Sunday, 31 January 2010

Biochemistry Busywork

Currently listening to: The Drugs Don't Work - The Verve

What's worse than having a sore throat and a headache?

Having a sore throat, a headache and a long, deeply boring and pointless coursework to complete.

If you're not in the mood to read one of my moans, this post isn't for you, but forgive me, why would this blog exist if it weren't to provide me with a place to moan and grumble?

Tuesday saw me sitting in the lab, as ever, frantically trying to complete the billions of assays, dilutions and general scut-work that are just a normal part of practicals in the biomedical sciences degree. The experiment was split into five parts, each more long winded and boring than the previous and to top it all off, it had zero relevance to anything we had done in class.

The focus of the practical was on thin layer chromatography, spectroscopic analysis and Lambert-Beer law, none of which we had ever studied before. I have scoured the lecture notes for the past three weeks as well as the ones for the rest of the term, we have not, and will not be taught any of this formally. So what does SBCS do? Why, they set us an enourmous write up on these very concepts!

I know that the point of university is to gain self reliance and not to be spoon fed, but surely the point of practicals ought to be reinforcing the concepts taught in lectures? In class we've covered blood biochemistry, buffer systems, digestion and protein structures and the practical is about, er, spectroscopic analysis, which we have never covered. The reason why this coursework is taking forever to complete (aside from my headache) is that none of it makes sense, because it's all new, and requires copious amounts of researching.

So not only does the practical need an insane amount of self teaching and research before you can attempt any of the answers, but it's also biblical in length, I kid you not, it's 14 pages long, and there's god knows how many graphs to include as well. It's due in on Tuesday. I've emailed the lecturer and I'm praying that he has a spare hour tomorrow so I can go and get some help with the calculations, which are really doing my head in.

After only four weeks, I've concluded that I really, really, really, hate this module. Not only are the classes a disaster, it's boring, long winded and ultimately pointless. Give me strength.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Coursework marks from last term

Some marks from last term's courseworks have finally been released...only took about six weeks...which means I can now figure out my average mark for the coursework component of the following modules:

Human Molecular Biology - average 70% - A
Techniques in Biomedical Sciences - average 65% - B

Pretty chuffed with that, now just the exams to go in May :D

Pharmacology coursework marks yet to arrive...I check my student control panel about a billion times a day (seriously), but they have yet to be uploaded...we handed the coursework in on December 7th 2009...they've had about seven weeks to mark it, all the while the SBCS website amusingly declares "marked coursework should be returned, via your Adviser, within four weeks". Yeah, right.

Bah, I'm called Grumpy Biomed for a reason, I'm well aware that the lecturer probably has a million things on his mind, but it won't stop my impatience!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Physiology Practical I

Currently listening to: Bicycle Song - Red Hot Chili Peppers

Last year physiology was one of my least favourite subjects, mainly cause it focused a lot on neuroscience, the brain, sleep, etc...all of which I despise. Coupled with my chronic procrastination habit, I didn't do that well in it. This year however is totally different. Biomedical Physiology II is only about the heart and lungs and as such the practicals are much more interesting. Last year we were fiddling about with bits of rat intestine, but today we actually got to do something halfway interesting with real people. It felt vaguely what I imagine med school to be like, putting science into practice, as it were.

The practical was all about circulation and blood pressure. So we started off by taking several pulses in different areas, the basic ones i.e. radial (wrist), brachial (upper arm), carotid (neck), but also other ones which I'd heard of, but never actually taken, e.g. popliteal (behind the knee, very hard to find) and the femoral pulse which can be palpated in the groin area. It was quite amusing to see a lab full of students with their hands down their trousers/skirts fumbling around, trying to feel for a pulse in their groins!

We also got to use a lot of cool equipment. Med students might look at me with pity as I describe a stethoscope as "cool equipment", but, well, I've never used one before, and it felt pretty damn good doing a practical that didn't revolve around microscopes or petri dishes. We also used sphygmomanometers to take blood pressure the old school way and pressure transducers. Finding the brachial pulse with a stethoscope is much harder than it looks!

It was a very good practical, probably because I found the theory behind it interesting. The write up is about the scientific concepts behind circulation, blood pressure, etc and probably won't be that fun, but I'll save it for the weekend, I guess my friends and I will muddle our ways through it, I think the explanations needed will be pretty straight-forward. I got in the sixties for all my physiology courseworks last year, this year I'm aiming for all seventies (i.e. firsts). If I should be so lucky?

Next practical is in two weeks, about ECGs, which sounds very good. If clinical medicine is anything like this, I can't wait!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Biochemistry Woes

Currently listening to: Common People - Pulp

I had always enjoyed biochemistry. Most people would look at me as if I was a nutter when I told them I enjoyed learning about proteins, carbohydrates, etc...I even liked learning about cellular respiration and photosynthesis, which most students detest. Indeed, I like Biochem so much that I got an A for it last year, something I am quite proud of.

However, first year is long gone and second year brings many new things with it, including an increase in mental torture and panic as exams draw ever closer. My woes surrounding my former favourite subject are getting me down...the Essential Biochemistry for Human Life module we're currently studying is HARD. And I mean that. I have no idea how I'm going to remember this much chemical theory in the run up to the exams whilst revising for seven other modules, and there's another problem...

So far we're meant to have covered buffer systems, blood biochemistry, digestion and the structure and function of haemoglobin and myoglobin. I say "meant to have covered" deliberately, as our lecturer is somewhat, um, behind in his classes. For example, last week we were meant to have finished both buffer systems and blood biochemistry, but actually we only finished the former in class. And this week we were meant to have finished digestion and haemoglobin structure, but in reality we only covered digestion.

I am not one to slag off my lecturers, I have the utmost respect (and frankly admiration) for anyone who can go as far as PhD level in a subject as complicated as biochem. However, it makes me feel rather uncomfortable and anxious that not only is this subject IMMENSELY difficult, but we're already behind in it!

Here's hoping that things will improve.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Second term of second year

Currently listening to: Bittersweet Symphony - The Verve

As I stumble through my second term of my second year of BSc Biomedical Sciences, I am visited by a strange thought. Well, two strange thoughts. Firstly, I have now passed the halfway point of my degree...from here my days at QMUL are firmly in the minority. Secondly that end of year exams look a lot closer from this side of Christmas.

I have just finished my first week back, and I have now experienced the following modules:


And as for my optional module, I picked Nutrition and Metabolism. The other choices were something about cells (which I loathe) and neurobiology (which I also loathe). I really hope nutrition will be alright.

Of this lot, the most fun so far has been Clinical Microbiology, though I don't particularly relish the fact that the classes are held in the Barbican at Bart's and the London's campus, as opposed to QMUL's Mile End campus which is literally on my doorstep. Having to wake up at 8AM then get crammed onto a packed Hammersmith and City line train isn't particularly fun.

Though even I know that deep down that's just an excuse, I'm not a wuss, I can wake up early if needs be. What really annoys me is the "so close yet so far" feeling I get when I set foot onto the Bart's and the London campus...the feeling that if I had just worked a bit harder in sixth form I might have been there as a medical student...not as a biomed who's bored numb and counting down the days till graduation.

I have felt like this very often in my degree...whether it's when I read the same textbooks that medical students do, or I have to use their library or their lecture theatres or whatever...it always comes back to me...so close, yet so far...but at the end of the day however much I may be similar to them, I'm a world apart. For now anyway.