Digging right in!

I’ve spent some time exploring requirements for undergraduate and master’s degree programs at schools with agricultural science, with the intention of scoping out my studies.  Looking at the requirements from Cornell, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, and UMass Amherst I have winnowed out a set of subtopics to explore more deeply:

  1. Soil science (including ecology, nutrient management, and mapping)
  2. Pest management (including entomology, plant diseases, weed biology, and toxicology of pesticides/herbicides)
  3. Field crops (including plant genetics, farm machinery, and seed science)
  4. International agriculture (including historic and modern agricultural practices outside the U.S.)

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and skews towards the underlying science.  For becoming an effective political advocate, I’ll also need to understand the economic and policy issues in agriculture, both domestic and international.  However, it’s a start.  And it’s better to start imperfectly than to never start at all!

I began my soil science search with the hope of finding complete sets of course materials online, but it seems that most professors (quite reasonably) post materials on access-restricted university-supported systems like moodle and blackboard.  I have been able to read a number of syllabi, however, and plan to use these to structure my study.  The book “The Nature and Properties of Soils” by Brady and Weil shows up in a lot of syllabi, and is inexpensive and well-reviewed on amazon, so I will use this book at the center of my soil science studies.  One of the authors, Ray Weil, has a syllabus on his website for his 15-week course based on this book.  I plan to follow that progression of readings and topics, supplementing it with materials suggested in a soils.org Fundamentals of Soil Science syllabus and testing my information retention with the textbook publisher’s supplemental website.  I haven’t yet decided what other methods of information engagement and testing I will try yet– it may well take the form of essays-as-blog-posts, so go ahead and look forward to that, hypothetical reader!

A New Pursuit

I’m five years deep into my electrical engineering career, and on the verge of graduating with a Masters degree.  Going back to school has been fascinating and frustrating; I’ll be glad to return to work at the end of this month.  At this point, I have no intention of continuing my formal education in EE– I think I have the tools I need to learn any new technical material on my own, and I am far more satisfied by doing projects for clients at work than by trying to make nebulously applicable research progress.

All that being said… I’m not done learning yet.  I’m excited by the idea of continuing to educate myself, of learning all the things I wish I had a more nuanced understanding of.  I’m reengaging with this abandoned blog to have a place to document my attempts at self-directed learning.  It may not be of interest to anyone but myself, but even having an imagined audience is a good way to force me into structuring my thoughts coherently.

I have a very long list of ideas for topics to self-study, but these are the most coherent right now:

  • Agricultural science
  • History and science of space travel
  • History of Europe WWI-present
  • History and culture of the Middle East

Because of my excitement level, agriculture will come first.  I’m really passionate about sustainable agriculture, as a consequence of years of volunteering at a community farm.  I would love to have a deeper understanding of the history, economics, and science of agriculture, with the broad goals of

  • Engaging more deeply and intelligently with farmers and other volunteers at the farm.
  • Making responsible and informed choices about where my food comes from– for my personal health and for the well-being of the world.
  • Becoming an informed and persuasive advocate for sustainable eating and agriculture practices.
  • Maybe not killing everything in my garden every year…

More posts to come on the specifics of my self-study syllabus development, and eventually on the study topics themselves!

Hello World

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Ready for some field work in E80: Experimental Engineering.

I am a senior engineering major at Harvey Mudd College, with a focus on electrical and electronics engineering.  I will be using this blog mostly to post tutorials, but also to post examples of my class work when it is especially exciting.  

I am currently working on low-level interaction with the Raspberry Pi single-board computer, writing code in C for the next edition of an introductory Digital Electronics textbook.  I have used countless technical blogs to help with my projects in the past, and I would love to contribute to the online hardware hacker community.