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February 2010 Archives

What season you may ask? The holiday season is over. New years resolutions have past. Even Punxsutawney Phil has had his day. So what season could I be referring to? Well, as many of my colleagues can definitely attest to, it is Recommendation Letter Season. Irrespective of the destination - a graduate program in the sciences, a medical school, a summer research internship or a scholarship program - the majority of the letters all seem to be due before February 15th. As much as I hope every year to have most of the letters complete before the start of the semester, there are always a few (or a lot) of students who leave the deadlines to the last minute.

While recommendation letters take an enormous amount of time to write, deep down I am thrilled that so many of our students are seeking out these opportunities; especially the summer research programs. These, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (or REUs as they are affectionately referred to by students) are wonderful opportunities for our students to experience research at another institution for 10 weeks over the summer. Our sophomore and junior students tend to secure more summer research internships than the national average, because of our strong research integrated curriculum in the sciences, which is supported in part by the W. M. Keck Foundation. Our research integrated curriculum eliminates much of the cook-book or expository style of laboratories and replaces the experience by integrating genuine faculty research within the curriculum (as early as the first-year!). Collectively, we are not satisfied with our students mastering knowledge, comprehension and application. Our curriculum now actively provides our students with an environment to hone their higher-order cognitive skills - analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Currently, 55 students (mostly first-year) are synthesizing molecules in my Organic Chemistry I course from procedures the students have written themselves. But I digress, I still have to finish 3 more letters tonight.

Having successfully sent out 178 letters of recommendation (so far) since January 15th, I feel encouraged that I only have another 35 left to send out before February 15th.

However, as any experienced writer of recommendations knows - until the ultimate April 15th deadline - no one is safe from the "puppy-dog-eyes" of a student desperately seeking one last letter!!

Now back to the letter writing!

Until next time, take care,
Rich -

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