When was it decided that good scientists were fast scientists? Physics class seems to prioritize speed over accuracy in every way. In lab, the experiments are simple but numerous enough to fill the whole period even if you don’t take time to ask questions or measure things out accurately. The post-lab quiz, despite being online, is timed; 45 minutes from the minute you click the link, even if you click the link by accident. Exams for biology and organic chem. are given a separate period so we’ll have enough time to finish all the problems; physics is a race against the clock in the hour and fifteen minute class period.

It’s not that learning to work with a time limit is necessarily a bad thing, if for no other reason than the MCAT looming over our heads. But it’s frustrating to realize that a large part of my grade in the subject I find the most challenging won’t necessarily reflect my understanding.

Today our lab featured a motion detector and a long series of graphs that compared position, velocity and acceleration. The subject matter was simple enough; the concepts were ones we’d explored in the first week of classes. The real challenge was walking at the motion detector in a way that created the graphs we desired. As it turns out, walking at a constant velocity is nearly impossible. We spent most of the lab period trying to do it as effectively as possible.

Outside of the physics lab room there is a wide screen television mounted on the wall. It plays an ongoing slide show about the wonders of a physics major. Did you know it only takes these five classes to complete the major? And that physics majors are great candidates for medical school? I feel like they might have more luck if they spent a bit more time stressing the application of physics, and a bit less grading me on how smoothly I can walk toward a table.

Advertisements