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Taking Non-major Classes Senior Year

“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Twilight Zone!”


In engineering, you take many basic classes like chemistry and calculus and physics in your freshman and sophomore year. By the time you reach your second semester junior year and your senior year, most if not all of your classes are in your major.

There was a sort of melancholy feel when I stepped out of the classroom on the Monday of finals week at the end of sophomore year. After taking three exams in one day (highly unrecommended), I had just finished my differential equations final. After calculus 1, 2, and 3, this was the final math course I was required to take. Half my college career was doing practice problems out of the Nebraska edition textbooks and checking solutions manuals. I had a reason to use the expansive and almost always empty Avery basement bathroom. And in that moment, it was seemingly over. For an entire year I had no reason to set foot in Avery and I did not have cookie-cutter textbook problems to do. It was weird to only use math and no longer study it. However, backup plans sometimes have to go into effect. When I could not take the materials course I was planning to, I was left with few options. The other course I wanted was full and nothing else appealed to me. That left the “easy” option of linear algebra.

Now, linear algebra is required for mechanical engineers, but not chemical. It counts as a technical elective and if you take STAT 380, you get your math minor. Now, I have no plans of a math minor. It’s essentially useless since engineers are expected to know math. But the course has the reputation of being a good class to take for the ease and relevance. Lots of higher-level chemical engineering courses use matrices and the like for some application or another. So, with one of my best friends agreeing to sign up for the 8:30 session, I enrolled.

It has only been three weeks, but the Deja vu has been crazy. I’m taking the course in the same room I took calculus 3. The book is written eerily similar to the calculus book. The professor writes everything on the white board, and everything is just numbers and definitions. It is almost surreal. It feels like Avery welcomed me back and said “here, enjoy the predictability and straightforwardness of math once more” as it eloped me in its wonderfully empty bathroom that I now have an excuse to use again. I have my own special Twilight Zone I enter every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday where I am not doing complex calculations or using lengthy equations. I am in a dimension of five-minute practice problems and 10-minute Friday quizzes. And every odd second I am in it, I try not to fall too deep into the security.

On the other hand, I am required by my major to take one more chemistry course. I picked inorganic chemistry since it was the only one that sounded somewhat enjoyable. Now, this course has the distinct disadvantage of not being in Hamilton. While my organic chemistry one class wasn’t in Hamilton, my recitation was. It has been a whole semester since I had a course in Hamilton, a chemistry course. And now my inorganic class is in another building with no recitation. However, the content sends me back to my general chemistry course days. Hearing all this chemistry lingo that I haven’t heard in some time has been refreshing. As a chemical engineer, you move away from the nitty-gritty of the reaction for a bit in the higher courses. To talk about molecular structure once more is like remembering the support beam in the building that is my education and how my entire journey as a chemical engineer began in a chemistry course.

The hustle and bustle of senior year for engineers is intense. Capstone projects take the fore-front as well as final high-level classes. And as I sit in reactor design and process controls where I can barely keep up, I find myself relishing more and more stepping through that door into another dimension where things are unsettlingly familiar. And stepping through the basement bathroom door in Avery where the long row of clean stalls and soft echo remind me that this semester will be over before I know it and math and chemistry courses will finally come to a definitive end.

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