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A mysterious Russian machine...

With all of the incredible, varied activities that I take part in on campus, it can sometimes be easy to forget that the real reason I'm here is to study. But with that said, classes at Dartmouth are nothing like they are at high school; each class is an opportunity to delve into topics you love and explore entirely new subjects.

As a potential Engineering Physics major (we don't choose our majors until the end of our sophomore year), I decided to start off my Dartmouth career with Physics 15, otherwise known as the honors section of Intro Physics I. Having taken two years of AP Physics in high school, I knew I was in for a real test of integrity; I had passed the placement test, but it was recommended that we had taken physics with calculus before, which my school never even offered. Even after speaking with the professor, I remained nervous that I'd walk out of my first lecture completely clueless. It definitely soothed my nerves when I heard that the department strategically offered the non-honors section the same period just in case students needed to drop down, so I figured there'd be no risk in challenging myself.

Blackboard with physics problems
Physics in the Judge basement

Now that I've taken that chance, there's no doubt in my mind that it's paid off. Not only is the course material incredibly interesting, but I've met so many incredible people in my class that it's almost uncanny; almost half of my better friends are in the course alongside me. With only about 25 other students, I learn about everything from special relativity to waves, and while the material is pretty tough, we have amazing resources available to help us get through it. For instance, our professor holds office hours three times a week in the Wilder Atrium; whenever we need help with homework or something we learned in class, we all go and ask questions, and the experience is incredibly personable. And this isn't just the case with physics; all professors on campus have office hours, and it's always an awesome resource to have.

The Russian wave apparatus in action
The wave apparatus in action...

One of my favorite aspects of my physics class is the demonstrations, which never cease to amaze. For example, last week in class we were presented with a homemade muon detector, which was visible proof of an example we were evaluating in class. And this week, we were shown a device (which our professor asserted came from Russia, but nobody knows how it got here) used to make different types of waves. Of course, none of these examples are even necessary for the lecture, but the little bit extra effort that the professors put in makes it that much more of an experience. And if the demonstrations aren't enough, the Physics and Astronomy department holds a weekly colloquium on current research that's open to all students who are interested. Hopefully, I'll see you too in Wilder Hall next fall!