07 May 2011

End of term evaluation

It's the end of another term at MIT, which means that I'm very close to have finished freshman year! (all that's left is two finals and a problem set) The semester was quite a ride; I did not do as well as I had hoped, but in the end, I think I learned all the material the classes asked me to learn. Without further ado, here are my opinions on my classes this term:

15.401 Finance Theory I (MW8:30-10, F8:30-10): This class is mostly memorization based; one only needs basic mathematical skill and intuition to do well (of course, economical intuition is highly recommended). It's easy to lose points here and there because of silly mistakes and can cause one's grade to drop quite easily, in fact. However, this class is a great introduction to the world of quantitative finance. Professor Stephenson isn't the best lecturer, but he gets the point across well.

15.053 Optimization Methods of Management Science (MW2:30-4): This class is also memorization based; same thoughts as above. It's a good introduction to Linear Programming, optimization algorithms such as Dijkstra and Max-Flow/Min-Cut/Min-Cost, and NP-completeness (although referred to as "really hard problems" in class). Again, silly mistakes will kill you. Professor Orlin, a renowned researcher of flow, inserts humor into an otherwise basic ((and boring) course.

14.01 Principles of Microeconomics (MW1, F1): This class is more math based than I thought, after doing almost no calculus in its sibling, 14.02. Your grade is basically determined by how silly you are on tests. Professor Harris is quite eccentric, which makes his lectures worth attending.

6.004 Computational Structures (TR1, WF2): This class was a lot of fun (one gets to build a 32-bit RISC microprocessor! (except in software, boo)), except for the quizzes, which actually required studying. (wait, what kind of statement is this?!) Ward is a great lecturer and injects humor into his lectures. But please, STOP WITH THE COMIC SANS!!11!!1

6.046J/18.410J Design and Analysis of Algorithms (TR9:30-11, F3): This class is one of those "rites of passage" for any decent math/computer science nerd at MIT. It wasn't particularly fun; absolutely no implementation was required: the entire class was very mathematically rigorous and proof-based. The take-home was lots of fun; it's rewarding when you solve a (hard, not NP-hard :P) problem you haven't seen before. Professor Leiserson is a great lecturer and knows how to use humor, unlike Professor Moshkovitz, who does very intense and dry math-based proofs (and in turn, loses half the class).

All in all, classes weren't as fun as first semester, probably because there was no software coding involved (no, those 6.004 bits do not count). I was also less bored because I spent more time learning and reviewing the material for classes, so I think I did better grade-wise this term than last term. However, I was still sufficiently bored at times, suring which I could have spent extending class material, such as working out proofs or reading papers on Google Scholar instead of staring blankly at a wall. What's done is done; grades have basically been decided, and although I could have gotten more As, I don't regret my decisions because (1) what's done is done; regretting will only waste CPU cycles, and (2) I needed to experience how a typical "lazy student" did and learn to not take this path again. Here's to a more exciting and more academically successful term this fall!

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