As Wisconsin celebrated back-to-school this past week, I thought I’d share some of my musings on classes. One of the more useful things I learned through social dancing is that course content is only one of many reasons to take a class. Attending and participating in a dance classes is one of the best ways to learn how to teach dance, and it’s my favorite way to meet other friends to dance with later.

This semester I am taking Plant Biochemistry to fulfill some basic science/chemistry requirements. I was concerned it would be a lot of memorization, which always takes me a long time, and biochemistry isn’t particularly related to my research or interests. I didn’t want this to become a huge irrelevant time such during my first semester at UW.

After the first day of class though, it’s looking a little better. The course has a really interesting structure that seem to give students a lot of flexibility, and there aren’t any in class exams. I’m starting to consider careers with some level of post-secondary teaching, and this seems like a good class to learn from. The instructors plan on highlighting current open questions in biochemistry research, and the class readings and final paper are set up to model the peer-review process. This seems like a good way to focus on skills graduate students in many disciplines will benefit from instead of just making it a harder version of an undergrad biochemistry course.

To all of you going back to school this fall, I wish you an excellent semester. For each lecture you attend when you could have been doing field work, I hope you make a new friend. During those closed-book exams testing your ability to memorize material you could always look up in the real world, just think about all those study skills you’re practicing. There’s so much to learn this fall, even if it isn’t the content listed on the syllabus.

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