The Fallenposters Blog

Because the posters fell down, duh.

Posts Tagged ‘science

Class Difficulties (or a Lack Thereof)

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Have I mentioned here that my masters program in Forensic Science is very underwhelming? Compared to the year I spent in graduate school for Physics, this program just feels like it isn’t as hard as it should be. I mean come on, IT IS GRADUATE SCHOOL. But I’m at a crossroads about the whole situation.

I love my classes (which is very difficult to say about much of my time in Physics). My Homicide Investigation course is truly interesting. The readings are very interesting and the teacher–a former homicide detective–is a riot in class. The only problem is that I don’t find it very challenging. I mean, I’m learning a lot about how a homicide investigation is ran and the many different types of homicides there are, yet I don’t feel like I’m having to work hard in the course.

My other course is Forensic Pathology. And this course is wonderful. Despite the fact that it isn’t taught on campus, it is still a good course. I’m learning all about things like post-mortem changes in the body, blunt force and sharp force injuries, forensic dentistry, forensic anthropology, and so on. It is taught by a group of licenced medical examiners who have tremendous amounts of experience in the field. Every class is very well done. And once again, I don’t really do anything for the course except listen to lectures and take two tests. I mean I haven’t even bought on of the “recommended” text books for the course, and I don’t think I will.

I guess my problem is that a majority of the college work I’ve ever had involved spending hours upon hours on homework sets only to get a poor grade back and an urgence to pluck my eyeballs out. But in these courses, there is no written work. We have readings, mid-term exams, and final exams. Some courses have a corresponding lab, and others occasionaly have us write a paper or two (OH NO!). That’s it! Like I’ve said before, this is graduate school. Isn’t this supposed to be hard?

Oh well, I guess we’ll see if I’ll be eating my foot when I take my mid-terms this week.

Written by Eric Spiegel

February 25, 2007 at 8:08 pm

Where did I go???

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Man it has been a long time since I’ve written anything here. I guess I’ve just been busy the last month. There must be some kind of correlation between the amount of blogging I do and having a full time job.

The semester is beginning to wind down. I’ve only got a few exercises left in Photography and just a bunch of readings to do for Criminal Law–and then finals. I’ve signed up for my courses for next semester. I’m taking Forensic Pathology, Firearms and Toolmark Identification, and Homicide Investigation. Since the classes haven’t been too demaning in this program, I’ve decided to bump up my course load to three per semester. I’m really excited about my classes next semester, especially Firearms and Toolmark Identification. This is one of the two fields I think that I might want to go into after I graduate. I’ve been considering going into Questioned Document Examination as well.

This week Cheri and I will be travelling down to C-peake for Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to the visit, especially since we haven’t been home since June. The only thing I’m not looking forward is the drive home. Since I have to work a whole day on Wednesday, I won’t get home until 4:30, so we probably won’t be able to leave here until 5ish. And this being NOVA, traffic in every direction sucks. So we’re going to try to experiment with some alternate routes to try to find a way home while avoiding the heaviest traffic.

Hopefully I’ll get back into blogging here a little more frequently. Its definitely something I’ve been missing.

Written by Eric Spiegel

November 19, 2006 at 8:09 pm

A Bloody Mess

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Today I experienced donating blood for the first time. On Monday, I received an e-mail from the Forensic Science listserv from school that blood was needed for Collaborative Testing Services. This is a company that does DNA profiling and serology certification tests. Those who want to go into those fields must pass a certification test, and thus they need blood in order to perform said tests. Normally I probably wouldn’t have done it, except they offered a $50 stipend to do so. So of course, being the starving graduate student I am, I hopped at the chance.

In order to donate my blood, I needed to go to the INova Blood Donation Center in Annandale. Originally, I thought the center was in the hospital, and was very confused when I couldn’t find it. After asking the information desk clerk, I learned that it was in a facility near the hospital, but she wasn’t exactly sure where (thanks for the “information”). After walking back to my car, I realized that I was about a block away from the center.

Even though I had a 9 o’clock appointment, I arrived at about 9:30 at the center. I was instructed by the Collaborative Testing Service that I needed to meet someone named Justin in the waiting room before I gave my blood. This was so he could get my information and give me my money.

While in the waiting room, a man who looked and acted like he was probably taking anti-psychotic medication decided to strike up a conversation with me. Since I was wearing my Virginia Tech alumni t-shirt, he decided to tell me all about how his brother Bob graduated from Virginia Tech and how Tech was his favorite football team. I didn’t really know how to respond because I don’t really follow Tech’s football team very closely. So, I just smiled and nodded and tried to pretend that I was busy concentrating on my donor questionnaire.

Later, as I was in the chair giving blood, he took up the seat next to me and began awkward conversations about ghosts, bigfoot, yeti, and the Bermuda triangle with the workers. As I was avoiding eye contact with him I learned that he was on medication for schizophrenia. I guess my hunch was correct.

After I was done giving blood, I got to sit in the refreshment area for a few minutes munching on cookies and drinking root beer. In the refreshment area was a table with prepackaged goodies. It was here that I noticed many people were hoarding the goodies. They would take three or four at a time, stuff them into their pockets and walk off. There was actually one guy that took about four, walked into the waiting room, and came back for four more. He hadn’t actually given his blood yet either. I was tempted to do the same, but I didn’t want to look tacky. I wonder how many people come to give blood just for the cookies. I mean I just came for the money, so I guess I’m not all that different.

The whole idea of getting paid for giving blood made me realize that maybe I should be doing this voluntarily instead. That way the blood can actually go to someone who really needs it, not just someone passing a certification exam. The next time I can donate is in November. I think I’ll do it again then. Pro bono this time.

Written by Eric Spiegel

September 27, 2006 at 12:24 pm

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On The First Week of Classes

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Well, today was the end of my first week of classes (classes started last Tuesday) here at The George Washington University (All the graphics and such for the university all have “The” in front of the name. Why? I have no clue.) I’m only taking two classes this semester. The main reasons behind this is that I can’t afford to be a full time student (since I do need to eat), I can still finish the program in two years by taking two classes per semester plus summers, and I didn’t want to get overwhelmed in my first semester. Basically, I didn’t want a re-hashing of what happened in the physics program I was in at Virginia Tech (or should it be The Virginia Tech?).

My first class was last Thursday, and it was Photography in Forensic Science. My first impression was that I was one of three guys in a class of 24 people. This kind of bothered me. Not that I don’t think women can handle forensic science or anything like that, but I’ve never been a minority in my major. In my graduating physics class, there were five girls out of eighteen graduates. Here it seems like the majority of the students in forensic science are women. I guess I just figured that most women wouldn’t want to handle some of the gruesome aspects that may accompany this program, but I seem to have been wrong. Its men that are the wimps. Hmmm.

Going into tonight’s class (Criminal Law I), I figured maybe that Thursday’s class was a fluke, that there were more guys in this program. Nope. I was wrong. Out of a class of 35, 4 guys. Weird.

One thing I will say about the classes in this program is that they probably won’t be anywhere near as difficult as any of my physics courses (*knocks on wood*).

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Written by Eric Spiegel

September 11, 2006 at 9:24 pm

Goodbye Liboff!

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Today I listed a number of my physics textbooks for sale on I guess I just realized today that I’ll probably never need textbooks about quantum mechanics, mathematical methods, analytical mechanics, or linear algebra ever again. Its kind of depressing to a certain extent. I mean I spent five years of my life devoted to physics, and now I’m more or less leaving it behind. And I know that five years is only a small fraction of the rest of the life I will live, but I just feel a certain connection to the subject. I prided myself with the fact that I majored in physics. I loved the reactions I would get. The pleas from people to help them with their introductory physics courses or math classes. The inherent geekiness that went along with being a physics major. I just tended to identify a large part of myself with being a physics geek. And not one of those geeks that follow physics superficially by reading books by Stephen Hawking or Brian Greene but actually being a physicist-in-training. Not only did I know about the subjects studied in physics, but I knew how it all worked mathematically as well.

It makes me look to the future as my graduate school adventure in Forensic Science is about to begin. Will I become a Forensic Science geek as well? Will I learn jokes that only forensic scientists will get? Will I buy forensic science t-shirts to display proudly my degree program as I trot around campus? Will I make friends with fellow geeks who are proud of what they study?

I sure hope so. Otherwise it will be a slow two years.

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Written by Eric Spiegel

August 27, 2006 at 6:27 pm

Physics vs. Forensic Science

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As an undergraduate at Virginia Tech, I earned my degree in Physics. Many scoffed, others were in awe, some were just dumbfounded. But now that I’m going to begin getting a degree in Forensic Science from GWU starting this Fall, I get nothing but ooohs and ahhhs.

Could this be attributed to the CSI effect?

Think about it, before that show, next to no one knew what Forensic Science was (despite the fact that that show, and many others, exaggerate what is actually done in the field). Everyone who watches, or is even familiar with the show, think everything they do is “neat.”

No one thinks what physicists do is “neat.” All most people attribute to physics is the pain that they had to go through in some class they’ve taken. “I hated my physics class,” is what most people tell me when I mention that I have a degree in physics. “Man, I love that show CSI,” is what most people tell me when I tell them that I’m going to get a Master’s degree in Forensic Science.

I don’t go around telling people that “I hate (insert your field here).” That’s because I am kind and courteous. If someone tells me that they have a freakin’ degree in tie-dying, then I try to be respectful and ask them more about it. I don’t say “don’t tell me about that stuff! That crap’s for hippies!”

Don’t get me wrong, I love physics. It is probably one of the most amazing theoretical fields out there. I just learned that after five years of it, that it wasn’t really for me. That’s why I’m changing fields. I still love and admire physics and those that do it for a living.

Maybe we need a cool, fast-paced TV show glorifying physics. That would be awesome. Stephen Hawking could make guest appearances and everything. Coming this Fall: Hard Science, the fascinating world of theoretical and applied physicists; their lives, their loves, and their calculators.

“Must See TV” indeed.

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Written by Eric Spiegel

June 29, 2006 at 7:51 pm

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