How busy is Billy?

I don’t know if it’s by coincidence that several of my friends asked me in one way or another how my life has been since school started. (From one particularly stressed out friend:

how’s skool for u? if u’re gonna say something like oh it’s pretty slack, my easiest year ever, im gonna get a bit violent if i see u on campus. so u should prob make up some really intense story involving computer viruses that need pharmaceuticals or something like that..

Man, I can always count on her to come up with something clever.

I think this post had some hints to all the going-ons of my first two weeks of school, but that post took an exaggerated tone to convey my excitement for being back to school and switching into my favorite gear. So this post is to:

  1. Rectify the impression that I walk around school spotting attractive female students all day,
  2. Inform my friends and mom (being the only person in my family who reads this) exactly what things I’m doing, and
  3. Make my friends who whine about how busy they are appreciate that actually they have it okay.

To put you in perspective, let me first show you this little notebook I have.

As you can see, it’s tabbed. Each tab corresponds to an active project that I am working on. The tabs are: UBCRC, SCI Team, PAC, Plantometrics, CS211 TA, SDS: internet application, and Other projects.

Without this book, I will blow up. (Don’t get ideas now…)

Let’s talk about each tab in a bit more detail.

UBC Reality Club

I agreed to David that I would spend an average of 3 hours per week on RC, the Taiwanese cultural club, of which my long time buddy David is the current president. I think I am spending an average of 10 hours a week as its secretary. But we sort of mutated the typical role of “secretary” into something I think would be better called “executive team manager”.

What do I do?

I wrote a program that takes people’s timetables and compute meeting times and other scheduling tasks such as Club Days. Took me over 15 hours so far. I attend meetings and take minutes that I send out on the same night. I made a box that we will be using on Club Days for members to draw gifts and prizes. I keep track and book rooms for meetings and events. I enter all the info of registered members on the computer. I have to remember a ridiculously difficult line for the script on Icebreaker. I made 2 hours worth of balloon animals on Imagine Day. I went shopping for execs’ shirts.

Those are the trackable hours. Outside of this, I also pay attention to how execs are doing, provide individual feedback and encouragement, etc.

Especially dangerous is the nature of this club: everyone gets to be Really Close friends so socializing could easily amount to an impressive time commitment too.


Aw yes. Students helping students. A team of 17 students work in committees to put on academic or career related events for fellow students. This term I’m on the Get Learn’d Conference (GLC) and Get Into Research (GIR) committees, the first of which had been meeting since May. Since GLC has been going on for a long time, I have a more clearly defined role: organizing the lunch-hour coaching activities and contacting various campus leadership resources at UBC including Orientations, Wellness Center, International Peer Program, and the E Team.

Since more than half of the team are new members this year, I also feel I carry some responsibility as a role model, although I tend to project a fun-loving image to stir up the mood.

I am also looking to co-chair the Beyond the BSc event that will take place in term 2, which will be a huge commitment. At this event, non-traditional career paths for science graduates will be presented (non-traditional as outside of research, academica, and medicine). I also plan to join the Reading Week project committee that will collaborate with inner city schools in Vancouver to develope a 3-day learning exchange between UBC and elementary students.

I might also think about putting out the next issue of The Distillation out, which is a collection of creative writing pieces, poems, etc. of UBC science students to create a collage of what it’s like to be one of us. They printed 1,500 copies for the first issue, and they were all gone in a few days after Imagine (first day of school).

SCI Team is about 5-10 hour commitment per week, depending on whether we have an event this week or not. Tomorrow I’m heading out to help the Meet Your Profs night where first year students mingle informally with first year profs.

Peer Academic Coaching

Academic Coaching is something I’ve been involved with since 2nd year. Practicing active listening skills and helping students develop action plans that could help with their academic needs were very fulfilling experiences. This year I hope to be a more active coach and reach out to students who may need more attention. The internal functioning of the PAC team is also undergoing some changes such as departmentalization for higher efficiency and empowering the Coaches to take lead, which I’m quite excited about.


This is a paid part-time job I’ve been working on since Spring. A PhD student needs to find out exactly how fast each segment of a plant is growing at time of harvest, so he takes a series of digital photos of the plant for 2 hours before harvesting. He wishes to write a program that tracks this series of photos and calculate how fast each segment is expanding.

I learned enough MatLab to get me through running, editing, and enhancing the scripts that another PhD student (in Computer Science) wrote. The actual implementation of this project is much harder than it sounded, because of our limited experience with computer vision and AI…

This job is about 5hr/week.

Undergraduate TA

I TA’ed introductory Java (CPSC111) last summer, and this fall I came back to TA more advanced Java (CPSC211). So far no big problems. Attending labs and meetings, and later on marking assignments, exams, and probably sitting in at Learning Center for students to ask questions.

It’s 3hr/week now, will probably increase to 5hr/week closer to midterms and finals.

Student Directed Seminar

Oohhh this one is an interesting one. I talked and talked about SDS, and I’m still stuck on getting the course number. Comp Sci wouldn’t give me one because they only give one out every year, and they always give it to an algorithm seminar. Commerce wouldn’t give me one because they think it’s too similar to one of their courses. This project has taken me at least an accumulated 50 hours from brainstorming, writing and revising the proposal, locating faculty sponsors, and finally securing a course number.

I hope it goes through. I hope it will get unstuck soon…

Meanwhile, this is my current seminar description: internet-application-development

Other projects

Yes. I have a wildcat tab in my book with too many tabs already. Under this tab is another programming project: I wrote a Java program that translates some proteomics info from CSV to SQL, and return useful information to the user such as “the 3 heaviest proteins with this designation” or something. I’m not sure whether this is an one-time thing or it will develop into a longer project.

Is that it?

These are the projects that I have on my book right now.

Some other projects that hasn’t been included: CS Trimentoring and Science Resume Peers. But I will talk about them next time.

Beside all those, I also have 5.5 courses (the .5 comes from a 3-credit lab that spans both terms). Gladly these courses are much, much more manageable than my 3rd year, with merciless bombardment of biochem, physiology, and pharmacology.

I also write sporadically on this blog (this entry you’re reading took me 1.5 hours), do random drawing on random things, play bball whenever I find time, try to stay in touch with my other friends, the list goes on.

Also, living in the sky is itself a time consuming luxury. Imagine how much time I spent taking pictures!


9 thoughts on “How busy is Billy?

  1. wow! some of the stuff sounds pretty neat!(ok n it’s jam packed i’ll give u that)

    i cant blive u’re a TA! i remember first year..when i was SCARED to talk to TAs…


  2. Sen Lu4: Yeahhh… well, if you had me as your TA, maybe you would have such a completely different undergrad experience that would change the course of your life.

    不過今年真的突然有老了的感覺… 變成學校待畢老人, 變成SCI Team的”Returning member”, tri-mentoring 的資深志工…

    Kaman: Yeah… I have to miss longboat for RC this year. SCI Team was trying to form a team but everyone seemed too busy. I would have joined that team and risk skipping races, but yeah… 😦

  3. RC should be famous for workaholic =P hmm, feel much more balanced after reading your blog. lol, i still think i am busier but everything is relative laaaaa XD i wonder if david would give us a prize for being contributing our time to RC since we are already so busy. but hey, at least you should be glad that u are healthy and have the body to handle all those work load and stress..etc =(

  4. your life is PACKed dude!
    I am sure you are finding great balance (and having loads of fun!!) though =p
    Enjoy last year of undergrad~

  5. Gina: lol yeah… I am glad I’m healthy and not sick… it would suck soooo bad if I get a cold right now. (KNOCK ON WOOD)

    Eric: lol yeah it is… but i dunno if this will be my last year of undergrad. My original plan was to stay an extra year to finish my double major, but we’ll see.

  6. this is /insane/ O.O;
    hah, my current school life is nothing(!) compared to this.

    and wow, you’ve got pro time management skillz… were you always so efficient at managing your time? >.>

  7. Where are you going to school and what are you studying?

    lol no, but years of university has taught me lots 😉 Going to the study habits workshops help (albeit indirectly)

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