Articles by Tom Hagerman

The Best Thing About Spring Quarter

Spring in Chicago is like an awakening.  It’s a few long weeks of remembering just how many people live here, and wondering where they have all been during winter.  

The best thing about spring is the energy that comes alive.  The weather, the people, the events, and the outdoor meals.  Everything wakes up, and the weeks of spring almost make the entire winter worth the wait.  Admittedly, it gets difficult to stay focused on school during spring quarter.  However, the incredible weather and events of the spring do make it perfectly fine that we’re in school a bit later into the summer than other colleges.   

Spring quarter is also a time of preparation for transition.  Whether you’re just about to start college, finishing up an intermediate year of college, or getting ready to move on from college, there’s a lot to figure out in the spring.  It’s like saying goodbye to the life you had in the winter and hello to the new spring/summer life.  

The weather makes it possible to explore the areas of the city that you
The Art Institute of Chicago
didn't get to in the winter.  It makes eating outside at the local places possible.  You have everything that a city offers (like good food, interesting people, fun things to do for every type of person) and you also have the lake that almost makes you feel like you’re out of the city.  

I especially enjoy spring on campus because it's the best time to sit outside before or after class and get some sun.   It gives me an energy that sustains me through the class and helps me be more focused once I am ready to sit down for class.  

Still, my absolute favorite thing about the spring in Chicago is being able to walk around and see people that you haven't for a while.  The winter can be hard, but spring makes the winter months worth the wait.  Seeing people get back outside and all the happiness and activities make spring one of the best times of the year in Chicago.



My X-Favorite Season

From the time I was 11 years old until I graduated high school I volunteered at a haunted house in my hometown.  While the work always started during the summer, it makes sense that the excitement mostly took place in October.  Because of the haunted house, the fall has always been a time of the year that I look forward to.  Even after coming to college and leaving the haunted house behind, I still get good feelings about the fall.  So, fall is my favorite season if I’m back at home in Rochester, IL.  I called this post my x-favorite season because since coming to Chicago I can’t deny that the summer is heaven here.  But I do love it here in the fall, so don’t get me wrong. 

One of my favorite parts about fall quarter is family weekend.  My family and my friends’ families have come for three family weekends now and they have been a blast.  These weekends are one of the highlights of fall quarter because it’s so nice to have a weekend dedicated to spending time showing my parents the things that I’m experiencing at college.  In the past my parents have rented a house with my friend Delaney’s parents for the weekend.  It actually ends up being more economical than a hotel and the house always serves as a gathering place.  We generally end up spending a lot of time all together and we have a blast doing it.

Here’s a little flashback to sophomore year Family Weekend. My dog even got to come!
A more distinctive part of every fall for me is trying to get back into the swing of school.  Autumn quarter is always hard to adjust to after a nice summer break, and it feels like it ends just a couple of weeks after I’ve finally gotten used to being in school.  This quarter is no exception to that trend.  It’s soon to be the 9th week of school (of 11 weeks including finals) and I am just starting to feel like I’ve adjusted to being back in school.  It could be the quarter system that’s causing this, but it’s likely just a personal issue.  Whatever it is, I should warn you for the whirlwind of the autumn quarter.  It’s more of a reminder that there’s a lot to our experience in college, and it’s not time that should be wasted even though it feels busy.  I’ve especially been reminded through the hustle of this fall quarter how important it is to take a break from school-work and make sure that I am experiencing life as a college student, seeing friends, and enjoying the city.

My Pre-Health Advising Committee Letter Interview

This past Wednesday I had my Pre-health Advising Committee (PAC) letter of recommendation interview.  The letter is a component of the medical school application process that is important for showing schools who I am outside of my academic experience.  My committee adviser is Dr. Southern in the Chemistry department.  She has been my main point of contact in the committee as well as the person who I will meet with to receive feedback from the interview.

The process for a PAC letter of recommendation started a couple of months ago when I submitted four letters of recommendation from individuals (two from professors, one from a current doctor, and one from my current work supervisor).  I also submitted a personal statement, a few essay responses, my transcripts, and my resume.   

Most medical schools are now looking for a committee letter of recommendation from a pre-health committee at your school, so it's an important process and I'm happy to have the chance to bring many voices into one letter.  I've definitely felt supported by my professors and advisers in the process of applying to medical school.  The PAC letter is something students generally do as juniors or seniors, depending on when you are looking to apply to medical school.  So far, my main piece of advice in the PAC letter process is to start thinking early about your decision to apply to medical school and to think deeply about why you want to become a physician.


MCAT Time

 
(That's not me in the video....)​

​Well, now that I’m a junior it’s time that I get serious about studying for the MCAT.  This coming Wednesday I have my interview with the Pre-Health Advising Committee (PAC)  to get a committee letter of recommendation.  I started the process with the PAC at the beginning of this quarter when I submitted an application packet, a personal statement, and four letters of recommendation to the committee.  My interview this Wednesday will be the final step in getting a committee letter. 

I’m registered to take the MCAT August 28th, which gives me about 15 weeks to study.  I am taking a class through the Princeton Review this summer, but I know there is a lot to do on my own.  I only want to take the test once so it’s pretty important to me to really buckle down.  I’ve created a study schedule for these last four weeks of school and the two weeks of the summer before I start my class.  

My classes at DePaul have helped prepare me for the MCAT, and now it's really time to devote my personal time to areas that I need it the most (definitely physics).  I've gotten help from the pre-health adviser at DePaul as well as other students that have gone through the process.  Talking to other students has been really helpful because they understand the reality of juggling classes with studying for the MCAT.  

I'll keep you updated on my PAC committee letter interview this Wednesday and explain more about that process in the future.​

Applications of Calculus: The Gini Index

In calculus right now we are talking about the area between two curves as an application of integrals.  I was excited when we started talking about something called the Gini coefficient and the Lorenz curve.  It’s a crude, yet revealing, measure of inequality in a country.  There are many different things that a Gini index can be calculated for, but today we talked about the Gini index of income inequality in the US.  

We took data from the 2010 US Census based on the percent of income that various groups earn.  For example, the bottom 80% of the earners received about 49.8% of the total income, meaning that the top 20% earned about 50.2% of the total income (AHHHHH!).  We fit a few different best -fit lines to the data in order to calculate the Gini index, a number from 0 to 1.  An index closer to zero signifies less income inequality while a Gini index close to 1 would be indicative of a substantial amount of income inequality. 

 
To connect the class to the bigger picture… It was interesting to hear about income inequality from my calculus professor as well as from the perspective of mathematics.  I wish I could 100% say that the Vincentian mission is embedded in all of my classes, but there are probably classes where the Vincentian values aren’t necessarily applicable to the course content.  Yet, the the mission in other classes and in general interactions of people at DePaul has certainly been present.  ​
​​
​​

You Heard of Khan Academy?

Khan Academy is hot stuff these days.  In the past two weeks at least five people have brought it up in conversation.  I first heard of it from my calculus professor this year that always includes a link to a few Khan Academy videos in the material he sends us every week.  Education is definitely changing and it's going to be interesting to see how things like Khan Academy factor in.
 
Khan academy brings this incredible means of education to essentially anyone with access to a computer and to internet.  It allows students to spend less time listening to lectures in the classroom and more time practicing knowledge and discussing things in the classroom.  I've got a slower quarter this Spring and I've made a goal to watch one video a week, just like 10-15 minutes or so.
 
I've used Khan Academy to supplement the materials I had for organic chemistry and for some of biochemistry.  It's nice to consult resources outside of what the professor provides because it helps me know that I'm not alone in what I am learning, and can also give me a different way of thinking about things than what might be presented by the professor.  This is cool because then we now have a few ways to look at something, like GPCRs (G-protein coupled receptors), for instance. 
 
I'm just beginning to explore the Khan Academy website.  In so many ways this is incredible.  There is even a section with videos all pertaining to the MCAT!  I think it's going to be pretty interesting to see how modes of education like Khan Academy will continue to be more integrated in to our education.  There's no doubt that these forms of education are going to become more prevalent in our lifetime.

Spring Break in Philly

I had the pleasure of spending my spring break with nine fantastic people in Philadelphia, PA. 

After going on two service immersion trips through University Ministry I decided that it was time to take on the challenge of being the student leader for a trip.  I applied last Winter and had a class last Spring in preparation.  This winter quarter before the trip I also had class once a week to prepare for the trip.

The service immersion trips are organized by the Vincentian Community Service Office of University Ministry.  The hope of the trips is not to necessarily provide services that would otherwise be unmet if we didn't go somewhere, but instead to hear stories from the people we meet and learn about the issues in that community.  We are on the trips to learn about our relatioinship with the poor and the marginalized and to examine how we live our daily lives back at home or at school.  The most important aspects of hte trip include awareness, simplicity, dialogue, and solidarity.  

After a 14 hour car ride to Philadelphia we arrived in Germantown, a neighborhood about 10 minutes outside of downtown Philly.  Each day we woke up around 7:30am and left the house by about 9am.  We would work at one or two service sites and then get back around 5pm.  Most nights we had some other type of activity planned, such as a visit to a Jesuit Volunteer Corps house in Philadelphia as well as a potluck dinner with members of the local dioceses.  Reflection is an important part of the trips and each night we would talk about the things we saw, experienced, and felt and what that means for us. 

I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to spend the week with.  Here are some pictures to give you a glimpse of our trip.