle, and the occasional tobacco smoke blown up the rectum. But scientists and doctors seem to think they can improve on proven, albeit antiquated, techniques. Damn their steadfast pursuit of knowledge. Their curiosity cannot be sated!
And so BunsenBwog is left with stacks upon stacks of new papers on medicine each week. And they just keep coming. There’s only one prescription fit to treat this problem, and it involves a concentrated dose of medical science news.
Tags: deadmau, green tea is good for you bet you didn't know that, just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
November 16, 20125:00 pm 1 Comments
There are two types of free food events today, and since Bwog loves you we have scientifically worked out that if one ends at 8 pm, and the other begins at 9 pm, and you’re on a train moving backwards…you should be able to attend both and still have time to party afterwards. Yay college!
The sky is throwing meteors, and Columbia Science Review is throwing a party! Come watch the stars do interesting things from 6-8 pm in the observatory on the 14th floor of Pupin. The head of the astronomy department will be there to explain the phenomena, so you can learn while you eat.
Then, at 9 pm in Carman Lounge, CCSC Campus Life and Ferris Reel are beginning a series they call Screening and Music Nights. Apparently only one of those two things happens at each event, but either way there will be food. Tonight is a “screening” night, and they’ll be showing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. More importantly, the free food of choice for the night is empanadas from Havana Central.
Faster than a speeding bullet via Shutterstock.
Tags: ferris wheel puns, free food, let's hope pupin's elevator is working, ways to increase your chances of getting into that astronomy class
October 13, 20113:00 pm 7 Comments
Hey check out the science I found in this tube!
When they’re not headbanging or falling for our anecdote baiting, Columbia faculty enjoy getting dirty in the lab. Bwog takes a moment to look back on this week in science. Headlines were compiled by test-tube enthusiast Zach Kagan.
CSI is real—Columbia’s nanoscience brainboxes have created a device that can sequence DNA at the speed of a primetime crime drama. By dragging DNA through a nanopore, the individual nucleic acids create an electric potential that is analyzed by a computer. And at under $1000 dollars, it makes finding the father all that more affordable. Now if only the labs can find a way to enhance it.
What’s your poison? Chances are you didn’t say arsenic, but if you are drinking from a shallow well you might be swigging the unpopular chemical. A new Columbia study says that minerals in wells dug below 500 feet purify water from deadly arsenic, so remember to dig deep before you get your sip on.
Women of Columbia and Barnard: do you want to make $8000? That’s what Columbia researchers are offering for the donation of human eggs to create patient-specific stem cells (research that got a shout out on last week’s BunsenBwog). This has caused a bit of a controversy as some have described the incentive system as a slippery slope that leads to selling organs. But while the bioethicists wrestle with the issue there’s time for you to put your student debt in a headlock.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure-trove of alternative energy. Columbia’s Earth Engineering Center claims that, if recycled using current technology, all the plastics thrown away annually could fuel 6 million cars or power 5.2 million homes for a whole year. Bwog has one word for you: plastics.
Don’t listen to what that guy down the hall with the Bob Marley poster says: a new study at the Mailman School claims that marijuana use doubles the chance of getting into a car accident.
Tubetouchers via wikimedia commons.
Tags: 8000 dollar egg sandwiches, BunsenBwog, egg donors, hotboxing your car for science, no more arsenic cocktails, plastics, pot, science
December 08, 20101:55 pm 6 Comments
There some activity up on the plaza between Pupin and the new Northwest Science Building. Walkways are being laid down, the broken bricks you kick on the way to class are being repaired and this ridiculously long awning connects to a big tent.
Could it be some ritzy opening ceremony? If you know, email us at email@example.com.
Update, 2:15 PM: A tipster reports that the building’s dedication is tonight Friday morning at 9:15.
Photos by CCS
Tags: fixing things, maybe it's a party to get a donor to name it, northwest corner building, really long things
November 17, 20103:45 pm 7 Comments
Photo by CCS
Tags: a mirror for the sky, cumulus clouds, it's pretty, northwest corner building
What are you rushing during NSOP?
Go back in history.
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