Tiffany Reardon, Associate Director for Retention Programs, Engineering Student Services joins us again today to go over some suggestions for how you can prepare for Berkeley Engineering this summer. Topics include: refreshing your math and other subject skills through test banks and watching Berkeley lectures; learning to code with free online resources; researching professors that you’ll be learning from and getting familiar with their journal articles and technical writing; and finally, getting to know your major better. Knowing why you are having to take the lower division courses that are required will make the subject matter more enjoyable.
Laura Vogt: Hi welcome back to The (Not So) Secret Guide to Becoming a Berkeley Engineer. I’m Laura Vogt, the communications and events manager for Engineering Student Services in the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley and I’m excited to have you back this week. And we’re also bringing back with us Tiffany Reardon. Tiffany why don’t you remind everyone who you are.
Tiffany Reardon: Hello there. My name is Tiffany Reardon and I am associate director of retention programs in Berkeley Engineering.
Laura Vogt: Thank you so much for coming back again today. Our topic this week is going to be about summer preparation and what students and what do we want them to do and what’s available to them to do over the summer. So Tiffany, what can students do now to start preparing.
Tiffany Reardon: A great question. So we get a lot of students that will you know contact us and ask you know if there are certain classes they should take either at Berkeley or at a community college. But honestly the main thing that you can do this summer is keep your mind active and engaged. But the way you do that is not by taking a course but rather doing this independently and sharpening your critical skills this summer by learning something new. Very very very important is to brush up on your math. It’s been awhile since you’ve taken some of your math courses. Go back and refresh yourself on those courses.
Laura Vogt: So what about the students that have already either AP’d out or tested out of their classes or even our community college students that are coming in that have taken classes that are already articulated?
Tiffany Reardon: So honestly, I would encourage every freshman to consider taking Math 1A or Math 1B. A lot of students say well why would I do that because I have you know the AP courses and I’ve kind of wasted the AP courses. Don’t think of it that way. Think of AP courses as a foundation and then think of taking the math course at Berkeley as something that will cement that foundation. Right. So it’s very very important that you have a solid grasp of calculus and a solid grasp of higher level concepts that you will need as an engineer. I guarantee there is nothing plug and chug about any of the math classes at Berkeley. If that’s what you’re worried about, that you’re going to be bored, guarantee that is not going to be an issue. You’ll probably be exposed to things in math classes in 1A and 1B that you’ve never been exposed to during your AP classes. I’ve seen students get five on their AP class come to Berkeley decide to take 1A and realize – Oh I’ve actually never been exposed to proofs. I’m really glad I took this. Plus if you have AP’d out of these one of these classes and decide to take the class it will give you a little bit of wiggle room, especially if you’re taking an additional technical class on a subject that’s completely unfamiliar to you. For example if you’re also taking physics and you haven’t had physics or if you’re taking computer science or programming and you haven’t done any programming. Now this is predominantly for freshmen. For community college students you might think what I’ve already done my math, I’m good to go. Actually again, brush up on the linear algebra, brush up on the differential equations because you’re going to need that you’re going to need that. For example EE 16A, which a lot of you will transfer students will take this fall. The first half of EE 16A is linear algebra. So you know really go back and look at your notes, if you still have your textbooks, review all that.
Laura Vogt: As the freshman students are going through their online orientation right now. One of the things that we asked them to do is when trying to decide what math class you’re going to take, we show them test scores pass tests and say hey take a look at this. Try to decide if this is something that you look at and you’re like oh I totally know how to do that or I’m not totally sure. Are there other resources outside of that?
Tiffany Reardon: Absolutely. Tau Beta Pi, which is the National Engineering Honor Society. They have a fantastic database of past courses and I believe we can probably put the links online for students to visit. You can look at all classes not just engineering classes. Just to kind of get a sense of what you’re looking at.
Laura Vogt: That would be a great way so if you’re not sure about maybe a computer science class or you wanted to take a little bit more about what the exams entailed.
Tiffany Reardon: Absolutely. And that goes for other classes too. Like maybe you’re thinking about taking a physics class or a anthropology class it sounds kind of interesting. You can actually look and see, oh actually this is what I’m going to expect. And so you can kind of plan your schedule accordingly.
Laura Vogt: So that’s a good reference not just for the freshman but the transfer students as well.
Tiffany Reardon: Absolutely. They really hands down to them because they’ve put in a lot of work into compiling that. It’s a great resource.
Laura Vogt: What other things do you recommend for students study over the summer?
Tiffany Reardon: Every single engineering major here at Berkeley is going to learn the code and need to know how to code. So clearly for our EECS students you know that’s that’s part of your major. All of our other engineering majors will at least have to know Matlab. Some of you community college students you might have already taken a Matlab course, maybe it articulated maybe it did not. I know a few of the Matlab courses actually do articulate. So if you have already taken that class I would still review because one of the things about Matlab is it’s probably one of the most time consuming courses that you’ll ever take. Matlab is E 7. So if you have E 7 on your schedule just know that there is quite a time consuming class you’ll be working on a lot. For those of you that have zero coding background at all there is a book that I highly recommend. It’s called “Learn to Code” by Chris Pine and basically it’s learning ruby. The reason why I recommend not code is because so much of programming is actually problem solving and I really like this book because it’s got some amazing exercises that will benefit someone that’s new to programming. You can kind of do it at your own pace and it’s funny because I’ve met a lot of computer science students that are in grad school. And you know the Chris Pine book is something that they actually used when they were just starting out. So that kind of tells you a lot about the potential.
Laura Vogt: And what about other technical skills or other technical courses that they might be having to prepare for?
Tiffany Reardon: So you really do need to brush up on your technical skills. Again you know community college students, maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve taken physics. High school students, maybe you took physics you know an eleventh grade. Or maybe you’ve never taken physics. That’s OK. What you want to do is you want to take advantage of the resources that are out there so there there’s the you will learn calculus based physics so if I were you I might look at the Khan Academy and look at some of their calculus based physics courses. There’s also hundreds of online classes offered by edX, Coursera, Khan Academy and they’re all free. Aside from that something you can do that is really just to get a great glimpse of what to expect is watch past lectures online. So you can actually just go to YouTube and look at some past lectures online just to get a sense of how the classes are taught in kind of a format and just prepare yourself you know that way.
Laura Vogt: So we’ll go onto our website, welcomengineer.berkeley.edu and for the summer prep podcast we’ll make sure that we have links to all these different academies you can online resources and for Chris Pine’s book. We’ll make sure that you have all the links so that you can easily find them when we come back. So Tiffany how is Berkeley going to be different for our community college students.
Tiffany Reardon: So it’s actually for high school students and community college students. I would say it’s the expectation, it’s the expectation from the professor. You know a great analogy that I always hear is the professor will assign you chapters 1 to 5 and test you on chapter 6. And so students are kind of thrown off by that. But the main thing is that they want you to begin thinking, thinking about how you would approach problems so for example if you are taking a physics class. They want to learn to think like a physicist. In all of your classes you’ll start to think like an engineer. Right. But you really want to…It’s the approach, you know, how would you how would you solve these problems. A lot of times students might not understand they might understand the equations but they might not understand how and when to apply those equations. So again you know understanding what the equations are but when to apply those equations is really key. And again like putting on your physicist hat and thinking like a physicist or thinking like a chemist or thinking like a civil engineer, thinking in those ways. That’s the main difference. Everybody got into school here because you’re all you know extremely talented and you have a ton of potential. But this is really just to kind of push you. So then when you are you know a major and you’re working in the field that you’ll be the best that you can be.
Laura Vogt: What if students want to know more about research? Is there anything they can do this summer to start getting prepared for research in this upcoming school year or even next summer?
Tiffany Reardon: Absolutely. So one thing that I would say is and this might sound kind of weird, but it’s really something you can do right now is understand what your major is. Right. So maybe your majors mechanical engineering. OK so mechanical engineering is a pretty broad field. You’ve got controls, you’ve got design you’ve got dynamics, fluids, micro chrome mechanical systems or MEMs. So what are these what are these fields. Right. We also tend to speak in a lot of acronyms so something you can probably do is if you don’t know what an acronym is you can probably just google it or look it up. I’ve actually always wanted to have a website devoted to the kind of acronyms that be kind of a fun thing. We certainly do use a lot of acronyms but looking at those different areas. So as I mentioned like in mechanical, there’s controls, design, fluid, dynamics. Once you understand the application of these areas especially in MechE for example, it’s going to make your individual coursework even more exciting because let’s be honest sometimes you know some of the lower division technical courses aren’t the most exciting. However, when you think about the application, then you’ll be very very excited and then you’ll really be motivated to really have a deep understanding. In terms of research areas, there’s absolutely no reason why all of you listening cannot plan to do research next summer. There’s tons of research here at UC Berkeley and elsewhere. But the best way to get research is start getting familiar with the areas within your major. So for example, if you say you want to do research, maybe your major is EECS, you might be interested in computer science, you might be interested in artificial intelligence, maybe you’re more on the CS side, maybe on the EE side. Regardless look beyond the major and look at the areas and the research that’s being done in those areas. If you’re interested in working with faculty read the journal articles. You can find past publications online. You’ll have faculty advisors. So start looking at you know the research they’ve done in the past. The research they’re doing now. Read journal articles. Not only will this get used to reading journal articles but it will also get used to technical writing. You also really impress your teachers if you come in you know having some knowledge of the research that they’ve done and past journal publications and this.
Laura Vogt: So thank you so much for all that great information. So what our students are going to want to do when they come back is we need them to brush up on our math courses, especially before they come in. Really take a look at whether they should be taking Math 1A or Math 1B, especially for these freshmen students that are coming in and the transfer students if it’s been a little while since you’ve taken those earlier linear math courses refresh on that and take a little bit of time to look over that. A great way to do it is through the test banks. And then we also want students to learn how to code. And so you suggested some great books for the students to go back to.
Tiffany Reardon: Absolutely. I guarantee you that you will learn a lot using these resources. And I just want to emphasize I don’t recommend that you take courses. I very strongly, especially transfer students. I do not recommend that transfer students take Berkeley courses here in summer. Main reason why: if you take CS 61 for example in the summer. You’re going to be off cycle with all of your incoming cohort. So it’s going to be very hard to establish study groups with those people because they’ll be you’ll be a class ahead of them. I really you know not only that is you really want to utilize your time so that you kind of recharge your batteries so you’re fresh in the fall. And then freshmen, I get it I get like numerous e-mails a day from freshman saying you know should I take a class or you know what should I do. Don’t take a class just do the things that we recommended and you know don’t worry about the grade, worry about mastering the content.
Laura Vogt: It sounds like the content is really important especially in these lower division classes to know why you’re learning this basic information. I know lower division can tend to be tedious or boring and not necessarily something that you want but if you don’t have those basic skills you’re not going to be able to move on and be successful in your upper division courses.
Tiffany Reardon: Exactly.
Laura Vogt: Well thank you so much for coming today. We’re going to have all of the links that we talked about today on our website: welcomengineer.berkeley.edu. And next week we’re going to be talking to some transfer students and they’re going to let us know what they wish they knew before they came in. So I’m excited that we’re going to have a couple of transfer students our next podcast. And again thank you so much for coming in.
Tiffany Reardon: Thank you.