by Jake Sporrer
It can be amazing for a college career to have a study group. A group of people all in the same classes can work together to have a better shot at success. In the Materials Engineering major, we take the concept of study group to another level. I’d like to share some of the benefits of an intense study group through my own experience while also clarifying the infrastructure of the cult that we call Materials Engineering.
There are several tiers of study group that I am a part of. I will call the first tier the “Mat E Superbrain”. This tier of study group emerges when a high value group assignment is given. This group has arisen most frequently when a professor is new to the department and underestimates the superbrain. Recently, a professor gave a take home test where working in groups was allowed. The superbrain was 25 people strong that day. There were heated arguments about the analysis-based test. In the end, there were a few different opinions on the correct answers, upperclassmen chimed in on their thoughts, and the superbrain earned an unusually high average grade.
The second tier is the “Back-up Squad”. This group show up the day before a big in-class test to join in the studying. This group tends to consist of approximately 8-12 students. We have a modular study style when back-up squad comes together. There is a group that works on equation explanations and potential problems. There is a concepts team that works on potential conceptual questions. There is a test review team that works on finding old test, book, or quiz questions that can serve as examples for the upcoming test. The core line up the “Back-up Squad” consists of “Squad”, who I will introduce pro wrestling style.
Nate “The Cheatsheat” Podjenski: If a class allows a page of notes for a test (maybe 1 in 4 classes will do this to avoid rote memorization), Nate is your man. He can organize, synthesize, and prioritize. The man is a regular information sieve. His other greatest strength is his dedication. When you hear Nate talk about his plans to leave at 2 am, you feel motivated to make it to at least midnight.
Brant “The Pneumonic Device” Mosley: If there is an acronym to be learned, Brant is the man you want to stick it in your brain. His other strengths lie in his common sense understanding and knowing the right questions. It can be easy to overcomplicate things like the quantum behavior of electrons. With Brant, it’s possible to personify electrons to facilitate understanding. While Nate keeps you dedicated, Brant keeps you grounded. His knowledge of when studying reaches diminishing returns allows squad to maximize break to studying ratios.
Chris “The Pledge” Whitmore: Chris is just plain smart. He learns quickly, thinks laterally as well as vertically, and uses his powers for good (helping others study). He tends to work alone until he conquers all the material for a test/assignment then groups up to share his knowledge and get feedback/help from the rest of us. Chris keeps squad from tunneling (electron pun intended) on one explanation. By working alone, then synthesizing, we get varied opinions.
The subs for squad are Steven “The Information” Kmiec, who is effective at getting hard to find information (notes, papers, past tests) and Brian “The Boy Genius” Fuchs who is on top of his academic game and fills a similar role to Chris, joining less frequently. I am Jake “The Dirty Bulk” Sporrer and my role is to explain things that are hard to imagine physically (electrons, polymers in solution, etc.). The rest of back-up squad consists of anyone that wants to join, typically friends of Squad.
If I had to estimate, I would guess that squad spends 6-15 hours a week working together depending on if there is a test that week. After all the weekends of 8 hour study sessions and late nights of homework assignments, squad has become good friends. We do yoga together, play racquetball, and bar hop. Recently, we started a squad intramural bowling team. A professor was gone and recorded lectures for two weeks. When he was gone, squad would get together, Chris would make Indian food and we would have Indian, wine, and kinetics. It is incredible to find a group of people that make you almost excited to study and work on homework.
I found myself struggling to succeed at the end of last spring, but the discovery of a solid, reliable study group has really stabilized both my sanity, and my grades. I would suggest finding yourself a good “Squad” and seeing if the intense study group style is for you.