Quote Of The Day

“Physical sciences is a VERY hard subject, which will require ALL of your attention and your FULL brain capacity (and for a large fraction of you, even that will not be quite enough).  You can ONLY do well (ie achieve your potential, which rightly or wrongly several people here assumed you have) if you are completely focused, and learn to enjoy the course.  People who just TAKE the course, but enjoy their social life, can easily survive in many subjects — but not in this one.  Remember that you are NOT at any other uni, where students do drink a lot and do have what they regard as a ‘good time’ — and you are NOT on a course, as some Cambridge courses sadly are, where such a behaviour pattern is possible or acceptable.”
Professor Eugene Terentjev, Cambridge University

My hero.  It’s precisely what I would say to incoming freshmen if I were teaching a course at university.  (Which is why I wouldn’t last long.)

Predictably, all the Fainting Goats are outraged.


  1. Hah! That was pretty tame. The Dean of Engineering at Ole Landgrant U. gave us the ‘Look to the left and the right. Only one of you will be here in four years to graduate.’ speech at orientation. Funny thing was he was wrong. Only one in four of us actually graduated from the engineering program. The rest either dropped out or transferred to what we called Jewish Engineering i.e. business. Interesting thing was back then you couldn’t apply to the Business College as an incoming freshman; you could only transfer to it.

    I did damn little partying during my 4 year tenure there.

  2. Same here. Back in the 80’s we were told in the intro to engineering classes that approximately 30% of the students in the class wouldn’t finish the semester, and 50% wouldn’t make it to graduation. Not because of partying (although that didn’t help), but simply because engineering was hard. Period.

    Lots of people rode the downward spiral of chemical/electrical/mechanical (i.e. real) engineering first, then drop to civil engineering, then to business, then to a liberal arts degree.

    1. Interesting. At Ole Landgrant U engineering spiraled to Industrial Engineering and Operations Research before you left the program. The Civil Engineering program was as tough as any of the others. The misery in that program started with Surveying – offered only during winter quarter…

  3. Engineering school was challenging no doubt about that. Nursing school less so but the instructors were far, far more arrogant. I had a few good nursing instructors but many were just burnt out arrogant bullies who had no business being out in public without a handler


  4. The dean of engineering at UT Dallas had a very similar talk during the orientation – like before you accepted admission. It was the only school we visited where that happened.

    They didn’t tell me that, but I figured it out year two when the crushing started. That’s when they started the work the broke your skull.

  5. At Dear Ol’ State in the fall of ’61 there were 265 of us in CHE 10, the one credit intro course that incoming chemical engineering students had to take. It taught a little about how to do college, a little about the chemical and petroleum industries, and a lot about all those scales on our slide rules.

    Four years later in the spring of ’65 there were 65 of us graduating with chemical engineering degrees, and several of those were transfers from junior colleges or satellite campuses around the state.

    All those calculus, physics, and chemistry courses you had to pass before getting to the first real engineering course convinced most of the would-be engineers to major in business.

    1. Chemical Engineering is normally regarded as the toughest of all the engineering disciplines, with Aerospace in second place.

      1. Chem E is certainly the engineering discipline that’s most likely to kill you when anyone in the room effs up. I’m an EE; if I were working in AC power systems I’d need to look out for exposed circuits that could reach out a few inches, but since I work in electronics, I only have to worry about heat dissipation calculations being so far off as to be a power hazard.

        What I remember best from my one chemistry course long ago is that many mistakes in the lab will instantly flood the room with poison gas, and these mistakes are uncommon only because chemical workers learn to be very, very careful. For instance, cyanide salts are very common reagents, but if the solution ever becomes acidic it generates HCN gas.

  6. Yup. My engineering class at Virginia Tech started with 4,000 freshmen. Five years later, we graduated 1,400 engineers of all stripes. Freshman year losses were 50%, sophomore year losses were about 30%.

    I’m told that medical schools will accept someone with an undergraduate degree in engineering without question – they KNOW he can handle the load.

  7. My very first college level Computer Science class was taught by someone who’d spent over 20 years at IBM before he went into teaching as semi-retirement. This was when computers=big-money, so EVERYONE wanted to be a programmer. Started the semester with people sitting on the windowsills because there weren’t enough chairs. About half the people dropped the class, and two-thirds of those left got a C or lower, three A’s (I got one). Maybe a half-dozen people from that class actually graduated with a BS in Computer Science. We learned things we wouldn’t see again for two years. I learned skills in his class I STILL use 40 years later.

    Oh, he was accused of being sexist, because he insisted the women do the same quality of work as the men. Horrors (and I might note not a policy I’ve noticed much once I got into the corporate world).

    Mark D

  8. Most degrees at my uni needed 15 credits/semester, total 120 for a bachelor’s degree.
    A 3 credit course was 3 fifty minute lectures/week, a total of 15 hours in class/week.

    Engineering was 18 or 19 credits/semester, total 144 for a bachelor’s degree.
    A 3 credit engineering course was typically 3 lectures and 1 lab, 4 credits was 4 lectures and a 3 hour lab, and 5 credits was 5 lectures and a 4 hour lab.
    Surprise, surprise, those labs were all lectures.
    I averaged 29 hours/week in lectures, had heavy homework every night and all day Sunday. I was in the books while my business major buddies were down at the local beer hall many nights. My social life was pretty much only Saturdays – football, basketball or lacrosse game in the afternoon or evening, and a date Saturday night.

    We started with about 1,100-1,200 in freshman engineering, graduated about 300 in 1965.
    It’s piss me off funny – many of those engineering drop outs made the dean’s list in business. I remember during the one business class I took as an elective that the instructor spent three lectures trying to teach the concept of the slope of a curve relative to trends. I had that in high school.

    Professor Terentjev is dead right, and if the entitled snowflakes can’t take the truth of that, then they can’t take physical sciences either, because Mother Nature is an unforgiving bitch and Reality will kill you if you don’t get it right.
    Neither one does social promotions or affirmative action.

  9. I managed to combine a degree in physics with excessive drinking golf and partying. Maybe I’m just a fucking genius!

    The problem isn’t the boozing and the shagging, it’s the being a lefty twat.

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