STEM vs. humanities: a conversational guide

Picture this: you’re sitting in the Blue Room munching on a French toast muffin alone and someone asks to join your booth. You of course say yes, and in an effort to make sharing a table a little less awkward with a complete stranger, you look to the notes they are pulling out to make small talk about their classes. But alas! It’s all chemistry and calculus, and all you know is humanities. Disillusioned, you are forced to return to the uncomfortable silence and weird looks when you accidentally play footsie with your STEM stranger.

We all know and love and stress about Brown’s open curriculum, which gives us the freedom to take (or not take) whatever classes we choose. But the ability to focus on either STEM or humanities creates a gap in understanding our friends on the dark side (the dark side being up to interpretation).  Those awkward pauses in conversation when you have no idea how to comment on some class a friend is complaining about, or straight up don’t know what they are talking, are avoidable. We want to help you navigate those conversations with confidence, so study up.

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STEM:

CS 15: First of all, I had no idea what CS stood for, and in the interest of saving others from the embarrassment of having to ask, it’s computer science. CS 15 in particular is essentially Intro to Computer Science, and the bane of existence for those students, so be sure to express extreme sympathy for people complaining about it.

Fishbowl: Where dreams go to die. It’s where are aforementioned CS students go to get help during TA hours, but are usually never heard from again. If your friend says they’re going there, send regular text updates assuring them they will some day see the real sun again.

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Labs: It’s not your high school lab where things changed color and that was it. Chemistry labs in particular take up entire afternoons, and the pre-lab and lab reports that go with it, so don’t expect to see friends in lab much.

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Students who do cool things: Lewie Pollis ’14

Since the publication of Moneyball (now a major motion picture!), there has been no shortage of armchair baseball statisticians ready to proclaim their candidacy for Yankees Director of Baseball Operations because they understand what an On-Base Percentage is. But the ranks of baseball statistics gurus operating on the same level as Billy Beane (that’s the guy Brad Pitt plays in the movie) have remained thin. Leading the pack of future Brad Pitts, though, is none other than Lewie Pollis ’14, an economics concentrator and Cleveland Indians fan.

Pollis has been a fixture on the baseball statistics–aka sabermetrics–circuit since the debut of his Indians blog, “Wahoo’s On First.” But he took his game to a whole new level by winning the SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Commentary. The award specifically recognized Pollis for his post on the blog Beyond the Box Score refuting the suggestion that Hall of Fame voters should have seen a player in action in order to cast a vote on that player’s enshrinement. Receiving the honor capped a memorable weekend for Pollis at the SABR Analytics Conference in Phoenix, AZ, which he describes as the first time in his life he has been able to have in-depth, in-person conversations about the complexities of baseball analysis. Continue Reading


The magic of numbers? Really?

New York Magazine’s Daily Intel compiled a list of “ridiculous-sounding math classes” from a smattering of Liberal Arts schools around the country.  While none of the courses on the list are offered by the Mathematics Department here at Brown (except Topology), they all do really sound like some of the ridiculous things one tends to come across while clicking through Mocha (which has Spring ’11 courses up, by the way!).