My UW Experience


I'm hoping to put an except/ link to more detailed reports of my coursework at the University of Washington, chronologically. I'll also put highlights at the top and link bars to navigate. 

Here's some copy-pasted template for linking: 

AMATH 342: Introduction to neural coding and computation

CSE 142: Computer Programming I: Java (w/ CSE 190: 142 Lab) 

PHIL 120: Introduction to Logic 

PHYS 122: Electromagnetism

Spring 2017

CSE 143: Computer Programming II: Java (w/ CSE 390: 143 honors discussion section) 

MATH 126: Calculus w/ Analytic Geometry III

PHYS 123: Waves

- SECOND YEAR (2017-18) -

Autumn 2017

ATM S 211: Climate Change

CSE 351: The Hardware/ Software Interface 

CSE 391: Software (Linux) Tools

MATH 308: Linear Algebra 

NBIO 490: Computational Neuroscience Seminar

Winter 2018

MATH 307: differential Equations 

CSE 333: Systems Programming (C & C++)

E E 215: Intro to Electrical Engineering (Circuit Analysis) (w/ E E 492: Leadership Seminar) 

spring 2.jpg




The day before my first day at UW, I had a casual interview with the leader of Microsoft Enable. He told me to explore all my interests, so that is the goal I set. In addition, my primary goal was to get admission into the CSE department - but this didn't stress nor concern me for most of my first year. I participated in several extracurricular activities (CubeSat, NASA RMC, CSNE Hackathon), but my coursework was just as heavy: intense 16-18 credit quarters. They were lower-level classes, nevertheless, it's a stark contrast from my second year. 


🍂Autumn 2016🍂

This was my first quarter at UW. I did something risky but fulfilling: I took a full 18-credit courseload with work-heavy courses; however I knew most of the subject material. I still was used to my high school sleep schedule, so I arrived at campus at 8:30 AM almost daily. The quarter went very well - I was satisfied with what I had learned and how I had performed. Most importantly: I joined a FIG (First-Year Interest Group) which helped create several friends I still stay in touch with. We all took the same Math and English class. I created a FB group for all the members, and would reserve large rooms for almost weekly study sessions (we would mostly focus on math). I began participating in the UW Satellite Team's Command and Data Handling subsystem and  became the electrical lead for UW Bothell's Trickfire Robotics for the NASA Robotic Mining Competition.

ENGL 111: composition - literature

"Study and practice of good writing; topics derived from reading and discussing stories, poems, essays, and plays."

Read the following portfolio component I made a little while ago on this class. It contains a couple works. 

ENGR 101: Engineering Exploration 

"Presentations and discussions on topics of current interest in engineering. Explores various areas of engineering research, engineering disciplines, and the relevance to today's students."

In this class, we would have professors and industry alumni come present their work. We would submit small paragraphs exploring the topic before and reviewing the topic after the presentation. We also had "passport" assignments due at the end of the quarter which all had their own topic related to exploring the engineering community at UW. Here is an example of something I submitted: Passport_Community.pdf . Although it was sleep-inducing at times, it was fun and enlightening. 

GEN ST 199: University Community

General Studies 199 (GEN ST 199) is a two-credit hour course which serves to create learning communities for students new to the University of Washington and provides information about university, co-curricular, and academic resources.  Through class interaction and activities, this course will help you navigate the UW, begin to identify your campus community, and engage in classroom discussions with a small group of peers; establishing skills that will help you to be successful at the UW

There isn't much to be said about this class, for we only met once a week. However, it was a great experience getting to know all my FIG members. I remember we wrote a letter to ourselves that we were supposed to get back at the end of our first year. One memorable thing we did was go to the international district and explore the area with a small group. We also had some small homework assignments similar to the Engineering Exploration ones, such as this one: Mapping_Response.pdf . 

MATH 125: Calculus w/ Analytic Geometry II

"Second quarter in the calculus of functions of a single variable. Emphasizes integral calculus. Emphasizes applications and problem solving using the tools of calculus."

My first math class at UW: not bad. It was centered around integrals, which I already had a bit of experience with. I would organize several study sessions with my FIG (as seen above), and we would effectively help each other out on homework assignments. Our TA, David, was excellent and both lecture and quiz sections were effective. Although I knew most of the course content in high school, I didn't understand integration to such depth until after I'd taken this course (thus I'm glad I didn't skip it like most of my peers). 

PHYS 121: Mechanics w/ Calculus 

"Basic principles of mechanics and experiments in mechanics for physical science and engineering majors. Lecture tutorial and lab components must all be taken to receive credit."

This is the first of the physics series I took this year, and it had a VERY intense workload. By this, I mean on a weekly basis we had these assignments: 

  • Pre-lab (due digitally by Sunday night) 
  • Pre-tutorial (due as a digital survey by Sunday night) 
  • 3 Pre-lecture quizzes (one before every lecture on certain chapters - they were not easy - due digitally)
  • The lab section
  • The tutorial section
  • Tutorial HW (due physically on paper by Monday 3pm)
  • Post-lab (due digitally by Sunday night) 

On top of this, we had 3 midterms! It was ridiculous, but I pulled through. The concepts weren't too difficult, but the workload was and it ensured that I knew the material well. I kept with Professor Tolich through the next two quarters. The next two quarters also had the same workload with one wonderful exception: we would have 2 midterms instead of 3. 


❄️Winter 2017❄️

Although I thought I'd take less than 18 credits this time, lo and behold, I did just that. Again, although it was an 18-credit schedule, it was fine for the same reason as last quarter: I knew at least half of the content to a decent extent, at least for CSE 142. I really wanted to continue with MATH 126, but it was far too full. Regardless, this was one of my favorite quarters at UW. 

AMATH 342: Introduction to neural coding and computation

"Introduces computational neuroscience, grounded in neuronal and synaptic biophysics. Works through mathematical description of how neurons encode information, and how neural activity is produced dynamically. Uses and teaches Matlab as a programming language to implement models of neuronal dynamics and to perform coding analysis."

This was one of the most interesting classes I've taken at UW so far. Here's the website link: . This class immensely contributed to my skills in data analysis and how to use Matlab and Python to perform that data analysis. Taking this class alongside PHYS 122 was perfect because we were simulating an RC response of a neuron during our biophysics unit while I was learning RLC circuits in physics. Eric-Shea Brown was a wonderful professor. Read the following portfolio component to see my work.

Aside: I made that meme featuring the TA and submitted it with my last homework assignment. 

CSE 142: Computer Programming I: Java (w/ CSE 190: 142 Lab)

"Basic programming-in-the-small abilities and concepts including procedural programming (methods, parameters, return, values), basic control structures (sequence, if/else, for loop, while loop), file processing, arrays, and an introduction to defining objects. Intended for students without prior programming experience."

I don't have much to say about this course other than I covered most of the content in high school, but not to this depth, and therefore got a pretty decent grade. I decided to take this course as opposed to CSE 143x (the accelerated course which covers both 142 and 143) because I hadn't done much Java within the past year. Also, I wasn't used to the style guide which UW abides, since my high school programming teacher enforced a very loose, casual style. Generally, I did well on the exams (adjusting quickly to the style) and got 88% on exams (missing points on the smaller/ more technical errors).

PHIL 120: Introduction to Logic

"Elementary symbolic logic. The development, application, and theoretical properties of an artificial symbolic language designed to provide a clear representation of the logical structure of deductive arguments."

This was the single course I've had the most "success" with. I wouldn't call it an easy 4.0, but I found propositional and predicate logic proofs to be genuinely fun and would practice them - following along with extra exercises in the book and reading it all the way through. This resulted in me losing only a few points in total over the course (aced one exam, lost one or two points on the second midterm and final combined, and aced homework). The final was unlike any other final I had ever had. It wasn't easy, but I felt as if I knew the answer as soon as I finished reading the problem, and all I had to do was guide my hand to reach the solution. 

PHYS 122: Electromagnetism

"Covers the basic principles of electromagnetism and experiments in these topics for physical science and engineering majors. Lecture tutorial and lab components must all be taken to receive credit. Credit is not given for both PHYS 115 and PHYS 122. Prerequisite: either MATH 125 or MATH 134, which may be taken concurrently; PHYS 121."

The same assignment structure as last quarter's physics class, same professor, but now we have two midterms instead of three. I had two other friends who would sit next to me in lecture, and we'd keep each other awake by actively participating in the class and having fun. 


🌸Spring 2017🌸

This quarter was HELL. I took the final of the weed-out courses: MATH 126, PHYS 123, and CSE 143 w/ honors section. On top of this, I spent the quarter helping build the NASA RMC robot; and spent Week 9 of the quarter in Florida averaging 2 hours of sleep per night whilst doing my schoolwork.

CSE 143: Computer Programming II: Java

(w/ CSE 390: 143 honors discussion section) 

Constructing my own grammar 

"Continuation of 142. Concepts of data abstraction and encapsulation including stacks, queues, linked lists, binary trees, recursion, instruction to complexity and use of predefined collection classes."

The content of the course, in terms of sections, subject material, and assignments, was wonderful. The exams and grading were the worst. Many students agree. I don't have much to say about this course. I nearly aced the homework; I did poorly on the time-crunched paper exams. The honors section was basically Professor Reges talking about material from the book Godel Escher Bach. 

MATH 126: Calculus w/ Analytic Geometry III

"Third quarter in calculus sequence. Introduction to Taylor polynomials and Taylor series, vector geometry in three dimensions, introduction to multivariable differential calculus, double integrals in Cartesian and polar coordinates."

I had the best TA to-date and the exams the professor gave were unnecessarily computationally intensive - resulting in low midterm averages. I got a 95% on the final, however, which saved my grade for the course.

PHYS 123: Waves

"Explores electromagnetic waves, the mechanics of oscillatory motion, optics, waves in matter, and experiments in these topics for physical science and engineering majors. Lecture tutorial and lab components must all be taken to receive credit. Credit is not given for both PHYS 116 and PHYS 123. Prerequisite: either MATH 126 or MATH 134, which may be taken concurrently; PHYS 122."

Same structure, same teacher, a lot of varying material and several nights doing homework. While taking PHYS 122, I would stay an hour after I had just finished my Wednesday homework at the study center to help fellow classmates confused by the same problems I had just overcome. Deriving my techniques from Richard Feynman, I was able to articulate my findings and methods to my classmates as effectively as my physics professor at the study center - for I was able to share their misunderstanding. Here are some videos from lecture: 

Diffraction pattern from lab.




I was rejected from the CSE department over the summer application period. The advisers told me that the sole weakness in my application was that I wasn't able to demonstrate my ability to perform well in CSE coursework - given that they've only seen my performance in 142 (good) and 143 (terrible). With exception to helping out here and there and attending a few events, I restricted myself from extracurricular activities and anything that would risk thinning my efforts. Coursework, especially CSE coursework, was a priority this year. It was difficult - I cannot do only coursework, for a lose my sense of purpose. But, it was worth it: after performing well in CSE 351 and 333, along with excellent MATH 308/ 307 grades, I got into the department the following (Spring) application. 


🍂Autumn 2017🍂

After getting rejected from the CSE department over the summer, the advisers told me that the sole weakness in my application was that I wasn't able to demonstrate my ability to perform well in CSE coursework. Therefore, I petitioned into a majors-only course, and made that the sole focus of this quarter.

ATM S 211: Climate Change

"The nature of the global climate system. Factors influencing climate including interactions among the atmosphere, oceans, solid earth, and biosphere. Stability and sensitivity of climate system. Global warming, ozone depletion, and other human influences. Intended for nonmajors."

This was an excellent course - I learned the fundamentals of feedback loops and the role they played in global climate change. In addition to learning about climate change in general, there was also a chapter on policy; ultimately: not too broad, but not too specific either, so it was well-designed for non-majors like me. The course was well-structured too, making it easy to study between lecture slides and textbook content. 

Getting bored in lecture part 1

Getting bored in lecture part 2

CSE 351: The Hardware/ Software Interface

"Examines key computational abstraction levels below modern high-level languages; number representation, assembly language, introduction to C, memory management, the operating-system process model, high-level machine architecture including the memory hierarchy, and how high-level languages are implemented. Prerequisite: CSE 143." 

Results I saved from a lab where we had to figure out simulated caches' parameters.

Like I had stated before, this class was the focus of the quarter. Professor Justin Hsia was excellent, as was the course structure. There were office hours almost always available, and the course made it easy to study hard. The topic was something I had some experience with from playing around with embedded systems, so the first few weeks were chill; however, this course did require a ton of work, spending every Wednesday or Thursday working on the labs; these labs were puzzles that required creative and investigative thinking, as opposed to rote, computational problems on the other end of the spectrum. I hope to be a TA for CSE 351 Fall 2018 with Professor Hsia. 


CSE 391: Software (Linux) Tools

"Introduction to tools commonly used in software development. Topics include using a command-line interface, writing scripts for file and string manipulation, managing user permissions, manipulating text with regular expressions, using build-management tools, and using version-control systems. Prerequisite: CSE 143. Credit/no-credit only."

This was a chill 1-credit course which I loved because I had no idea what people were doing with computers when they were on a terminal. This was a tools-based class, and taught me how to use a computer well. 

MATH 308: Linear Algebra 

"Systems of linear equations, vector spaces, matrices, subspaces, orthogonality, least squares, eigenvalues, eigenvectors, applications. For students in engineering, mathematics, and the sciences. "

Without a doubt the best course I have ever taken, with the best professor I've had to date. Vasu Tewari is an excellent professor: energetic, insightful, quick, accessible, and extremely caring. Unfortunately for us, he's leaving UW to be a professor at UPenn, I wish him luck! Anyways, the course content taught by Vasu was some of the most interesting, thought-provoking content I've learned. Linear Algebra is genuinely fun and enjoyable. The focus of the course was that matrices are linear transformations and vice versa; it taught me that things can be solved by viewing them in different ways. For example, a problem can be impossible to solve by a human if thought as matrix multiplication, but can be possible by thinking of it [visually] as linear transformations. Here are some of my favorite questions from the quarter, and their thoughts from Vasu: 

As you can see in the picture, Vasu gave clear explanations with enthusiasm. Additionally, Vasu also linked us to a channel called 3Blue1Brown to supplement the course with visuals; this channel is probably my favorite educational Youtube channel currently. The series, "Essence of linear algebra," is described eloquently by the introduction video below. The image on the lower right is taken from, and linked to, a favorite moment whilst learning linear algebra. 

 Review session

Review session

 By 3Blue1Brown

By 3Blue1Brown

NBIO 490: Computational Neuroscience Seminar

"Supervised readings and group discussions in computational neuroscience. Credit/no-credit only."

This course ultimately motivated me to pursue the computational neuroscience minor (currently applying over summer 2018). The class schedule and presentations were as listed below. After each presentation, we would have a write-up due before the next one; each write up involved a one-page summary and summary/ basic analysis of one of the speakers' research publications. 

11/3   Tom DanielLearning from flight

11/10 No class: Veteran’s Day

11/17 Bing Brunton: Big data approaches in neuroscience

12/1  Fred Rieke:  Deciphering the retina

12/7   Beth BuffaloAttention and learning

9/30   Adrienne Fairhall:  Coding principles in sensory systems

10/6    Eric Shea-Brown: Math in neuroscience

10/13  John Tuthill: How the brain keeps track of the body

10/20  Merav SternLearning in mice & models

10/27   Chet MoritzBrain-computer interfaces

Winter 2018

MATH 307: differential Equations 

"Introductory course in ordinary differential equations. Includes first- and second-order equations and Laplace transform."

This course was far more like MATH 126 than MATH 308 - more computationally intensive (computing integrals and derivatives). Few parts of the course were solely "conceptual." The focus of the course, however, was not calculation; the course focused on the modeling applications of the differential equations: first-order ODE models (Newton's law of cooling, interest, etc...) and second-order ODE models (damped oscillations, Laplace transform). My favorite part of the course, undoubtedly, was understanding how the equations representing oscillations worked - how we can differentiate between the transient and steady-state solution - and how we could use Laplace transforms to almost magically compute these models. It was also the last part of mathematics covered by Khan Academy, so I had to say farewell to Sal Khan for mathematics, for now. The course was taught by a graduate student, who's only taught 126 section before, so some things were a bit rocky (extremely long homeworks, impossible timed quizzes). However, he was very open-minded - even having a mid-quarter survey - and improved accordingly and effectively. 

CSE 333: Systems Programming (C & C++)

"Includes substantial programming experience in languages that expose machine characteristics and low-level data representation (e.g., C and C++); explicit memory management; modern libraries and language features; interacting with operating-system services; introduction to concurrent programming. Prerequisite: CSE 351."

Portfolio piece in production

E E 215: Intro to Electrical Engineering (Circuit Analysis) (w/ E E 492: Leadership Seminar) 

"Introduction to electrical engineering. Basic circuit and systems concepts. Mathematical models of components. Kirchhoff's laws. Resistors, sources, capacitors, inductors, and operational amplifiers. Solution of first and second order linear differential equations associated with basic circuit forms. Prerequisite: either MATH 136, or MATH 126 and either MATH 307 or AMATH 351, either of which may be taken concurrently; PHYS 122. "
EE 492: "Weekly seminar with program alumni presenting their workforce experience, demonstrating the depth and breadth possible in the field and best practices. Credit/no-credit only"
  • John Sahr is an amazing professor, most comfortable course I've taken, challenging, feels right. 





Anand SekarUW, courses, school