Browsing articles in "Compass News"

Compass Lectures for Spring 2011

Jan 31, 2011   //   by gina   //   Compass News  //  No Comments

Hey guys!  The Compass Lectures are back!  This semester we have SIX exciting speakers for our lecture series.  Please note that the time has been changed to WEDNESDAYS from 4-5 with tea and cookies at 3:30. Lectures will still be held in 325 LeConte.

The Spring 2011 Schedule:

Joel Fajans, Feb. 16
Alex Filippenko, Mar. 2
Damon English, Mar. 30
Mike DeWeese, Apr. 6
Benji Aleman, Apr. 20
Imke de Pater, Apr. 27

See you there!


Reflections on the Compass Lectures

Dec 9, 2010   //   by gina   //   Compass News  //  No Comments

This semester was the third set of Compass lectures I’ve organized since coming to Cal and it was probably the best I’ve seen since being here.  The lecture series has always done what they were intended to do- expose undergraduates to current on-campus research.   This semester I found them particularly meaningful, not just because I’m finally reaching the point where I can actually understand most of the content, but because it helps remind us of what science really is.  Being a third year undergrad studying physics is challenging, to say the least, and this semester I found myself taking the two most difficult and time consuming classes I have ever taken in my life.  My school life was characterized by so much self doubt about my ability to be a physicist.  But every other week, going to the Compass lectures reminded me why I’m spending hours in the reading room on work that seems meaningless- because at the end of all of this lies really badass research.  Every lecture inspired me and made me fall in love with physics again, after weeks of frustration.  I know that this sounds like an abusive relationship, but I guess what I am trying to say is that physics is hard.  The path to becoming a physicist certainly is not an easy one, but it is indescribably cool and enables you to do the most amazing things.  Thanks to Josh Bloom, Yury Kolomensky, Geoff Marcy, Feng Wang and Hal Haggard for reminding me of this.  You guys are awesome!

The Fall 2010 Lecture Series!

Oct 2, 2010   //   by gina   //   Compass News  //  No Comments

Hey everyone,

It’s that time of year again!  The Academic Activities Committee has worked hard to put together an awesome set of lectures for this fall’s Lecture Series.  As always, the lecture runs from 4-5 in 325 Leconte (Cyclotron Room) with tea and cookies in the foyer at 3:30.

Here is a list of this semester’s talks:

Josh Bloom 10/07 – What are gamma ray bursts?
Yury Kolomensky 10/21 – Precision Tests of the Standard Model
Geoff Marcy 11/04 – The Search for Earth-Like Planets and Life in the Universe
Feng Wang 11/18 – Graphene: A Two-Dimensional Electronic and Optical Material
Hal Haggard 12/02 – Atoms of Space

See you there!

Gina and Isha

2010 Compass Summer Program officially concluded

Aug 26, 2010   //   by Anna Zaniewski   //   Compass News, Summer Program 2010  //  No Comments

This post is a little late:  the 2010 summer program was concluded last Saturday, 8/21.  Which,  in blog time, is like 10,000 years ago.  But I’m going to blog about it anyway, belatedly.

I feel lucky to have worked with the people who made this year’s summer program a success.  We had amazing teachers who were willing to experiment with a new classroom structure, students who, though hesitant at first, really embraced the model of groupwork based learning, and an exciting level of involvement from older Compass students.

For me, there were many highlights of the summer program: climbing above of the Berkeley fog to watch the Perseids meteor shower with students who had never seen the milky way, the water balloon fight at 7 in the morning, the trip to the Altamont Pass wind farm and stargazing on Mt Diablo, the Sunday night swing dance and mixer with the PREP students, seeing the students’ final presentations, and most of all, just getting to know 17  smart, lively, great people.

A Class of My Peers

Aug 16, 2010   //   by JoshShiode   //   Physics Education, Summer Program 2010  //  No Comments

Like most of the new Compass students, the only experience I had discussing things with my teachers in high school (and really all through undergrad) came from staying after class, going to office hours, and random encounters outside of school all together. Every “discussion section” I had in undergrad consisted of a TA standing at the blackboard “helping” us work through the particularly difficult problems on the current homework (generally by solving the problem as we all watched and pretended to understand). So when I came to Berkeley… three years ago, and sat in on the first sessions of my class for first-time teachers and heard about students working in small groups to solve problems that are explicitly not on the homework, I was… confused… I thought to myself, “this actually sounds like teaching!” And then I thought, “Oh crap.. I can probably do their problem sets just fine, but I don’t actually know how to teach!”

An AA meeting for LECTUREholics

Aug 14, 2010   //   by Ana A. =D   //   Compass News, Summer Program 2010  //  1 Comment

Ordinary class setting
Time in class: 1 hour
Lecture time: 55 min
Hands-on time: Once in a blue moon
Learning: Regurgitate everything you memorized

Coming from a school with 2500 students and 530 students in my graduating class alone, it was close to impossible for teachers to give anything but lectures. The teachers believed that lectures was the most effective way to teach curriculum for the oh-so-dreaded AP exams. Rarely did we have entertaining projects and opportunities to grow on our own.

Since this refers to an AA meeting for lectureholics, I must confess that I liked the lectures. I have always had a good memory, so all I needed to do was write down as much information as possible and come the test remember it. Naturally when I arrived at Compass, I did not know what to expect. However I reasoned that since we’re working with graduate students we were gonna get some interesting lectures. WRONG!!!

Compass is anything but the ordinary classroom. We are truly challenged and encouraged to grow in our logical, mathematical, and conceptual reasoning. This gives us a “feel” of being a real researcher. We have questions and observations with no real idea of what it all means. All in all, it is a giant step away from the lectures. This is something really new to me, but I really like it.

I guess I’ve finally lost my “addiction” to lectures. At first, I was really needing a lecture. After being on “autopilot” for all summer, I couldn’t possibly remember everything. But by the end of the first week I reached an epiphany, thanks of course to the peer collaboration. Now I realize that I don’t need a lecture. I learn by questioning, debating, wondering, collaborating, and solving technical problems.

Thanks to Compass, I’ve been lecture free for 5 days. And I like this change. 🙂

Trip to the SSL

Aug 12, 2010   //   by Jacob   //   Summer Program 2010  //  No Comments

Just a quick update on yesterday’s trip to the SSL.

Not even the gloomy August weather could deter the Compass trip to the Space Sciences Laboratory this year! Having gone to the SSL when I was in the summer program, and loving it, I was super excited to lead this year’s students up there.

The bus ride up the Hill line was fairly uneventful, but provided some spectacular views (despite the weather) of the East Bay. Stuart Bale, lab director and professor extrodinaire greeted us at the lab and began with a short discussion about what the SSL is all about. I think it would be great if students interested in the stuff they do took his advice and look for the undergraduate posts up there in April.

The group then proceeded to go look at a couple labs around the facility. I, and it seems many of the students were very amused with seeing a large piece of space-borne equipment (I don’t remember what, exactly) being displayed in a coffin stripped of its outer casing.  We also were able to see the control center and some aquisition of data as a satellite flew over Wisconsin or some other non-California (and thus inconsequential) state.  Unfortunately we were not able to see one of the labs Professor Bale intended us to see.

Finally we got to go see the awesome view from the patio area of the lab, and managed to witness the fury of Berkeley August unleashing dark clouds like molted sheep suspiciously creeping about  the hills. And a great panoramic view moins cher viagra.

Hope everyone had fun.

Can discussions teach? "YES they can!"

Aug 11, 2010   //   by AngieLittle   //   Summer Program 2010  //  2 Comments

Hey all!

I’m Joyjit (or Joy, as I like people to call me), and I’m a Compass 2010 student from India (yep, that’s right! THE India!). I’ve only had one more experience with a summer program (we don’t do many of those in India), and that was EPGY at Stanford last year. I pretty much expected Compass to be the same, but after the last three days’ classes, I can surely term the two programs as poles apart!

Coming from the Indian education system, I’ve pretty much been deprived of the concept of ‘discussions in class’. I’m used to lectures, and homework assignments, and more lectures, and still more homework assignments, and so on… So what I’m used to is basically being fed the facts, and then working with them to solve problem sets.

The Compass format, understably, is radically new for me. It completely does away with the conventional image of a professor standing behind a desk and teaching a class (comprising of about 10% students sleeping). Basically, we have no lectures. The spectacular thing is that the Compass classes are all about discussions and self-learning processes. We even think about HOW to think (cool, right?)! Whatever progress we’ve made till now in the Compass classes (which is quite significant I think, but I don’t know if the teachers would agree :S) has more or less been been based on deductions made by students! Of course, the discussions always follow an initial prompt, but the whole process of learning induces excellent understanding. We think, we discuss, we debate, and we try our best to come to a consensus. But we keep coming up with just more questions! And that’s what makes it so much more amazing! The system takes time to be absorbed, but its worth the wait…

 The teachers and RAs are great too! What shows this is that I’ve not once felt sleepy in their company :P! They’re fun to learn from. (I’ll write more about them later. I’m hungry and I’m heading for dinner now.)

I’ve probably written stuff that is redundant (that shows that I’m really impressed by the Compass Project :D), but I didn’t know how much I should write. I’ll ask Anna before my next post.

I’ll write again soon!

P.S. – This is my first ever blogpost, so if you all have any criticism or suggestion, do let me know. Thanks :).

Day 3: Classes, extra-solar planets and doughnuts

Aug 11, 2010   //   by Anna Zaniewski   //   Compass News, Summer Program 2010  //  No Comments

Another day has dawned and set on the summer program.

Not much has been written yet about the classes; as neither a student or teacher, I have observed only a little of the classroom action.  But this I can say: the classroom style is unlike anything these students have experienced before.  For instance, there are no lectures.  The teachers only use the chalkboard for writing questions, to prompt student discussion and discovery.  For each prompt, the students first consider the question independently, writing in their notebooks.  Then, they discuss in groups of 3 or 4.  And after that, the whole class comes together in a circle such as this:


LN2 Ice Cream Photos!

Aug 9, 2010   //   by gina   //   Summer Program 2010  //  No Comments

Hey guys,
This is Gina, your trusty Compass Resident Assistant! I just thought I’d add some visuals of what we’ve been up to!

Yesterday morning we had a Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Social, in which we mixed cream/juice/coconut milk, sugar and LN2 to produce delicious ice cream and sorbet!

Jenna, Jessica and Pauline enjoying ice cream!