Saturday, February 13, 2016

How to Study Pathways (Biochem)

Back in my second or third year of college, I began to change my study habits. I knew something was wrong with the way I was studying because I kept thinking that I was fine for my midterm exams, but when test results came out, the grade proved otherwise.

I googled 'study methods medical student', and I came across what I would soon become familiar with as the best flashcard program I've ever used.

The heart of this program lies in the usage of the forgetting curve.

Anki program uses this very concept for forgetting curve in a flashcard program that is a great tool for all students. Considering that after 10 days, you would have a 60% chance of remembering a key concept or problem, Anki will show cards to you that you are weak in (higher chance of forgetting), and present them to you until you are very strong (memorized). This way, you are very efficient with your study time. You'll never have to worry if you actually remember a concept or not, Anki will know.

For studying pathways, I love to draw things out. With a variety of colors and certain figures, it'll help the brain visualize the pathway and have an easier task in recalling the information. Sometimes I'll have to draw it several times to remember it.

We'll take the following example from Wikipedia concerning glycogen metabolism, specifically synthesis and breakdown.


Glycogen synthesis is, unlike its breakdown, endergonic - it requires the input of energy. Energy for glycogen synthesis comes from uridine triphosphate (UTP), which reacts with glucose-1-phosphate, forming UDP-glucose, in a reaction catalysed by UTP—glucose-1-phosphate uridylyltransferase. Glycogen is synthesized from monomers of UDP-glucose initially by the protein glycogenin, which has two tyrosine anchors for the reducing end of glycogen, since glycogenin is a homodimer. After about eight glucose molecules have been added to a tyrosine residue, the enzyme glycogen synthase progressively lengthens the glycogen chain using UDP-glucose, adding α(1→4)-bonded glucose. The glycogen branching enzyme catalyzes the transfer of a terminal fragment of six or seven glucose residues from a nonreducing end to the C-6 hydroxyl group of a glucose residue deeper into the interior of the glycogen molecule. The branching enzyme can act upon only a branch having at least 11 residues, and the enzyme may transfer to the same glucose chain or adjacent glucose chains.

Main article: Glycogenolysis
Glycogen is cleaved from the nonreducing ends of the chain by the enzyme glycogen phosphorylase to produce monomers of glucose-1-phosphate:

Action of Glycogen Phosphorylase on Glycogen
In vivo, phosphorolysis proceeds in the direction of glycogen breakdown because the ratio of phosphate and glucose-1-phosphate is usually greater than 100.[12] Glucose-1-phosphate is then converted to glucose 6-phosphate (G6P) by phosphoglucomutase. A special debranching enzyme is needed to remove the α(1-6) branches in branched glycogen and reshape the chain into a linear polymer. The G6P monomers produced have three possible fates:

G6P can continue on the glycolysis pathway and be used as fuel.
G6P can enter the pentose phosphate pathway via the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase to produce NADPH and 5-carbon sugars.
In the liver and kidney, G6P can be dephosphorylated back to glucose by the enzyme glucose 6-phosphatase. This is the final step in the gluconeogenesis pathway.
Clinical relevance

Now, as you can see in my picture of my drawing in Notability (iPad app), I associated the previous information in a picture that would make sense to me. A key part of this study technique is that you must have different colors. Just by having different colors, it can boost your memory of the image so much more.

When combining both Anki and drawing, you'll be unstoppable!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Writing Your Personal Statement

Ahh...the personal statement, 4500 characters in which you have to demonstrate your passion for dentistry without even mentioning the word 'passion'. In my opinion, the personal statement is most under-rated part and the most important part of your application. Why do I say this? This is because the other 1000+ people that are applying to the same school as you all have similar DAT and GPA scores.

For reference this is what a group of 3000 people roughly looks like:

So this is where your personal statement comes in. This is where you bring your digital application to life, and bring a story to the admissions committee. You'll need to catch the reader's attention during the first sentence, keep their attention for the rest of the essay, and in the end, the reader should be able to say, "Hey, I really want to meet this person". That's the goal you should be aiming for when writing this essay. However, the most important thing is that this essay is written by you, with your own voice.

Now, I definitely never focused a lot of my attention in high school and college improving my writing skills, but like your English teachers have told you before, it's one of the most important skills you can have. You will always be writing, whether it is for personal statements, homework assignments, or publications, it's crucial to be able to express yourself through writing.

That being said, it took me several months to sculpt a personal statement that I was completely happy with and ready to submit. I had about 15 drafts and 2-3 serious makeovers. I had a select group of people that I asked to read over my personal statement. I asked a mentor at a dental school, a dental student, and dental student who is a literature major. I suggest not to ask too many people because that will lead to many different opinions and may sway the personal statement away from your own intended voice.

I bought several books teaching me how to write a perfect personal statement for dental school, but after writing several drafts it seemed as if I was forcing myself into a confined style of writing. In my last makeover of my personal statement, I was very happy with what I wrote and I knew it truly embodied why I want to pursue the profession of dentistry.

I've recently been reading a book called "Mastery", by Robert Greene, who is also the author of "48 Laws of Power". This book is meant to help individuals find their own vocation and ultimately truly master their passions, whatever that may be in life. While reading this book, it reminded me of how I developed my passion for dentistry over time and how it perfectly matched my interests. Through analyzing the masters of human life such as Darwin and Da Vinci, Robert Greene helps readers find their hidden potential and become masters themselves. Although I'm 63/442 pages through this book, I highly recommend this book to read prior to writing your personal statement. It will teach you to ask yourself if this is truly the profession you want in life and why. And by that, you will be able to write your personal statement with your own unique voice and emotion.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Decision Day

Two days ago on December 1st was one of the best days of my life. The night before, I was unable to sleep. I kept tossing and turning throughout the entire night, thinking about how I probably messed up in some interviews and if I said the wrong thing or not. However, I knew I was completely honest with all my answers and I gave it my all. 

Turns out, that all paid off, because I got accepted to 7 schools! At around 7am, I heard my roommate talking outside and when I came out he was tearing up about how he got into dental school. Through his expression I could feel the intensity of his emotions that summed up all the hard work that was done to achieve his dream.

A couple minutes later, I checked my AADSAS mobile portal and I see that 3 decisions have been made with the phrase 'Offer Made'. Jumping with excitement, I was struck by the reality that I am now officially entering the dental profession and will become a doctor. Throughout the day I got several other phone calls, all from my top choice dental schools. 

I remember only two or three years ago I doubted whether I could raise my GPA to be competitive enough for dental schools. After modifying my studying techniques, time management, and most importantly my mindset, I was successful in raising my GPA and having a strong upward trend all the way until graduation. When I faced a time that I doubted myself, I would open this youtube video to watch and push me forward. 

I have always wanted to give as much as I could to my Pre-Dental Society at UCSC to help those who were very passionate about dentistry and the community to get into dental school. I truly believe those who have a good heart and will not give up on their dream are those who always reach their goals. It is only when you give up that you have failed. Now that I've been accepted I hope to continue to give back to the club and help in any way I can.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Almost There

Decision Day is nearing

Today is Thanksgiving and it's exactly 5 days before dental schools are releasing their first round of acceptances, and I'm kind of nervous when I take the time to think about it. I felt like the schools liked me, but did I show enough interest to them that I wanted to attend their school? All these thoughts are racing through my head! I'm sure everyone has these thoughts as well that go through this process.

I have to get back to studying though. I have a exam on Monday so I really need to study hard for that. The grading system is pretty much up in the air, but like everything I do, I'll try my best! So instead of black friday shopping and spending more time with my family (on the east coast), I'm making flashcards on the benefits of graft vs. tumor effects in hematopoietic stem cell transplants.

Anways, I worked my hardest and tried my best, so that's what matters to me, I will update later on December 1st.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Letter of Recommendations

Letter of Recommendations

The biggest and most important tip I can give to you is to ask EARLY. I cannot emphasize this enough. Professors/dentists/letter writers are very busy people and you want the best letter of recommendation possible. The personal aspects of your application like your personal statement and letter of recommendation will bring your character out more than your GPA and DAT ever will. When admissions commitees look over thousands of applications with similar GPA and DAT, how will they choose which person to invite for an interview? From the life experience and character! These attributes can only be described from your personal statement and recommendations. Extracurricular activites in your application are there to back that up. Again, make sure you invest a lot of time creating a relationship with your professors. They have not only helped me succeed in my academics, but they are the reason why I loved my undergraduate education. 

My Experience

I took two classes with this professor and at the end of the class I asked him to write a letter for me and he was happy to help. I had a special circumstance in his class where I requested to work alone in a partner project, therby doubling my work-load. I had to present my research proposal on my own and had to write the 10-15 page research proposal on my own. It was a lot of work, but I was happy to be able to research what I was interested and I learned a lot about myself. When it came time for my presentation, I had several comments on things I should fix in the final project. Finally, when this project was completed the professor commended me on my ability to take criticism. We had a 30-minute meeting/interview about why I chose dentistry, and he completed my letter of recommendation a week before the opening of the AADSAS application. 

I love physics!! I enjoyed this class so much, and had a great time learning the material and going to office hours. I went to almost every office hour meeting and stayed longer when I could to talk to him. I was usually one of the first few people to get to class early so I would say hello and sit in front.  1 week before Spring final week, I asked to meet up in person and ask the same thing I ask every letter writer: "I have a huge favor to ask you. Would you be willing to write a strong letter of recommendation for me for dental school?". During that meeting we talked about his life and my aspirations for my Masters program and dental school. Looking back, many of these one-on-one meetings with my professors were quite similar to dental school interviews. 

Community Service
At the Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center I spent 2-3 months as a weekly volunteer barber. I had always wanted to make an impact on the homeless community because of my undergraduate experience. When I walked down Pacific Avenue for the first time, I saw several homeless individuals on every block and I gave them the cash I had. I knew this wasn't an everlasting impact and I sought other ways in which I could help. When I saw a New York barber that provided free haircuts to the homeless, I wanted to do the same thing for my community. I emailed some of the county officials and asked if it would be okay/legal (and if the businesses didn't mind) for me to cut hair on the sidewalk. I was forwarded to the Homeless Services Center and I began to cut hair for Project Homeless Connect and for the Homeless Services Community. A month before AADSAS opened, I asked the manager at the center to write a letter of recommendation for me. 

I can almost guarantee that a letter of recommendation from a dentist is required from every dental school in the U.S. Who knows the dental profession better than a dentist himself/herself? I grew up with my dentists and I began shadowing in the dental office 1-2 years before my application cycle. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

AADSAS Timeline

Dental School Application Timeline

June 2: Application Opens
June 2: Sent UCSC Transcripts (w/ transcript matching form)
June 3: Sent BCC Transcript (w/ transcript matching form faxed via
June 4: Drove to San Francisco to personally hand in transcript matching form
June 5: E-Submitted Application
June 8: AADSAS emailed me saying that my LOE writer name didn't match, fixed with a phone call
June 9: BCC and UCSC Transcripts received at AADSAS (6-7 days after sending)
June 12: CCSF transcript received (6 days after sending)
June 19: GPA verified (14 days after e-submitting)
June 25: AADSAS sent my application to all 23 schools, thus making my application in time for the first batch of applications

Friday, September 11, 2015

DAT Study Schedule

Hey guys, one of the most daunting processes of applying to dental school is taking the Dental Admissions Test, so during that time, I looked up many study schedules and 'breakdowns' on Student Doctor Network so that I could learn more about the study habits of the most successful DAT takers. 'Breakdowns' are posts on student doctor network that break down each section of the DAT and how they studied for each part. Considering that it is a 5-hour exam with a variety of different topics, it's important to know the best method that suits YOU.


First thing's first, my scores are not as high as many of the breakdowns here on SDN, but I would like to share my experience with all of the forum members here as you guys have done for me! I am very happy with my scores and I can't believe that I am done with my DAT!


Perceptual Ability: 23
Quantitative Reasoning: 20 
Reading Comprehension: 18 
Biology: 22 
General Chemistry: 21 
Organic Chemistry: 20 
Total Science: 21 
Academic Average: 20


6/16/14~9/15/14I started studying the week following the end of Spring quarter. I started out following dentalWorks study schedule, and followed it very strictly for a week. After that week, I realized that when I read the KBB and Cliffs fast for the first time, and second time take notes, it was the same to me as if I just took notes on the first time. It took up a lot of my time and I didn't benefit as much as I felt like I should, so I immediately stopped doing the schedule's method of reading twice. I read once and took notes instead. Whenever a topic was extremely new and I didn't understand, I would watch a YouTube video. I'm a very visual learner and when I watch videos I can remember material a lot better. Special shoutout to Khanacademy, Craig Savage, and Bozeman Science. After I finished watching Chad's videos and doing quizzes according to dentalWorks' schedule, I started doing DAT Destroyer. DAT Destroyer was overkill (but in a good way). I then started to do DAT Destroyer, which took me around 2 weeks, because I did it at different pace than the schedule. I believe that the most important part of studying is recognizing your own needs and not to always follow the schedule letter by letter. The second time I went through DAT Destroyer, it only took me a week. During this second round of DAT Destroyer, I followed Ahri's schedule more. This is also when I started to do Bootcamp. As the test got closer, I took the 2007 exam, and then the 2009 3 days before. As my studying started getting closer to exam date, at times I felt three months felt too long to be studying for it. But then, I take more time in studying, and the initial preparatory period was beneficial to my biology, organic chem, and chemistry review.


Chad's Videos: GOOOLDEN. The way he teaches is very very close to how the DAT is supposed be like. In his videos, when a topic starts to become complicated, he reassures us that it is too complicated and will be out of scope for the DAT, and he is right. Chad is very good in explaining both GC and OC in a way that a huge majority of pre-health students can understand, even if they're super smart. Chad helps you remember topics easier, and helps you do it even faster.
KBB 8th Edition: I stopped using it several weeks into studying. Kaplan was way too simple and did not provide enough information. However, Kaplan covers fetal circulatory system and the auditory anatomy, which is done pretty well. It is more simplistic though, only two were used pages for these subjects.
Cliffnotes 3rd Edition: I first bought the 4th Edition, and realized a few weeks into reading that the 3rd edition is the correct one to buy. Cliffnotes 4th Edition is missing much of the plants chapter, and completely misses the biological diversity portion, which is constantly tested portion on the DAT. Cliffnotes was very detailed but not TOO detailed that it gives you excess information that you don't need on the DAT.
Barron's AP Biology 3rd Edition: For visual learners, this book is a very good addition to your studies. The way this book is set up, the topics are covered on a more easily understandable scale than Cliffnotes. Cliffnotes is essential in understanding the ENTIRE topic.
Orgoman DAT Destroyer 2014: ESSENTIAL. If there is one book you must buy and nothing else, it has to be this one. I take that back. At least DAT Destroyer AND Cliff's. When I first started doing DAT Destroyer, i got 50-60% right. These problems were very different than I have seen before and I had trouble figuring out where to start, especially on the Chemistry section, which is my weakest science subject. GC is a lot easier on the DAT. The OC section of the DAT Destroyer was very helpful and almost parallels what is on the DAT. All in all, DAT Destroyer helps you focus on where you keep slowing down, and where you keep getting topics wrong. But remember, it's the most important thing (stressed by many of the members on SDN), that when you get something wrong, you must look at your notes, look at youtube videos, and try to solve it without looking at the solutions. When the exam date got closer, I took out a new notebook and re-did the problems that I constantly kept getting wrong.
Orgoman MATH Destroyer 2014: The bank of questions in this book are very similar to what you will see on the actual exam. MATH Destroyer helped teach me how to do the very hard application questions (which are not too bad, but when under pressure, everything seems extremely hard).
DAT Bootcamp: I love this product, and I love the personal touch Ari gives to each and every one of his students. I don't even want to say customers, because I don't feel like that. I felt like Ari cares a lot about pre-dental students, and he wants us to succeed. Besides the customer service, I can say that DAT Bootcamp helped me achieve my score the most out of all the DAT prep materials I bought.
Feralis Notes: This is a very comprehensive resource of all the biology that is possibly tested on the DAT. The way i used this was printing out all the notes on paper, then putting them in a binder, with ruled paper in between each Feralis' notes page. I took notes on the topics that I believed were to be the highest yield and also the topics which were hardest to me.
Crack the DAT PAT: Many people on SDN say that it's easier than Bootcamp and they are right. It's easier than Bootcamp, and it is close to the difficulty you will see on the actual test. It is expensive though, but what you are paying for is the ability to use it any time you want and keep it forever. I think this can be helpful when you want to dip your feet in the waters of PAT.


BIO: Random as always. You must be comfortable with all of Feralis. Make sure you know the topics that are tested the most: genetics, hardy Weinberg,
GC: I started freaking out when my time hit the 40 min left mark, and I was only halfway through GC. This was when I started to feel that I had to use the restroom, and it kept bugging me that for a second I thought I was gonna fail. It was really important for me to not think like that though. Your mind is very powerful, and what you think you can or cannot do, is truth. So you have to make sure your mind speaks the truth of you being able to do well.
OC: It was easy, so I don't know where I went wrong. I might have second guessed myself or over-thought some problems. OC is the usual stuff you see in DAT Destroyer and Bootcamp. Again Bootcamp is the closest to this.
PAT: Keyholes: a lot easier than I expected, so it's easier than Bootcamp, and closest to CDP
TFE: very weird-looking shapes that I've never seen before, however, Bootcamp prepares you for the times when you get hard questions. TFE was initially the PAT portion where I spent the most time on, but it became the easiest for me after doing CDP and Bootcamp. After practicing with CDP and Bootcamp, I would start to only get 1 question wrong.
Angle Ranking: THE MAKE-OR-BREAK score. This is the hardest and most time-consuming part of the PAT. I learned over my practice tests that when I finished DAT with time to spare, this was my first section to come 'fix'. I would do ALL the angles again, and I would end up changing 4 or 5 questions. This would always increase my score. Also, learn all the methods possible for angle ranking. This was very important to me because when I couldn't figure out which angle was smaller/bigger, if I viewed it a different way (using a different technique) I would see it right away. remember when you first start to do these problems, you HAVE to go to the answers first, this helps eliminate choices the fastest, but on every practice exam and for the DAT, I would be able to order them without using the answer choices for one or two problems. And for the example of the method, I always started out with the 'tetherball' technique that Datrav27 mentioned, and that helped me increase my angle scores from 50% to 80%+. If that didn't work, I would try rapid-eye technique, and if that didn't work, I would use the laptop techniqe.
Hole Punching: you should not let yourself get under 100% for this. This section should be your fastest, as it helps you catch up after the angle ranking section. Hole punching was around Bootcamp's level of difficulty.
Cube Counting: Normal cubes you would see in CDP and Bootcamp. Remember to guide your mouse cursor so you don't lose track of the cubes. This section should also be your 100% section, don't let silly mistakes ruin your score here. This is the second section I double check, but I double check not by doing it again, by rather looking for the cubes individually.
Pattern Folding: Easier than BOTH CDP and Bootcamp. There were very clear answers on the DAT where I could easily pick one right away, because the others were so wrong.
RC: My lowest score, and also the score that brought down my AA. I'm happy that I didn't get lower than an 18 on it. I got 2 hard passages and medium passage, a setup very similar to Bootcamp. Bootcamp's RC section is very close to how the real DAT is, but my RC section always varied on Bootcamp, 19 being the lowest and 25 being the highest. They can ask you about anything. I used a combination of Kaplan's Road Mapping method, and a SDN user's advice of only reading 2-3 paragraphs at a time, then looking at a question. This was the best approach for me because I would remember more information this way. I used search and destroy on my last passage, a method that I did not use a lot because I didn't need it for the practice tests. However, there were a lot of questions where I had to know much of the background of the passage, so I ended up speed reading it anyways. The search and destroy definitely helped me on 3-4 questions though.
QR: The QR section is very similar to MATH Destroyer, but I would also say it's more on par with the QR section of the DAT Destroyer as a whole. MATH destroyer's different tests don't represent a QR section because there may be more difficult questions on each MATH Destroyer test. MATH destroyer's problems, however DO represent the question bank. The QR section is most close to the difficulty I saw on the 2009 exam, where there are a few application questions and a lot of simple calculations.

  • Oh my god, don't drink 3 cups of water like I did. I never had to use the restroom this much since I watched Dark Knight Rises in theaters. I ate a Costco muffin that morning, and I did my best to use the restroom.
  • Do your problems in WAVES. Probably the best advice I can give in scoring higher. All questions are weighted equally, so do what you can first, then go back and fix your problems.
  • Do breathing exercises before your test
  • Use the restroom as many times as you can before your test
  • Eat enough in the morning so you don't get hungry during Reading and QR.
  • Utilize your 15 minute break! I didn't use all of my time, I used up 10 minutes, but its safer for you to be back in your seat because it can take a while for the test center to sign you back in.
  • Go to your test center a week before your test. I was going to also do my 2007 and 2009 exams there, but I don't think you can do that. I had a telephone seating area outside where I could possibly do the exams, but there was construction so I didn't practice there.
  • Watch motivational videos. Surround yourself with people who support you and bring you up. This is a test of mental and physical fitness so you have be emotionally stable. It will be nerveracking when you sit in your seat, so don't click start until you are ready, and when you do, go at it with all your might and you'll do great.
  • The testing center gives a very sharp pen that is used on the laminated papers. I was worried that the pens would be too thick but my suspicions were cleared and I practiced with my Lamy Safari and graph paper.
  • During the tutorial I was not allowed to prepare formulas or create graphs for hole punching. What I did was when I finished checking my Science portion, I quickly a few lines to make a 4x4 square (by that I mean, not wasting time making each individual 1x1 box). Because it's on graph paper this is easy to do, and only took me 10 seconds.
  • Make to-do lists for your studies so you get them done. Think quality and NOT quantity. You will waste time if you try to do too much in a day


 None really, I tried my hardest and that is all that matters to me. I went out of that test knowing that my summer was well spent and the work I put in was of my own mind and body.