Frosh-cessities: A guide to summer opportunities

“So… what are you doing this summer?” — maybe the worst question since that dreaded “Where are you heading next year?” you might have gotten from relatives, your dentist, or strangers your senior year of high school.

Have no idea where to start your search? Have no idea people did things over the summer? Blog has you covered with an overview of some different options, especially for you precocious but overwhelmed first-years.

Taking Classes

Some students stay at Brown to take classes over the summer. It’s a great opportunity to take a class you might not have time for in your normal schedule during the year, or to get a concentration requirement out of the way. Despite the shorter term, each class counts as a full course credit because they meet more frequently. You can take up to two courses a summer, and up to four summer classes can count towards your degree. Classes are paid à la carteHere’s the current course catalogue for Summer 2016. Pre registration for summer courses runs from April 1 – 21.

You can also take classes at another university and petition for transfer credit. This needs to be arranged through the Dean of the College, because Brown’s course hours might not match up with the other school. If you’d like to get credit counted towards your concentration, you should double check with the department, because often departments are strict on what courses can fulfill a Brown equivalent.

RISD classes are also offered during the summer. Note that while RISD classes are included in Brown tuition for the Fall, Winter, and Spring terms, Summer classes are not included. More information hereUp to four RISD classes can count towards your Brown degree.

If you’re sticking around Brown for the summer, whether for classes, research, an internship, or something else, you can pay for Brown summer housing, or get a sublet in the neighborhood (there are always many options available, as juniors and seniors who live off campus desperately want to find subletters). You can also apply to be a Summer@Brown residential assistant (for high school students) and live in dorms over the summer for free. Many students enjoy spending the summer in Providence, for the free concerts and events, the warm weather, or for the change in pace and community from during the year.

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Here be dragons: RISD’s Nature Lab


(Pictures taken in RISD’s Nature Lab)

Here’s a riddle for you: where can you find a dragon, a preserved dog fetus, and a whale vertebra, all in one place? The answer is 13 Waterman St, a spot that is incredibly close to Brown’s campus and is home to RISD’s Nature Lab. Having heard of it last summer, I made the not-so-long trek over to the building last Thursday, unsure of what to expect; would I find one small room with a couple of fish tanks?

This was most certainly NOT the case.

Walking into the main room of the Nature Lab can be overwhelming. Not because it is disorganized or crowded, but because there is so much to explore. Cabinets and drawers line the walls, filled with specimens of all kinds, from butterflies to minerals. There are all types of plants, and multiple tanks and cages, homes to turtles and other living animals. Larger preserved animals occupy space outside the cabinets: you might notice a bear, a deer, or the puffer fish hanging from the ceiling.

What’s really cool is that you can take out, handle, and study most of these specimens. Basically, you feel like a kid in a candy shop and keep asking, “What’s that? And that??!” At least that’s what I did, to some extraordinarily helpful Nature Lab staff, including Lab Coordinator Betsy Ruppa, who answered many of my questions about what the different specimens were.

Ruppa said the facility ends up functioning as a library. Students often use the Nature Lab as a resource for various projects and are even allowed to check out many of the objects. Entire classes, many from RISD but also other schools, will come in to use the space. The lab additionally helps students out in a myriad of ways beyond providing them with draw-able subjects. Students of everything from apparel to architecture come in to investigate the forms, shapes and textures of natural objects. Ruppa explained that students use the lab to study “anything that relates to nature and how nature solves its problems of design.” For example, she explained that an architecture student might want to examine the structure of a bird’s nest. Clothing designers might need inspiration for prints. The way bones connect can give insight into how hinges work; the way certain insects’ wings unfurl and then return to their resting position mirrors the way the top to a convertible opens and closes.

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Brown’s new wireless brain-computer implant

If you possess an internet connection, it’s more than likely you’ve been reading up on the next big tech trend predicted to sweep the globe: augmented reality, centering around the much-hyped visual interactivity of Google Glass.

Recently, researchers in the BrainGate program here at Brown University announced a breakthrough that has the potential to add an entirely new dimension to augmented reality: an implantable, wireless, rechargeable brain interface. The implantable Brown-computer implant has been tested on animals before, but humans have only undergone tests with a tethered BCI rather than a wireless one. An incredible video of a May 2012 test (below) shows a paralyzed woman using a tethered BCI to manipulate a bottle with a robotic arm.

According to a recent article in ExtremeTech, scientists here at Brown have implanted the wireless BCIs in animals; after 13 months of testing, the researchers are planning to move to human subjects for testing in the future.

Correlation between drinking and intelligence?


Despite what Jersey Shore may lead you to believe, recent studies have shown that there is a positive relationship between your intelligence level and your level of drinking.

According to various studies, you are boozing it up because a.) you are an early adopter of this marvelous new thing known as “alcohol,” or b.) you are making up for a childhood spent time mastering the intricacies of D&D, or c.) it’s the only way you can deal with stupid people around you.

There’s a map for that

© Copyright SASI Group (University of Sheffield) and Mark Newman (University of Michigan)

If you’ve seen a bill from Brown, it won’t surprise you that the US spends a ton of money on higher education. But what about other countries? Check out the map above, which presents countries’ size as a function of their spending on tertiary education (college, law schools, etc.)

At Worldmapper, visual leaners and dataheads alike can find this and over 700 other maps addressing issues from vegetable consumption to condom use.

CAGW says Brown is full of pork

Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group, called out Rhode Island representatives and Brown University in its “Pork Alert” covering House appropriations for energy and water for fiscal year 2011.

One earmark, sponsored by House Reps. Patrick Kennedy and Jim Langevin will give Brown $1.2 million to research carbon sequestration. CAGW complains about the funding because,

“With an endowment of $2.04 billion, Brown could surely afford its own research.”

Well, we’d like to beg to differ. In case you hadn’t heard, Brown’s endowment has suffered “horrendous” losses lately. As have university endowments all across the country.

Besides, the government has always supported research in the arts and sciences. Federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation are primary sources of funding. It’s even in the Constitution (with selective reading). If the government stops funding university research, who’s going to find solutions for global warming?

CAGW needs to stop pretending universities don’t need support from outside.

Trust us, the only pork at Brown is in the form of hot ham on a bulky roll.