I was going over some thermodynamics the other day, and it hit me that this was just the sort of thing I always tried to avoid when I was actually taking chemistry courses in college and grad school. And here I was, looking it up voluntarily and even reading it with some pleasure. A couple of professors of mine would have been rather pleasantly surprised at the sight, though, since physical chemistry (especially) tended to exacerbate my often lazy approach to my course work.
When I look back on it, it's a very good thing that my graduate school curriculum only featured classes during the first year. Because I was trying to get away with more and more by doing less and less, and those two trend lines were heading toward an intersection. (Another example of that from my grad-school past can be found here). In the end, the chrome-plated jaws of destiny did not quite snap shut on my academic career, but it was a near thing. I can well recall being assigned problem sets in a course during my first year of grad school, with a strong probability of having to be called up to the board to work out a random one from the list in front of the professor and the class, and just not getting around to doing them.
So more than once, I'd be called upon to present a problem I hadn't actually bothered to look at. A classmate of mine, Bill, had a similar approach to his work, and he and I would sometimes end up side by side at the board, quietly saying things to each other like "You do any of these?" "Nope, me neither. This one look like the Eyring equation to you?" At the same time, I was ceasing to take notes in the class, finding that (for whatever reason) I wasn't getting much out of the lectures, and seemed to be doing OK by reading the material.
The professor involved noticed me sitting there without a notebook day after day, and called me in for a chat. "You seem to have ceased bringing any sort of writing implement to my lectures", he said. "I presume that there's some reason for that?" I stammered out some line about how I found that I was able to concentrate more on the material when I wasn't having to worry about getting it down on paper, and I could tell that he didn't buy that one for a minute. "I see. . ." he said slowly, and let me go. The next lecture (and you knew this sentence would start out that way), he was up at the board talking about More O'Ferrall plots or something of the sort, and in the middle of explaining one said ". . .then when you move into this quadrant the transition state is affected like so and does that look OK to you, Derek?"
Zzzzzip! Some home-security monitor circuit in my brain tripped, and I returned to reality with the unpleasant sensation of having been dropped into my seat from a helicopter. "Umm. . .no mistakes that I can see", I said, which was certainly true, and the professor gave me a narrow-eyed look. "Yes. . .no doubt".
So no, this couldn't have gone on in that style for too much longer, and it was with relief that I moved on to full-time lab work. But I still have little patience for lectures I find uninteresting. I'm just glad that no one's passing out exams afterwards. . .