Kunal Marwaha

reflections on attending UC Berkeley

Major

I graduated in both Engineering Physics and EECS in 2016.

Coursework

With Engineering Physics, you have some choices in your coursework. I particularly enjoyed these classes (fascinating topics but not breadth courses, lower than average workload):

Nuclear Engineering 155 with Prof Slaybaugh

A review of linear algebra and introduction to programming in a simulation / research context. This class doesn’t require lots of programming experience but it helps if you have it.

Astronomy 160 with Prof Quataert

You learn how stars form, why they undergo fusion, how they explode (or not). Designed for people who have a physics background. Nearly every lecture blew my mind.

Physics 141A with Prof Analytis

How do crystals work? What’s special about metals? It’s still abstract, but this class helped put “physics” back into objects we can see and interact with. And there are novel materials and states of matter discovered all the time (did you know they put liquid crystals in wristwatches?)

Breadth

I enjoyed “Decal” courses. These have typically 1-2 units,promise a light workload, and (generally) focus on “experiences over papers”. The lists change often since courses are student-taught.

There is also a listing of “Discovery” courses for the College of Letters and Science, focused on breadth. This list usually changes between fall and spring semesters. It’s my understanding that anyone (including Engineering students) can enroll in these classes. Some of these classes (“Wealth and Poverty”, “Physics and Music”, “Drugs and the Brain”) are among the most popular on campus.

For fun

The Cal Running Club has public runs most days, and people are quite friendly. (I went only a handful of times.)

I would recommend the Chamber Music Decal or the “Physics and Music” Discovery course. (I did not take these, but some friends of mine liked them).

I think the Berkeley Art Studio offers drawing (and other) classes for additional cost. A good friend was in the Civil Engineering program: she took one course each year and enjoyed each one.

Group studying in math & physics

I don’t know if it is “common” (many people work alone), but I would recommend having a study partner or study group. Usually people are open to studying together and reviewing lecture material outside of class. In the Physics department many people work in the Reading Room (I think there is a new space on the 1st floor of LeConte Hall too.)

I would also recommend the “departmental clubs” that try to facilitate peer collaboration and study groups. You can attend their events even if you are not in the department (and it can be easier to find study partners this way!)

  1. SPS: Society of Physics Students
  2. MUSA: Math Undergraduate Student Association
  3. SES: Society of Engineering Sciences (including Engineering Physics)

Housing

There are a couple active Facebook groups (here and here) that post often about rooms available. I’ve successfully used Craiglist before too.


More questions? What am I missing? Email me.