Yoga, Mayan Archaeology, and Matlab

Sophie Chemical, Sophie, Viterbi Class, Viterbi Plus Leave a Comment

You won’t usually see those three things in a title together, but that’s the fun of choosing your classes in college (just to be clear, those are three separate courses, not some weird but awesome conglomerate class). USC has a lot of great classes to offer, not only in your major, but in your general education requirements and random electives as well.


Glow in the dark yoga event

Glow in the dark yoga event

There are a bunch of physical education classes you can take at USC that typically one or two units, and they are a really great way to utilize those spare units and stay active. Last year I took Yoga I, which taught me a lot about yoga poses, meditation, and stress relief. It was very relaxing, and these are concepts I can use for the rest of my life. There are higher levels of yoga available as well; I’m hoping to take Yoga for Athletes one semester. This semester I’m taking Weight Training, where I’m learning how to use proper form in the gym when lifting and how to design a program for myself. I had always been afraid of the gym before this, so I’m excited that I know how to do all this now!




Mesoamerican Cosmovision and Culture (Mayan Archaeology)

One of the most famous Maya sites on the Yucatan peninsula, Chichen Itza

One of the most famous Maya sites on the Yucatan peninsula, Chichen Itza

Or, as my professor would say, Maya Archaeology. Apparently, in the academic setting, Maya is the adjective, they don’t use the ‘n’. Not sure why. Regardless, this class was a lot of fun to take. It was listed as one of the options for a general education requirement. Before I began this course, I only vaguely remember learning about the Aztec and Maya back in sixth grade. It turns out that those civilizations are part of a rich history in Mesoamerica, which was one of only two places in the world where writing was independently developed. I loved this course because I got to learn about sweet jungle ruins and cool mythology, and the professor, Dr. Tom Garrison, was an expert in the field. Dr. Garrison does an archaeological dig in Guatemala every summer on a Maya site, and is actively involved in the academic community so he could comment on all of our course texts with personal context. It was definitely a nice break from engineering. This semester I’m taking The Historical Jesus, which starts with analyzing the gospels, both canonical and non-canonical, and moves forward in history to see how the image of Jesus changes throughout time.


Numerical Methods for Chemical Engineers (Matlab)

This is a sample of my code from my final project

Sample of my code from my final project

Engineering often requires a lot of complicated math. If you’ve taken calculus, you may know that some problems can’t be solved analytically; that is, there is no direct way, such as integration or derivation, to solve for x. When this happens, and it very frequently does in engineering, you have have to use what’s called numerical methods. This basically involves repeating a bunch of simple calculations until you converge on an answer. A good example of this is Euler’s method, for you Calc 1&2 students. If you’ve ever done this, you know it is very tedious to do it by hand, and that is where a computer comes in. Matlab, short for matrix laboratory, is high-level (read: easy) programming language that, when used correctly, can solve very complicated problems. It was a fascinating class for me because of how practical it was. All of our projects were based on real chemical engineering problems that we were learning concurrently in other courses, so I was able to see how these problems would be solved in the real world when you have better tools than a pen, paper and calculator. Programming itself was fun for me too, at least when everything worked properly after some debugging. I have enjoyed all four of my chemical engineering courses, but Matlab has has been the most directly applicable skill I’ve learned so far.

Hope you enjoyed reading about some of my favorite classes at USC!





Chemical Engineering (Petroleum), Class of 2018, Learn more on her profile here!

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