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From the College of Natural Sciences
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A Community of Learners

A Community of Learners

Dear students,

Standing in between us all and the summer break is the study period and final exam period which starts tomorrow. To be honest, this was always one of my favorite periods in college. It always seemed like a quiet period when I finally had a chance to go back, re-think the material, bug my TA about things I never understood well, and prove to myself I really did understand the point of the class. I still remember a final paper due in my Greek Civilization class that I must have brought to the professor three times before he finally indicated I was on to something, and I still remember the "Eureka" moment in my sophomore physics class when I understood why diagonalizing a matrix was related to understanding the motion of a spinning object. While I somehow fumbled through those classes just fine, it was these end-of-semester realizations that delivered the satisfaction that the class was worth the investment of time and energy. And it was the shared camaraderie of working with my classmates in the library at odd hours that gave me that sense, which I still relish today, of shared commitment to a goal and of being part of a community of learners. That shared experience of us all striving for new knowledge is one of those things that makes being at a university special.

A parent of a prospective freshman visited campus recently and asked me "What is so great about UT Austin?" I told this parent that the decision where to send a student is complicated and very personal. UT is one of the most highly ranked universities in the world, with top programs in computer science, chemistry, physics, math, neuroscience, astronomy, and many others, but that is only one aspect of its draw. It is also the state's university, and here one finds all the hopes, aspirations, culture, and rich diversity of the state of Texas from the diverse cities of Houston and Dallas to the Rio Grand valley to north Texas to west Texas to the Gulf Coast. On any evening, one might walk by the UT Tower and see a rehearsal of a gospel choir or Bali dancers. And all around campus this week are students working on biochemistry, topology, and automata theory, some of the hardest subjects in one of the most rigorous colleges on campus.

Back home, very few people are like you. Some day, you will be at a cocktail party or a potluck dinner and you will tell people you majored in biochemistry or computational physics while you were in college. After the conversation moves on to the backgrounds of the others at the party (I won't even name their majors), you'll realize what an amazing set of skills you've acquired and challenges you are capable of tackling. It's useful for you all to hear that now. Even as you're worried about doing a good job in your classes and you might be feeling a little stressed about how final exams will go, just know that your being here, your taking on this challenge, and your daring to take risks for your dream, all these things set you apart. And those exams (with a lot of hard work on your part) will go off just fine.

Best of luck in the coming week,

Dr. Kopp

You Probably Ate Fungus Today
Congratulations, the School Year is Over


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Tuesday, 18 January 2022

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