A Good Start

The new semester is looking pretty good (and we’re already 3 weeks in!) so I thought it was about time to write a post about it.  It’s a slightly smaller class load than I’ve had in the past (which I am looking forward to dearly).  In addition to having less hours overall, I managed to accidentally create a schedule with no classes on Fridays!  In no particular order, I’m taking:

Natural Language Processing (CS)
Neural Engineering (BioE)
Industrial Design I (for real this time!)
Networking (CS)

NLP is taught by a smiley Italian professor who’s working on a computer tutoring system.  I’ve volunteered for her research a couple of times, and when I last tried it out ( a couple years ago) it was working pretty well.  The class has been slow moving so far, mostly talking about the inherent ambiguity of natural languages and Finite State Transducers, but the pace is starting to pick up; we just started covering the use of probabilities for resolving ambiguities.  I’m not sure what the projects for this class will be yet, but previous classes have done cool things like Text-to-Speech programs and machine translation, so I’m sure it will be something fun.

The class I’m probably most excited about this semester is Neural Engineering.  It consists of a lab and a lecture (which are actually considered separate classes by the university) taught by two different professors.  Dr. John Hetling, who teaches the lecture class, does research on retinal prostheses.  Neural Engineering is such a new field that there isn’t a textbook for this class yet, so instead we read seminal and cutting edge papers in the field.  Allow me to repeat myself.  I’m taking a class that is too baller for textbooks.  Two of the papers we’ve read so far are co-authored by Dr. Patrick Rousche, who teaches the lab class.  Unlike previous lab classes I’ve taken (where you get spoon fed instructions), the assignments only give you a general guideline for completing your assigned task.  Right now we’re building ECG and EMG circuits.  I sure if I would take the lab (it fits awkwardly into my schedule) until I found out about the final project.  We haven’t been given all the details yet, but the final project will in some way involve controlling a LEGO Mindstorm car using brainwaves.  That’s right.  Driving a car with our fucking brains!

The Networking class is taught by Dr. John Bell, who runs the the Virtual Reality Undergraduate Projects Laboratory.  I’ve been excited about taking this class since I started at UIC, and so far it hasn’t disappointed.  Yesterday we got an in class demonstration of e-mail spoofing using telnet.

Industrial Design.  This is the class I tried to audit last semester after being unable to enroll in it legitimately after 4 years of trying.  The auditing plan failed, but we managed to make a big enough stink about it that they let me in without a fight this semester.  It’s being taught mostly by my friend Siobahn (who I know from Gardening Club), and it’s been fun.  So far it’s been fairly basic exercises, but we’re starting to get into more advanced stuff soon.  Part of the class includes documenting your work (something I’ve been trying to get better at) so you’ll probably see a decent amount of my work for this class on here.  I’ve also volunteered to run the class blog (where everyone will be documenting their work), so there might be a couple cross posts.

All in all, it’s shaping up to be an exciting semester.

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