Freshers Week at 30
It was strange being back in a lecture theatre.
But that is where I found myself a week ago last Thursday, to take in some presentations about module choices for my MSc. The trip from Sheffield over to Manchester is a pleasant train ride through beautiful Peak District scenery for about an hour and a half, plenty of time to catch up with reading, listen to my podcasts and maybe just kick back a little and relax. I’ve not had any delays or problems on the trips I’ve made so far, but there’s plenty of time for that to change!
Adventures in Powerpointland
There were presentations throughout freshers week, but what with the job and all, I had to pick and choose one day to take holiday and go. The administrative staff at the University had previously sent me a timetable for the presentations, and Thursday had quite a few of the courses I was interested in – I particularly enjoyed the “Grid Computing and e-Science”, “High Performance Computing in Science and Engineering” and “Advanced Database Management Systems” presentations. It’s great to hear some of these folks present this stuff – there’s an obvious passion and enthusiasm there, as well as the deep knowledge you’d expect.
That said, difficulties in getting signal from laptop to projector in the afternoon just show that gremlins have respect for no-one! I must also confess a little tiny disappointment that there was an overwhelming OSX and Vista presence – where was the pimped-out Alienware machine running a customised version of the world’s most obscure Linux distro? There’s time, I guess…
Each presentation was given by people running the module, so I sat scribbling notes at my desk, trying to work out what made the most sense for my first year. The course I’m studying on is modular, and spread over as many as four years, giving me the option of studying anything up to four modules per year. That said, I need to acquire the credits from six modules over the course of the first three years before I head into the inevitable and slightly terrifying final project.
It’s all Academic
A fly in the ointment is that I don’t have the academic background in some subjects that require it – a glaring gap in my knowledge right now is the discrete mathematics required for computer science. Things like predicate logic, set theory and graph theory are new to me, at least on a formal basis, but I do have a cunning plan to help me deal with it. If I only tackle two courses per year, not four, and arrange them appropriately, I should have plenty of time to figure out the background material leading into each one. That’s the theory, anyway…
So, by the end of the day, I had a couple of pages of notes, but I still wasn’t sure how to arrange my courses. The deadline for submitting the module choices was 14:30 on the following day, so I got myself off home, scratched my head a lot, perused previous course notes, ummed a little and finally chose to do “Knowledge Representation and Reasoning”, starting in about five weeks, and “Semi-Structured Data and the Web” in January.
Overviews of the courses I chose and I was interested in are available on my delicious page.
To sum up the important points, freshers week this time round was quite different to how I remember it the first time. I suspect I’ve put a little more effort into the academic side of this one – and that there’s been a lot less damage done to my liver.
The views expressed here are the personal views of the author.