Sunday, 21 November 2010

Getting on

Currently listening to: There She Goes - The La's

Hmm, haven't updated in a while, but that's cause not much is really going on. Reading week came and went...all courseworks were completed, handed in and classes have resumed. One thing I've noticed is how quickly time's passing, the ninth week (of twelve) is about to start, it feels like it ought to only be the fourth week though. And of course, it's only the middle of November and someone on the Tube was listening to "Santa Clause is Coming to Town" which made me cringe a bit...(sorry, had to slip in a grumble).

The first few coursework marks have also started trickling in:

Human Genetics exam 1 - A
Human Genetics coursework 1 - B
PBL exam 1 - F

There was a time that I would have descended into a depression spiral about that last result, though maybe I've mellowed with age, maybe I'm becoming a better adjusted person, or maybe I'm just turning totally indifferent but for whatever reason I'm not in a mood about it. Reason for that dismal result? Lack of revision due to lots of work due in the same week, and exam nerves. Not a particularly inspiring excuse, I know. However, there are six PBL exams during the year, the top five of which count towards the final mark. So without wanting to sound complacent, I'm willing to write this one off, and learn from the experience...a test run as it were.

What's coming up? Well I have an essay, another piece of coursework and PBL exam 2, all to be done by the end of week's going to be a busy week, but I think it should be manageable. And this time I will revise solidly for the second PBL exam.

Gosh, this post sounds really quite un-grumpy...even sensible and emotional tantrums at all...what is wrong with me?

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Reading week

The Grumpy Biomed has reached the halfway point of Semester A and is feeling rather more hopeful. On the outset I ought to be terrified since there's more coursework to complete than you can shake a stick at, including what looks like a pretty nasty endocrinology assignment but on the other hand there aren't 9 AM starts, boring lectures or workshops to contend with. Always look on the bright side and all that...

All in all I've behaved myself so far. That's not saying much seeing as it's only been one day but I didn't wake up with a hangover today, instead I managed to start and finish one of my coursework assignments with minimal procrastination leading to a vague (and unfamiliar) feeling of productivity. Yay for productivity. Yay, yay, yay. On the whole I'm in a pretty good mood, and certainly in a better one than my last post (though given my bipolar disposition, it's bound to change soon).

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Bored senseless

Currently listening to: Sunday Morning Call - Oasis

Apologies in advance for the grumbling...

Regular readers of this blog (i.e. all three of you) will smirk as they recall that three months ago I wrote that "I know in about two months time I'll be cursing my life and course". Well lo and behold, it came to pass, except it took three months instead of two, so much so that I think it would be more accurate to rename this blog The Bored, Demotivated, Thoroughly Grumpy Biomed. But that's a bit too long, isn't it?

I thought that third year is when all the interesting stuff would finally be covered. In actual fact, after nearly five weeks of classes I've realised I really dislike my modules. Genetics is so-so (the references don't always match up to the lectures which makes reading up on it a pain), endocrinology is okay and molecular microbiology is desperately dull. Some of you may feel that I'm just "acting out" and throwing a tantrum, but the fact of the matter is that I truly feel all the interesting aspects of the biomedical sciences degree have been covered. Whilst I've never been fanatical about any part of my degree, there are definitely more interesting aspects to it...cardiac physiology, nutrition & metabolism, pharmacology, immunology, anatomy, etc. Which are all sadly in the past.

I suppose acting like a petulant child and bitching about my degree isn't a particularly good advertisment for the university, so let me just clarify right now that my issue isn't with QMUL. I love it here, the staff are approachable and definitely know their stuff. My problem is the same problem that I've had for over two years now, that I'm doing a degree I have no interest in. And that's totally my own fault.

What happens when you continually subject yourself to something you're not interested in? Well, to put it simply, you become BORED. And I don't mean bored the same way some people get bored on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I mean truly and utterly bored in a way that waking up in the morning and turning up to lectures becomes a chore. Where you can't bear to look at your textbooks. Where you feel immensely envious of anyone who's actually doing something they enjoy in life, and then you remember it was totally your choice, and you could have been that person. And in my case where I realise that it's all been totally pointless, since after two years, I still can't apply for medicine.

So here's some free advice for any of you would-be biomed students. If you've failed to get into medical school, do NOT start a biomedical sciences degree. Take a gap year, get more work experience, do resits, write a better personal statement, and re-apply. Because a biomedical sciences degree is not a medical degree. You will never meet any patients, witness surgery or practice suturing. All those cool things which attracted you to medicine? Yeah, 99% of them won't be covered in a biomed degree. Biomedical sciences is a theoretical science degree with medical aspects, but also a lot of non-medical content which can be unbearably boring, especially when your heart's not in it. It is also a huge waste of time and money if you don't enjoy what you're learning. Life is seriously too short: go and do something you actually enjoy.

Perhaps I've just hit a low point, but I'm finding it pretty hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm feeling totally bored and demotivated, and this is not the right time to feel that. It's final year, I should be completely focused, but right now all I'm feeling is an immense amount of resentment towards all the work I have yet to do. I'd honestly rather watch paint dry.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Spending cuts

Currently listening to: (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay - Otis Redding

The Grumpy Biomed doesn't really enjoy politics, and is quite suspicious of most politicians. It may be a cliché but I really do believe that you can tell a politician is lying when his/her lips are moving. So in a break from the traditional subjects covered by this blog (coursework, my bad exam results and hangovers), I'd like to give my opinion on the government's proposed assault on students, academics and universities.

The recently released Browne Report urges the government to totally free market-ise higher education in England and lumber the common student with unlimited tuition fees. In addition to this, the government plans to cut £4.2 billion, yes, that's billion with a b, from the budget of English universities. That includes a £1 billion cut in research.

What does this mean? Well, some may argue that lifting the cap on tuition fees allows the market to "take its course", increases efficiency and allows the forces of supply/demand to set prices rather than an arbitrary government diktat. That's all very well in theory and there's no denying that in certain areas, competition does work (e.g. supermarkets). But as Tony Blair himself admitted about US universities (which is where this report will take us) "Those who paid top dollar got the best."

How sad that in this day and age, only the rich will be able to access the best higher education. As the article I have linked says: "The result [in the US] is that the gap between the richer and the poorer universities has widened and low-income students have been increasingly clustered around the cheaper universities." Is this really desirable in our so called "Big Society"? Shouldn't everyone have an equal footing and gain a place based on merit rather than the contents of their wallet?

Lord Browne, Tony Blair and David Cameron all went to university back in the days when it was free and furthermore generous grants were available. Tony Blair, having had his Oxford education compliments of the state, then came to power and charged students £1000 a year to go to university. He then lied through his teeth in the 2001 Labour manifesto, promising not to institute top up fees, but pretty soon New Labour forgot the very students that helped re-elect them, and brought in fees of £3000~ per annum in 2004.

Fast forward six years and David Cameron and Nick Clegg plan to slash the university's budget by 79% and then lumber students fresh out of secondary school with tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt. Forget paying off your mortgage, the Grumpy Biomed's children will probably be paying off their tuition fees well into their 60s!

Do I believe education should be free as a matter of principle? Of course I do, Scotland do it just fine. Do I believe the government has foisted extraordinary costs on the common man/woman so as to keep the richest sectors of society rich? You bet.

The Grumpy Biomed is not under any delusions. I know at best I am a fairly average student, trying to make my way through my BSc. I know I won't ever conduct any groundbreaking research. But I look at my incredibly intelligent lecturers and see that they do. Is cutting their funding the right thing to do? Should my fellow students be penalised £100,000 simply for wanting to study medicine? (A very real possibility under this report).

Every day, academics all around the country, whether in the science sector or not, are putting Britain at the forefront of research and academic advacement. I think that cutting this immense amount of money from teaching will blight the training of the academics of tomorrow. Our universities will be segregated, diminished and worse off due to this report and this of course, will impact wider society in the worst possible way.

Message to Nick Clegg: We haven't forgotten and nor will we forgive:

Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox now. I didn't mean to come across as moany, but it's a very real and important issue and I felt like discussing something other than how badly I do at exams or whatever.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Things that don't help when you have a hangover

Currently listening to: Hey Julie - Fountains of Wayne

Four hours of sleep
Waking up at 7 AM
8AM badminton matches
9AM genetics lectures
Three further hours of lectures

List in progress...all suggestions welcome...

EDIT: Two hour workshop cancelled. Maybe there is a benevolent god out there?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

First lecture

Currently listening to: Have You Seen Her Face - The Byrds

There's a first time for everything...including a first time for actually turning up to a 9 AM lecture. Not the nicest way to be eased into final year, but those carefree days of midday starts seem to be a thing of the past. All things considered I really didn't have an excuse for not turning up this morning, so grumpily I hauled myself in, picked my usual seat three quarters of the way up in the lecture theatre (far back enough to look uninvolved, but not too close to the noisy tools who sit on the last row), and tried my best not to fall asleep.

I was pleasantly surprised though since the lecturer has improved a lot since last year, such that I was actually very interested in what he had to say. The lecture was about flavin containing monooxygenase deficiencies, focusing on Fish Odour Syndrome (oh alright, scientific name: trimethylaminuria) which is caused by defects in an enzyme called FM03. FM03 normally breaks down a compound called trimethylamine which is found in choline rich foods by N-Oxygenating it. In FOS patients however, the enzyme is defective so TMA isn't metabolised, and is released in that unfortunate person's sweat, breath and urine...basically giving off some pretty unpleasant fishy BO.

Anyway, my lecturer was in the research team that discovered the mutation that causes FOS, indeed part of our reading for the lecture is the journal article he co-authored in Nature detailing the research (for the uninitiated, in the science world getting published in Nature is a very big deal, so I was suitably impressed). I suppose this was really the first time I realised (as naive as it sounds) that my lecturers and all this stuff we study actually does have a real life application, and a pretty important one at that.

Anyway, the main difference this year seems to be the lack of textbooks. Apparently setting us journal articles to read instead of textbooks is par for the course and is just part of life in third year. The only problem is that scientific journals are not very friendly. They're usually written as blocks of texts with no paragraphs, in small print, and to top it all off they're written by seasoned scientists for seasoned scientists, not lowly undergrads. In short, it's a learning curve I'm going to have to surmount. But all in all it was a good first day, let's hope Thursday's Endocrine Physiology lecture is just as interesting.

It's good to be back.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Quote for third year

Currently listening to: Stronger - Kanye West

" A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at."

- Bruce Lee

Even though things didn't turn out as expected last year, it's time to leave that behind. This is a new year, a new chance and since third year is worth 60% of the entire degree, there's still everything to play for. With that in mind, I'm going to concentrate on the future and do my best to get that 2:1.

First lecture: Human Genetics & year starts in 12 hours.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Back in E1

Currently listening to: She's a Lady - Pulp

I can't describe how awesome it is to be living in London again. After three months of being on holiday, I was bored stiff, so I was really happy when I finally moved back to London yesterday. So happy that I chose to go out in the evening rather than buy groceries, hence why I have nothing in my fridge!

Anyway, this post is just to let you know that normal service (i.e. lots of moaning and grumbling) will shortly be resumed. Classes begin at the end of the month, and the timetable has already been released...this semester I will be taking Human Genetics, Endocrine Physiology and Molecular Clinical Microbiology, in addition to my Project Skills coursework module. Two 9 AM starts which is a bit annoying, but oh well, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, eh?

I'll be striving for the all important 2:1, and as my adviser keeps telling me, she knows plenty of students with far worse grades than mine who managed to get a 2:1 or even a 1st just because of the fact that 3rd year is worth 60% of the entire degree, hence there's still everything to play for. I am looking forward to the challenge. Amongst other things, Imperial College do an awesome MSc in Immunology, and I fit the entry requirements perfectly (2:2 or above). The plan is to finish my degree with a 2:1, then spend next year studying a masters course whilst applying for medicine. This is by far the most interesting masters course I've found so far, at a great university and with decent entry requirements.

Monday, 26 July 2010

That weird feeling when you miss uni

Currently listening to: Above You, Below Me - Badly Drawn Boy

My mother says I'm a person who always wants what they can't have. Usually I get annoyed when people attempt amateur psychoanalysis on me, but I think there's an element of truth behind that evaluation. Two months since finishing my exams, I've realised that I am going mad with boredom. I spent all year moaning about how I hate my course and now I've realised all I really want to do is move back to London, go back to the Library and go through it all over again.

Not that I expect next year to be much fun, the advice from the third years I know (well ex-third years, I'm the third year now) is that modules like Endocrine Physiology and Cancer Biology are hell on earth. But on the other hand, my adviser tells me that a lot of people she knows who got mediocre grades in first and second year rallied and did very well in third year, indeed enough to give them a 2:1/1st overall. It's this element of challenge that appeals to me, so much so that in my boredom I started lazily flicking through some of next year's lecture slides.

I no longer dare to dream of getting a 1st or anything like that, but I do definitely miss my uni friends, QMUL's campus, my flat in London and all that. I even miss the dubious chicken and chips you can get on Mile End Road and the sound of ambulance sirens wailing in the distance. It all seems so bittersweet now I think of it, especially coupled with the fact that when I do go back in September it will be my final year...

The thing with people who want what they can't have is that when they finally get the thing they covet, it's no longer appealing. So I know in about two months time I'll be cursing my life and course, but right now I really would give anything to be back at uni, with a challenge and purpose in mind...something to aim for.

I'm going to France next week though, so that should break up the monotony a bit. Anyway, this post was a bit of a ramble, and definitely not science related, but I needed to get it off my chest.

Hope you're all having a great Summer.

P.S: Ignore the weird anime slide show in the's the song which I like, not the cartoons!

Thursday, 17 June 2010


Knowledge can be a horrible thing. In primary school they told us that Adam and Eve were the first to realise this (had they actually existed that is), and like so many others I too have realised that knowledge is a lot harder to swallow than the ignorant bliss in which I have existed for the past three weeks, completely unaware of what my results would be.

I got a 2:2. Again. Same as first year. For the life of me I am confused as to how this could happen given that, without wanting to brag, my coursework marks this year have been very good. I can hand on heart say that I worked hard this year and did not doss around. This leads me to logically conclude that my problem is not aptitude (i.e. I am not too stupid for this course) but rather that I have a problem with exam technique. Which used to definitely be an issue during A levels but I thought I'd left that behind when I came to university. Apparently not. Whatever the reason I need to figure how to improve my exam technique.

In terms of medicine, I have taken the decision not to apply for 2011 entry. My adviser has refused to predict me a 2:1 so therefore making an application will only lead to unneeded stress and false hope. Third year is worth 60% of the entire BSc, so should I pull myself up to a 2:1, I would consider applying for medicine then. Though I will be honest with you, after today's results I do not feel like studying medicine will be an achievable goal, not now anyway.

For 2011 entry I shall be applying for the MSc in Allergy at Southampton and the course organiser has confirmed they would take me with a 2:2. And I really did enjoy studying allergy and hypersensitivity this year.

In terms of this blog, I am not sure of its future. I briefly considered dropping out of the course altogether, though I have invested too much time (and money) in this course to just drop it, especially when I'm quite close to graduating. I'd rather graduate with a 2:2 than nothing. Most likely it will be back in September filled with moans and groans about life as a biomed, though if anyone is expecting details of experiences with medical school interviews or whatever, don't hold your breath, it's not happening.

I do hope one day to become a medical student, though for the time being that wish has taken a back seat. And for the first time in years I feel of the stress and uncertainty...the feeling of "Will I make it?! Won't I make it?!"...I now know that there is no chance of me gaining a place in 2011 so I feel I can finally concentrate on my degree without being continually worried about my chances of getting a medical offer. It's not that I'm happy about not applying for medicine...but it is a weight off my mind.

I would however like to say a big thank you to everyone who's read and commented since the beginning of the year when the blog was founded, you've all been really supportive and the advice and help given has really been great. Cheers :)

My best wishes and kindest thoughts to you all

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Final thoughts

This time tomorrow I'll know. My adviser is available from 12-2 for people in our tutor group to drop in and collect their results. In addition to this, tomorrow morning there will be a meeting about applying to Barts and the London for medicine...

"There will be a meeting on Thursday 17th June at 10.30-11 am in Francis Bancroft 2.40 lecture theatre to brief you on the new procedures for applying to Barts Medical School for 2011 entry. I have asked for a member of the Barts admissions team to be in attendance to give the talk and answer questions.

It will be in your interest to attend this meeting.

Kelvin Smith"

Which should be interesting. Back in the day they told us that there were 30 places available at Barts and the London for QMUL Biomedical Science graduates, though recently SBCS has been ominously quiet about this which leads me to think that the "new procedures" probably mean that it will be tougher to get in and that QMUL biomeds shouldn't expect any special treatment.

As for final thoughts on results, I don't have enough bravado to predict my grades, but I will say that next year not only should I work harder, but also more efficiently. The endless coursework assignments tend to get in the way of maintaining a decent set of notes for each module, but it's really, really important that next year I manage to get this balance right. In short, I think my target of getting eight Bs or above will not be met tomorrow. Other than that I only pray that I managed to salvage a 2:1 average.

À demain...

Friday, 11 June 2010

Less than a week to go

Currently listening to: Moonlight Sonata - Beethoven

Words cannot describe how lovely life is without exams. Being able to sleep for more than five hours a night, being able to read things other than textbooks, being able to sleep in your own bed (rather than on a library chair), being able to go out, come back and wake up whenever you please. Though apparently my body's got used to the late nights, hence why I'm still up at stupid o'clock!

And getting drunk too. Back in first year, getting drunk was a weekly ritual and I would be drinking myself senseless every Friday night without fail. If I ever woke up without a hangover on a Saturday I'd actually be disappointed.

Second year has been a sober experience in all senses of the word. With the endless coursework, revision and general scutwork, I perhaps only got drunk a few times all year. Since exams finished however I've been able to go out and enjoy life as a sociable student in London, rather than just a drone who pulls 18 hour shifts in the library.

Though the frequency of drinking has lessened in recent days mainly because people are slowly moving back to their hometowns. That means that I am now mostly sober (and un-hungover), and thoughts of results day have brought me back down to earth with an unpleasant bump...such as the fact that this time next week I'll know. The prospect is quite scary...they say that ignorance is bliss, and I'm inclined to agree!

Rather like a condemned man writing his will, I've also seriously begun researching alternatives to medicine in the likely event that I don't get in. There's billions of Masters degrees out there, but since I loathe 99% of my course it's been hell trying to find a decent one. That said yesterday I did stumble across something that really caught my eye, a MSc in Allergy available at Imperial College or Southampton. I have no idea how I'd pay for such a course, especially at Imperial where the cost of living in the surrounding area will be pretty hefty, but I really did enjoy studying allergy and hypersensitivity this year, and completed my immunology coursework on the hygeine hypothesis. It's definitely something I'd be interested in, and maybe I could apply for medicine after that?

It might sound silly to write myself off before even applying for medicine, though the rumour is that this year only six 3rd year biomeds got a medical offer...those are pretty scary odds so therefore I'm not feeling very confident. Anyway, I think things will be a lot clearer after next week, one way or another.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Eight Labours of the Grumpy Biomed: Biochemistry

Currently listening to: Yesterday - The Beatles

It's over. Finally. After 9 months of intense studying, sleepless nights and days, anxiety, anger and nervousness, second year is officially finished.

Today's biochemistry exam was a decidedly average affair, the MCQs were good, the SAQs alright and the essay was okay but nothing special. The SAQs were about glycolysis and gluconeogenesis and I definitely messed up some of the pathway inhibitors though I think I got the metabolites and enzymes correct. The essay was about carbon dioxide transport in the blood. I wrote as much as I could with all the details I could remember and got to three pages, I hope that's enough.

I then went home and slept like a log for four hours. Having spent the past four weeks literally living in Mile End library and having slept there last night it felt nice to be back in my room for more than 20 minutes. After my nap I also felt less loathsome about everyone and the end of the day if you only sleep for an average of 3 hours a night for several weeks, eventually you begin feeling and looking like an extra from Dawn of the Dead. I am therefore very glad to say goodbye to the sleepless nights, endless energy drinks and the tedious revision that has come to sum up my life.

Anyway, results are out on the 17th, I'll update then to let you know how it goes. Depending on that I'll also be doing my UKCAT at some point as well as getting the med application together. In terms of results, if I've got a first then it's definitely proof that there's a God out there who has a soft spot for me. If I get a 2:1 then I really should thank my lucky stars. If I get a 2:2 I won't be surprised.

I can only hope that my efforts have paid off.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Who said biochemistry revision can't be fun?

11 hours to go.

Feeling: Panicked.

In: Damage control mode.

Still to do: Pyramdines and purines.

Still to do: Pathway memorisation.

Pulling: An all-nighter

Sleep: What's that?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Eight Labours of the Grumpy Biomed: Microbiology

Currently listening to: Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry

Today is probably the tiredest I've been over the whole exam period...three hours sleep last night...the effects of the past 3 weeks are starting to build up. Thank Christ there's only one more exam left.

Today's exam was Clinical Microbiology...well not much to say really, it was like nearly all my other exams...good MCQs, a great essay and terrible short answer questions in Section B...I'd completely forgotten the details about Hepatitis B and hepatocellular carcinoma. The essay was about discussing various bacterial, viral and parasitic gastrointestinal infections and the role of the microbiology lab in their diagnosis, I think that went well, having spoken to my friend afterwards we seemed to have covered the same points which gives me a bit more confidence. Plus I got 72% (A) for the coursework component...I'm praying that this is enough to make up for the poor SAQ performance.

I should really revise tonight, but I really need to sleep first, I must have dozed off at least three or four times in the exam itself, only for two or three minutes, but still...Tonight will definitely be an early night as I know that tomorrow night will be a repeat of last night, i.e. lots of cramming and staying up. I'll be glad when this is all over and I can start going to bed like a normal human being...before the sun rises.

Next exam: Essential Biochemistry

Saturday, 22 May 2010

The Eight Labours of the Grumpy Biomed: Physiology

Currently listening to: Help - The Beatles

I'm feeling a bit confused and bewildered right now...possibly because of the fact that I've only been kept concious over this past week by pretty lethal amounts of Red Bull, tea, coffee and pretty much any stimulant except amphetamine. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that in the past five days, I've had about 20 hours of sleep in total...I bring whole new meanings to the term "cramming"...

The confusion and bewilderment also has a lot to do with today's exam, Biomedical Physiology II: Cardicac and Respiratory....the exam went surprisingly well. Yes, shocking! Anyone who's read any of the my previous exam reports will see that nearly all of my exams have had an area which I think will let me down, often the short answer questions in Section B. Whilst I wouldn't describe today's exam as perfect, I'd definitely describe it as challenging yet manageable, intense yet short an all round decent paper.

The MCQs went well, the SAQs were about capillary structure and function and the lymphatic system, I think I managed to get most of the points down. I think I got most of the points about the capillaries though I might have missed out some of the finer details of oedema. The essay was about the physiological response to haemhorrage, and I think I managed to get down most of the key points and the details.

Now, either I've actually done terribly and I'm in total denial, or I finally had an exam that went well! I'm thinking it's the latter however, and having done a pretty thorough exam post mortem with friends, we seemed to have all got the same points down, so hopefully I'm on the right track for a good grade.

Physiology coursework is an average of 72% (A) so that should be a great help to push me into the all important 2:1 bracket.

Anyway, it's stupid o' clock and I'm close to collapsing from exhaustion, so goodnight to you all!

Next exam: Clinical Microbiology

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Eight Labours of the Grumpy Biomed: Techniques

Having had about 9 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours I'm pretty tired and hacked off today, all for an exam that was about as nice as being shot in the heart. The MCQs were pretty so-so, I had to leave a few out because I really hadn't revised the physicsy stuff like MRI/NMR that well, but I think I did well on ELISA and antibody techniques. For once Section B's short answer questions went very well, they were about electrophoresis and PCR, which were topics I'd revised well. I think I managed to do well on that. Sounds okay so far doesn't it? Wrong, the essay ruined everything.

The title of the essay was to describe real time PCR and contrast it with traditional PCR, giving examples of where the former would be used. Whilst I'd revised traditional PCR a lot and started off the essay with an excellent, almost textbook recital of the damned thing, I knew virtually nothing about real time PCR (much less its applications). I tried my best to blag it but I don't think I'll get away with it, I really know nothing about real time PCR. So that's it, I answered the question incompletely which probably means I'll get less than half marks for that section.

I got 65% (a B) for the coursework component of this module, but I don't think even that will be enough to make up for the poor essay performance and pretty average MCQ answers. I had really hoped that I'd finish this year with eight good grades (i.e. only As and Bs) but I really don't think that's likely anymore.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Practical uses of centrifugation?

Currently listening to: Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol

Let's keep today's post simple, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's how I'm feeling about Techniques cramming revision:

As for practical uses of centrifugation (one of the objectives on the syllabus I'm working through), here are my thoughts:

  1. Used to bore students senseless
  2. Used to drive students to the brink of suicide
  3. Used to drive students to the brink of commiting murder against professors and all academics
  4. Used to remind students that they ought to have studied harder during A levels so they could be at med school and not faffing about with this crap.
  5. Occasionally used to separate biomedical particles according to their density

An answer worthy of a first? What do you think?

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The Eight Labours of the Grumpy Biomed: Nutrition & Metabolism

Another cold. Yes. Another one...two in a month?! I'm seriously beginning to suspect that I might have some sort of immune problem....then again it could just be all the stress I've been under lately...

All through school and my first year of university I maybe only had one cold a second year of university however I think I've had about six or seven colds, and here's the latest one which helpfully also comes at the same time as the hay fever season kicks in...double whammy.

So that's how I woke up on the day of my nutrition and metabolism exam...sore throat, headache, runny nose, general malaise and pissed off-ness. I hastily took a few paracetamols and continued cramming feverishly (literally). The exam itself was okay, the multiple choice questions were alright, didn't know much about peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha, so I had to skip that question. Section B's short answer questions weren't very short at all, in fact they were mini-essays, and yet again this section was got through simply by winging it and hoping that the examiner won't punish me too harshly for writing absolute rubbish. The Section C essay went quite well, it was about maintenance of blood glucose concentrations, and I think I managed to write a decent answer.

The worst part wasn't the exam itself, but doing it with a sore throat and felt like my throat was on fire, but I'd forgotten to bring a drink with me so I started coughing really loudly which earned me a few glares off some of the other students. The blocked nose and temperature also made it difficult to breathe and generally made me feel stupid and lethargic. The exam really could have gone either least I have an A- in the coursework.

Still, at least now I'm at the half way point, four down, four to go.

Next exam: Techniques in Biomedical Sciences.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Eight Labours of the Grumpy Biomed: Pharmacology

Currently listening to: California Sun - The Ramones

Whilst the rest of the country went through a general election, resignations, various political back-stabbings, the Lib Dems prostituting themselves to the Conservatives and the commencement of the reign of the Dear Leader of Big Society David Cameron, I carried right on with pharmacology cramming revision, staying up till the early hours memorising tonnes of drug names and structures which all culminated in today's exam.

On the whole today's exam experience was much like all of the other ones...the MCQs were good, the essay was reasonably okay (about drugs affecting acetylcholine) and Section B was an absolute disaster involving lots of frantic scribbling, haphazard guessing, bullshitting and the actual making up of scientific "facts" (I'm not joking). In fact I'm too scared to even perform my usual after exam post-mortem lest I realise just how much rubbish I wrote for that section.

In short it could have gone better...I'm not expecting any firsts, still five more to go eh?

Next exam: Nutrition & Metabolism

Monday, 10 May 2010

Coursework roundup

The last few marks from Semester B's courseworks have been uploaded...I did quite well and I need to gloat :)

Clinical Microbiology (they gave the combined mark of the poster, practicals and spot test) : 72% - A
Essential Biochemistry Practical 3: 74% - A
Essential Biochemistry Practical 4: 69% - B

I never thought I would get As or Bs for the biochemistry courseworks as I still have no idea what they were on about, though luckily practicals don't come up in the end of year exams. I guess all those hours making countless graphs and tables in the library paid off!

So coursework averages for each module in second year are as follows:

Biomedical physiology II - 72% - A
Clinical microbiology - 72% - A
Human molecular biology - 70% - A
Nutrition and whole body metabolism - No mark given - A-
Basic immunology - 68% - B
Essential biochemistry for human life - 67% - B
Techniques in biomedical sciences - 65% - B
Biomedical pharmacology - 61% - B

Four As and four Bs! Much better than last year...lets hope the end of year exams follow a similar pattern!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

The Eight Labours of the Grumpy Biomed: Immunology

Hey all, sorry for the late update. I had my second end of year exam on Thursday, that being Immunology, speaking of which they finally released the coursework results, I got 68% (a B)...which is something to be very thankful about since a third of the year were done for plagiarism, so as it happened I had one of the top results, in fact I don't know anyone who got above 75%...much bitterness and anger from many Immunology students...

The exam went okay, the multiple choice section was alright, if a bit rushed, Section B was awful, I can't see myself getting more then half marks for it, if I'm very very lucky and Section C, the essay, was about the immune response to skin infections which I think went very well.

The trouble is that all three sections are worth roughly the same (i.e. 34%, 33%, 33%) which is unfortunate seeing as Section B was only one short answer question but Section C which I think I did quite well on was an essay requiring lots of detail, planning and content, though worth exactly the same as the other sections. So sadly doing well in the essay section won't necessarily make up for a bad Section B performance. I don't know, my main worry is doing well in the coursework, then letting myself down badly in the exam and getting a mediocre grade overall, i.e. a C, which would be really disappointing.

Next exam: Pharmacology

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Eight Labours of the Grumpy Biomed: Molecular Biology

Currently listening to: Jerk It Out - Caesars

The rather pretentious title aside (I like Greek mythology, what can I say?) today was the first end of year exam, Human Molecular Biology. I think the exam went alright but I'm not cocky enough to describe it as "easy" and I'm definitely not brave enough to guess what I got. The multiple choice section was probably the toughest as it required thorough knowledge of all aspects of the course, which is quite hard to manage when you have seven other subjects to revise. The short answer questions were a mixed bag...the first question went well, I think I got most of the points about DNA denaturation and reannealing...the second question on the various parts of the nucleosome went less well, to be honest I did attempt to blag a lot of it...luckily this was worth 13 marks and question 1 was worth 20...

The essay was the final question and bizzarely this was the one I think went best, it was about describing post-transcriptional modification, I managed to get down all the necessary points about capping, polyadenylation and splicing, I just hope I went into enough detail!

At the end of the day it's all over now I guess, I should really start preparing for immunology which is on Thursday. Also luckily I have an average of 70% for the molecular biology coursework element which is worth 25% of the whole module meaning I already have 17.5% of the module under my belt...that should be a help on the way to the all important 2:1...

Monday, 19 April 2010

Day 10

Currently listening to: Glass of Water - Coldplay

In case you've been wondering, the reason for the long gap between the entries of Days 9 and 10 on my revision journal are down to laziness and limited internet access. I most definitely haven't taken 4 days off however!

In that time I've continued to plugging away at Human Molecular Biology, such that now I'm almost completely up to date with all of its notes and paperwork. I had been dreading it, since it was a semester A module (translation: I haven't looked at anything to do with it since December), but actually it's not that bad, it's quite interesting and straightforward if you can remember which transcription factors do what!

Good news for today was getting 79% (A) in my final physiology coursework from week 10, a result I'm very pleased with, as that means my physiology coursework marks are now 75, 62 and an average of 72% (an A) for the coursework component which is worth 25% of the entire module! Very good news, especially since I think last year's physiology coursework average was in the 60s...shows there's been some definite improvement!

Small whinge: I have to get up tomorrow and trek all the way to West Smithfield library since neither Whitechapel nor Mile End libraries have Strachan's Human Molecular Genetics. Better get to sleep then.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Day 9

Completely up to date with clinical microbiology! Took forever, I don't know how I'm going to cram all of these different bacteria into my head before the exam...still that's a month and a half away, not time to worry yet. Starting Human Molecular Biology tomorrow, I fell behind with the last few weeks worth of notes on that...

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Day 8

Today: I am completely up to date with Immunology! Yes! Now for that joyous occassion in 23 days time when I do the exam and I never have to care about NK cells, antibodies or the damned complement cascade ever again! Woohoo!

Tomorrow: Finishing off the remnants of clinical microbiology which I had to abandon on Friday...should take two days tops.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Day 7

Currently listening to: Lust For Life - Iggy Pop

Marks news: 62% for the third Physiology write up, don't ask me why she's marked them out of order, I still don't have the marks' for the second...still, 75 and 62 so far, let's hope that the final one is within the 60/70 range.

In terms of revision, I'm now up to date with:

Cancer immunology
Mucosal immunology
Crohn's disease

Just monoclonal antibodies to do tomorrow then I'm completely up to date with immunology, I would do it right now but I'm just too sleepy...zzzzzzzz.....

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Day 6

Currently listening to: Be Yourself - Audioslave

I'm back in uni this weekend, till Tuesday and a reader requested I do a bit more grumbling...I suppose I have been a bit chirpy lately, though that's not really my fault since term's ended so I no longer have the oppurtunity to moan about my lecturer's incompetence or my own abysmal lab skills or whatever. But give me enough time and I could moan about anything, so here you go. This comic basically sums up my work ethic since I started university:

I hate my messed up working pattern at university, why do I always spend the day doing sod all except for sleeping and watching TV? Started work at 8PM till 11PM, then took a break and did some more from 2AM-3AM. Topsy turvy or what? It's not that I don't do the work, as you can see I did quite a respectable number of hours, but I wish I could just get up at 9AM like normal people, work till dinner time like normal people, then have the night to myself like normal people, instead of sitting in the library in the middle of the night with fellow procrastinators/insomniacs/zombies. Any tips on how to achieve a more normal routine?

The funny thing is I actually have a pretty decent studying pattern when I'm studying in my parent's house, maybe cause they make sure I get up and go to bed on time!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Day 5

Currently listening to: 42 - Coldplay

Due to reasons I can't be arsed to explain as they're very longwinded I'm taking a break from clinical microbiology and catching up with immunology this weekend. The good news is that I am up to date with nearly all my immunology lecture notes, but the coursework which was due on March 16th got in the way which meant I fell behind in the last few weeks. I should be completely up to date by Monday evening. The exams on May 6th. Clinical microbiology is very easy for me, but I really don't like immunology, which probably explains why this feels like such a chore.

Today I covered:

Immunological memory
Hepatitis B

Sadly no new marks or whatever to update on. I get that a revision diary isn't that interesting, but believe me, the pressure of not updating this thing and having you all think I'm a slacker actually makes me work pretty hard!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Day 4

Currently listening to: Bonkers - Dizzee Rascal & Armand Van Helden

News: Got an A- for my Nutrition and Metabolism coursework essay, worth 20% of the module!

The general headachey and tired feeling I had on Tuesday developed into a full blown cold on Wednesday and Thursday, meaning I was out of action both those days, lying in bed with a hot drink listening to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on CD, cause I was that bored. I was meant to have been done with Clinical Microbiology today, but obviously now I'm two days behind. Bummer. Still, two days isn't much in the grand scheme of things, especially if I work doubly hard from now on...or at least that's what I'm telling myself to keep away any feelings of panic and fatalism! What an unfortunate time to fall ill, still better now than the night before the exam.

Managed to do some work today, but with the remnants of the cold hanging over me I didn't feel up to much.

Up to date on:

Viral infections in the immunocompromised host
Mycobacterial infections

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Day 3

Currently listening to: The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine- Simon & Garfunkel

Good news: I got Project Skills for next year! I had been really worried about that, as SBCS had said it was a pretty competitive module with limited places, and I have only an above average mark for first year. Thank you to whoever gave me the benefit of the doubt, I promise I won't disappoint next year! Also, cheers to Joey and everyone else for their advice, it was a great help!

In terms of studying today I felt a bit headachey and generally one point I put my pen down and decided to call it a day, but my conscience eventually got to me. Imagine screwing up the exam because of something as trivial as a headache! All in all I managed to get through four lectures today, though they were pretty large ones with lots of content. I'm glad I persevered :P

Up to date on:

Hepatitis B and C
Lower and upper respiratory tract infections
Urinary tract infections
Sexually transmitted infections
Bacterial meningitis

Monday, 5 April 2010

Day 2

Currently listening to: Rapper's Delight - The Sugarhill Gang

Getting up to date with microbiology notes in preparation for revision continued today. After a rather late start, I finally stopped messing about on Facebook and various medical admissions forums at about 3PM and managed to go through 5 lectures (compared to yesterday's 3). So now I'm up to date on:

Viruses and cancer
Anti-virals and vaccines
Skin and soft tissue infections

A piece of good news: Finally the marks for the first physiology practical write up (from week 2, in mid January!) have been released. I got 75% aka an A! Very pleased with that, last year I didn't get any As for my physiology courseworks, let's hope this trend continues!


Sunday, 4 April 2010

Day 1

Exactly a month to go before the first exams, and I got down to some proper studying today. Before I could start properly revising I had to make sure my notes were in order and up to date - I'd fallen behind quite a bit with note taking in the final weeks of term due to all the courseworks and end of term assessments which began to take precedence. Today I went through three clinical microbiology lectures though, since it was the first day I suppose I was a bit slower to start than usual. I think by tomorrow I can push it up to six lectures if need be, so I can be completely up to date with all microbiology notes by Wednesday (the exam's on 25th May), which would leave me a month and a half to properly revise it.

Today I did:

Viral Pathogenesis
Viral Zoonosis
Bacteraemia and Endocarditis

A good first day's work I think, but definitely not time to rest on my laurels. Bring on tomorrow!

Friday, 2 April 2010


Currently listening to: Razzmatazz - Pulp

Yesterday was the final day of Semester B, and as always SBCS kept our noses to the grindstone right up until the last minute. I had to hand in my poster for Clinical Microbiology (on superbugs) and then sit the end of course assessment for clinical microbiology (worth 12.5% of the module). For the uninitiated, when I say "poster" I don't mean a felt-tip job a la primary school, it was 1000 words long and needed a lot of research and preparation. In short it was quite an important day. For the test, I had to revise everything we'd covered in the five microbiology practicals. This required me to do my first ever "all nighter"...I'd stayed up late studying before of course, but I'd never spent the entire night in the library only to leave for the start of the test.

People usually advise students to avoid all-nighters as that much study coupled with lack of sleep can backfire. Luckily in my case it was well worth it, if I hadn't have done it I wouldn't have been able to answer half the questions. As it was the test went very well, though for some reason the lecture theatre was located in the basement of the Royal London Hospital. Weird. On this occassion pulling an all-nighter paid off but it's not a technique I'd like to use very often, and certainly not before the actual end of year exams which start in a month and two days (not that I'm counting).

Having done the test I then rushed off to my final Nutrition and Metabolism lecture which was nice and laidback. Perhaps too laid back, because out of sheer exhaustion I passed out and slept fitfully for two hours. I then went back home, slept some more, showered and went to Drapers (our SU) for the end of term party which resulted in a lot of money being spent on shots and not much else really. Having stumbled back home at about 3 AM I woke up today at 2PM, got out of bed in the same shakey way that Bambi took his first few steps then dragged myself to the computer where I've been since. The hangover has by and large gone away, though I still feel a bit woozy so I think it would be a little over-optimistic to expect to do any revision today. I'll start tomorrow. Well if you can't get drunk at the end of your second year, when can you?

I also have a plan, I don't know whether I'll keep it up or if it will work, but I'm planning to start a revision journal of sorts on here, if for nothing else so I can track my progress and remain motivated. I'll update once a day starting tomorrow with what topics I've covered and how far I've got, and if my ego could be suitably massaged by you wonderful readers, I would be very very grateful.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Burst Water Main

Time for a proper grumble I think:

I woke up this morning, and turned on my tap. The water trickled out and eventually sputtered to a halt. Having washed my face with about a teaspoon's worth of water, I bemusedly walked to Whitechapel Library to do my Clinical Microbiology coursework, only to realise it was shut due to a "burst water main in the local area". My class was due to start at 2PM so I thought, what the hell, I'll just go to the Garrod Building a few minutes early, and try and use the IT room there. It was not to be, the entire building was evacuated, and a sign proclaimed that all classes were cancelled due to said burst water main. Still very bemused at having trekked down to Whitechapel for nothing I walked back to Mile End, and decided to see if the Library there was available for use. This was folly on my part, as the entire campus had been shut down. Seriously, people were being shepherded out of all the buildings, the main doors of the Queen's Building were locked and so on.

For many third year students this would have been their last day of lectures ever. For me it was meant to be my last Nutrition and Metabolism class. What a way for the module to end! All of this explains why I am now writing to you from Senate House Library in Bloomsbury. It was either that or going to West Smithfield Library in Charterhouse Square which closes at 8PM, a bit early for my liking. Once Senate House closes at 6:30PM I think I'll have to relocate to nearby Birkbeck College Library. Thank Christ for the University of London's Library Service! Anyway, back to that microbiology...

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Exam timetables

Currently listening to: Don't Stop Me Now - Queen

Well it finally happened: exam timetables, i.e. the last of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, were released on Friday. Here's how mine reads:

4th May - Human Molecular Biology
6th May - Basic Immunology
11th May - Biomedical Pharmacology
14th May - Nutrition & Metabolism
18th May - Techniques in Biomedical Sciences
21st May - Biomedical Physiology II
25th May - Clinical Microbiology
27th May - Essential Biochemistry

My first thought upon reading it was immediately "thank god", since the subject from hell, aka Essential Biochemistry is scheduled for last. Most of the exams also start at 14:30, which is good since I'm not really a morning person. In short, I'm very pleased with this timetable. Human Molecular Biology isn't exactly my favourite module to revise for, but on the other hand it's quite straightforward and it would be nice to get it out of the way early. There's at least two days gap between each exam, and in some cases four or five, which will mean I can revise at a more laid-back pace. Last year exams started in April and we had the first three one after the other on 27/28/29, which was a terrifying rollercoaster of an ordeal. Hopefully this time around I can avoid such intense experiences.

The Easter holidays begin on 1st April, which means I have a month and a bit to do some proper hardcore revision. Until then I have one final biochem lab/write up and a microbiology poster to produce (1000-1500 words). I would have prefered to start revising now, or even several weeks ago, but the trouble with all these courseworks which they load on you during the term is that they make revision possible only during the holidays, which of course makes an anxious fellow like me even more anxious than usual!

Monday, 15 March 2010

You know exams are around the corner when...

...the library opens 24/7. Yep, that joyous time of year has rolled round once more, here I am sat in the QMUL Mile End branch Library, and if I wanted to I could carry on sitting here from now until the 4th of June. It's the College's gentle way of reminding us that it's time to stop screwing around, and start doing some work. I know that in about roughly six weeks time, I can walk into the library at any time of day or night and see people on their sixth can of Red Bull, feverishly revising. I've been there too; last year, staying up all night to revise for my Cell Biology exam. It was...not a fun experience, and definitely not a recommended route to passing an exam. This year, I've been more serious about my work, so fingers crossed, such drastic measures won't be necessary!

The only other (more obvious) sign of the looming end of year exams is when they start handing out the exam timetables, which should be any day now. That's when it starts feeling real.

In other news, QMUL Libraries have a blog, here. Who knew? Maybe if I add them to my blog list and comment sycophantically on all their posts they'll overlook that £9 fine currently hanging over my account? Whoops...

Friday, 12 March 2010

Bye Bye Project Selection Form

Currently listening to: See Emily Play - Pink Floyd

Back story: Here

March 12th: Time to chart the course of my third year and hand in my project selection form. Here's how I saw it:

Project Skills pros

  • No labs!!!!
  • Shorter dissertation - 4000 words
  • Sounds generally quite straightforward and easy
  • I'm quite good at writing articles, especially when it involves "de-complicating" things, I've written quite a bit for the university newspaper, etc
  • Cameras!

Project Skills cons

  • Will probably be quite tedious, I hate scientific journals
  • Won't look impressive on the CV
  • No bonus points when it comes to the Foundation School application, should I ever drag my sorry arse through medical school.

Research Project pros

  • Could be interesting
  • Would look damned good on the CV
  • I'm good at public speaking so the seminar would go well
  • Remote chance I could get published

Research Project cons

  • Very strong possibility that I will mess it up...practicals are not my forte
  • Lots of lab work required, either during the summer or third year
  • Will take many months to complete
  • 10,000 word dissertation
  • All the third years I know are dying under the stress of it
  • Could end up with a rubbish project and a rubbish supervisor

In the end I went with Project Skills. Am I a wuss? Perhaps, though I am a wuss who wants to stay on the safe side. Since this module is worth 30 credits, i.e. a quarter of third year, i.e. 15% of my entire degree, I'd rather stick to something I'm less likely to screw up. Signing up for an intense lab-based project given my track record with practicals is really tempting fate.

I think I made my mind up last week when I spoke to Dr P (who taught us Techniques in Biomedical Sciences last semester)...he was very nice about it all, and even mentioned that he had got the feeling that I didn't really enjoy labs. I told him that this was true. He advised me to look more closely at Project Skills, and said that it had been specifically designed with people like me in mind. So I did, and the more I look at it, the more suited to me it seems. It's not as presitigious as the Research Project, though I'd rather have a non-prestigious 2:1 than a prestigious 2:2!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

In The Dark

Currently listening to: Number 1 -Tinchy Stryder ft. N-Dubz

In case you're wondering why I haven't updated this blog recently with marks, updates on my progress and so on, that's cause I have none, I am totally in the dark about how I'm doing in Semester B.

As week 9 draws to an end, I have completed six pieces of coursework....but had only one mark back, that being a rather dismal 54% in the first Essential Biochemistry coursework (aka the biggest disaster ever), frankly I'm quite lucky to have got a C for it given that I still have no idea what the Beer-Lambert law is on about.

Anyway, the final year project selection form is due in tomorrow. Having spoken to an assortment of friends, parents, siblings and even lecturers, the general consensus has been "you hate practicals, you would be miserable if you did an entire six week project in the lab, do project skills". Which is true I guess, deep down I know they're right, and having spoken to all the project supervisors I had an interest in, none of their projects seem that riveting. I guess I will go for Project Skills in the end, though there's still this little doubt in the back of my mind, maybe if I tried really hard I could make the research project work...but would it be worth all the extra stress?

Will update tomorrow to let you know my final decision :)

Monday, 1 March 2010

Final Year Project Preparation

Currently listening to: Mile End - Pulp

One of the things playing heavily on my mind at the moment, and removing all daydreams of medical school is the third year project, what every SBCS student must complete in their final year. This can take three forms:

A research project (worth 30 credits, i.e. two modules)
Project Skills in the life sciences (worth 30 credits, i.e. two modules)
An investigative project (worth 15 credits, i.e. one module)

To be eligible for the first two, you must have an average first year mark of above 55% (which thankfully I have). I'm definitely not doing the "investigative project", because it's worth only one module and I'd like as few exams as possible. I'm pretty good at coursework, not so good with exams.

So that leaves the "research project" or the "project skills"...which is really Sophie's Choice...the research project will require copious amounts of hands-on lab work, followed by a 10,000 word dissertation and presentation to a lecture theatre full of SBCS academics and students. Fun fun. On the other hand the "project skills" will involve less lab work and only a 4000 word dissertation, but instead has such riveting tasks as "learn[ing] about how science papers are published. You will referee a real (but anonymous) paper submitted to a journal"...the type of thing that I grumpily refer to as "scientific busywork" and which I hoped to god I'd never have to do. What a choice, eh?

The form is due in on the 12th and so far I'm leaning heavily towards the research project. I might despise lab work, but if the alternative is spending weeks reading and critiquing scientific papers (aka the dullest things ever written), the lab sounds positively fun.

Now the tricky part, which research project would I be interested in? Given that I have no great love for my degree, I'm very picky about what aspects I'd enjoy. I generally find I only do well in things I'm interested in, so it's important that I get do something I like. There are about 80 possible projects to choose from, however, I hate anything to do with cell biology, molecular biology, genetics, bioinformatics or immunology, so that's quite a lot of possible projects out of the way.

My first choice would have been something to do with pharmacology, though SBCS helpfully don't offer that. There is a tiny chance I might be able to do it at another university (UCL, please?), but that is a very remote possibility, so lets look at the more realistic alternatives:

Dr Holness: Insulin resistance
Dr Le Comber: Human skeletal morphology and disease
Professor Bignell: Food microbiology.
Dr R Cutler: Infectious Disease and Pathology
Dr Puddefoot: Novel mechanisms of action of antioestrogens

Even within these "realistic alternatives", I know the only ones I'm going to be properly interested in are Dr Holness' or Dr Le Comber's. Le Comber's one looks especially interesting, the description states "One or more projects may be available in collaboration with the Museum of London, looking at the pathology of different archaeological specimens", which would actually be quite good...London is filled with old burial sites, there's no doubt that many of the skeletons dug up will have evidence of ancient diseases, e.g. the plague, smallpox, cool would that be?

Dr Holness' project also looks good, I sent off my CV for it weeks ago. He's based in Whitechapel at Barts and the London SMD and he's a really good lecturer. His course (Nutrition and Metabolism) is quite intense and heavy going at times with all the biochemical theory, but all in all very interesting. I could see myself enjoying that as well. Diabetes might not be my favourite disease, but it sure beats peering down a microscope and fiddling with bacteria for eight weeks.

Sadly I know that "interesting" stuff tends to be very oversubscribed. I'm not a mega swot and my first year marks are "above average" at best, but certainly nothing outstanding, which makes me feel a bit fatalistic and overwhelmed when this type of thing comes up, (i.e. competition with several hundred other students). So fingers crossed that everyone else suddenly develops a fetish for cell biology and bioinformatics, leaving the interesting projects for me!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Reading Week

Currently listening to: Suicide is Painless - Manic Street Preachers

Update: Physiology write up - completed
Update: Immunology notes - completed
Update: Nutrition and Metabolism essay - completed

In between the horror that is a full twelve week semester at QMUL, there is an oasis, a brief respite, a cool moment of calm, a demilitarised zone between the two half terms, a break from the on-going battle to juggle coursework, attend classes, make notes and so on...

I am of course referring to Reading Week, which is what every QMUL student looks forward to and which occurs at Week 7 of each semester. Having been to my Nutrition and Metabolism class this afternoon, I am officially done with this half term, so bring on Reading Week.

The traditional way to spend Reading Week (at least in first year) was to get drunk a lot, sleep till 1PM every day and generally while away the hours until suddenly Sunday night is upon you and you realise that Week 8 will start tomorrow and you've done absoultely sod all during Reading Week except strawpedo WkD and watch a million episodes of Scrubs back to back.

This Reading Week will be different however. I think if I write down on this blog everything I want to get done, then I might actually do it. Imagine if this time in a week I came on here with my tail between my legs and admitted I'd done sod all after promising to do lots of work? The humiliation! My pride could not take such a hit!

So here I make a solemn pledge that I, Grumpy Biomed, will complete the following tasks by next Monday (1st March):

1) Finish the write up for Physiology Practical III
2) Complete Nutrition and Metabolism coursework essay
3) Get completely up to date with Immunology notes
4) Get completely up to date with Physiology II notes

You might wonder why I am studying five modules yet am only going to catch up with two? The fact of the matter is that I know I won't be able to catch up with all five modules during one week. In the past I've often made grand plans which were simply too much, which failed, and I then felt horribly guilty. So I'm going to set myself a manageable task this time and hope that everything succeeds!

Anyway, back to that Physiology write up...

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Pharmacology Mark

Currently listening to - April Come She Will - Simon & Garfunkel

Nearly 9 weeks on from when I handed it in, I finally get the mark for my second piece of pharmacology coursework...81%, a strong A!

However, I am somewhat disappointed. Not with the above mark, of course that's fantastic, but because of my average...

1st Coursework = 72% - A
2nd Coursework = 81% - A
1st Assessment = 64% - B
2nd Assessment = 26% - F

I had a serious case of exam nerves in the second assessment, I kid you not, my mind went completely blank. Combined with sleep deprivation because of my nervousness, I right royally screwed it up. So whilst my other three marks are all excellent, that one assessment drags my average down to 61%...still a B/2:1, but it could have been so much more...still, the end of year exam is the main part, I'll make sure to revise well for it. Let that be a lesson to me to never let nerves get the better of me!

In other news, I did my fourth PBL exam went surprisingly well! Fingers crossed for a good mark.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Physiology Practical II

Currently listening to: Do You Remember The First Time? - Pulp

First post of February, and it's not a grumble!

Following on from the fun experience I had during Practical I of my physiology module, I woke up today feeling rather excited and hopeful, though still somewhat ill and needing copious amounts of cough sweets to get by. I'd read through the handout the previous night, so I knew it would be about ECGs, and I was devoutly thankful that I wouldn't have to deal with the horrors of a spectrophotometer for a good week or so.

I still felt ill so the enjoyability of the practical was somewhat reduced since everytime I made a sudden move, I was overcome with dizziness and felt like vomiting, but I perservered. We split into groups of four per bench. One person was the volunteer and had to strip off so we could attach the ECG electrodes and leads around their chest as well as on their right wrist, left wrist, right ankle and left ankle. The other two people on my group seemed more interested in flirting with eachother than doing work, so I was unofficially in charge of running the practical. I'm not bitter, by the way, fair play to both of them, and I rarely get to be in charge of these things, a good turn of events for all concerned!

We started off by simply recording the subject's heart activity whilst lying down, then when standing up. One of the leads was giving some rather erroneous results, so we took about a million readings to try and get a decent result, using up about a roll and a half of ECG paper whilst we were at it. Eventually I realised that it was due to an incorrectly placed electrode on the left wrist, which was too far from the pulse. Smirking to myself, I corrected this, and by happy coincidence the lecturer happened to walk past at that exact moment. Correct results aplenty and an approving look from the prof! Ahem.

Having assessed the ECG at rest, we then got the subject on an exercise bike to see how they would deal with stress. This was the really long winded part of the experiment, we had to do it three times, and after each session on the bike we had to record the ECG and respiratory rate at t0, t5, t10 and t15. Long winded, like I say, but eventually it finished.

Things to be pleased about:

Horrible biochemistry coursework has been handed in.
Practical II was fun.
Practical II's write up seems to be fairly straightforward.

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 always comes back to 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.