It’s that time of semester where it seems like everything is happening, all at once – assignments are due, tests are on the horizon, and there’s just so much to be done. While there’s no doubt uni is stressful, there are many positives to think about – and they often get lost among the stress. Just to emphasise my point – and give you an insight into what my degree has been like so far – here are some of the highlights from my degree so far.

BIOSCI 101 – Cellular and molecular biology module
BIOSCI 101 is also a biomed and health science paper for first-year entry into clinical programmes, alongside being a biological science major requirement. The cell and molecular biology module was a highlight for me because I found the inner workings of cells so interesting and it was such a fascinating section to study – and this paper convinced me to take BIOSCI 201. The genetics module was also super interesting, because it’s really easy to see how the concepts can apply to our lives and help clinical understanding and treatment.
The tip I’d most like to give about this paper is on stress – some of the concepts in this paper are topics that are completely new to us, and I totally get for those aiming for clinical programmes, that it would have been very scary and stressful to not entirely know what’s going on straight away. The best thing you can do is to slow down and have a breather – sometimes, new complicated content can be very overwhelming, and sometimes it just takes time and going over the content and rewatching lectures for things to fully sink in. It’s important to remember this, because I definitely stressed about not understanding some of the content the first time round – but you will get there, and the instructors were very supportive and responsive on Piazza 🙂

BIOSCI 201 – Immunology module
BIOSCI 201 covered a lot of interesting topics – but admittedly, it was one of the harder papers I’ve done so far. Sometimes, you will have compulsory papers, or papers that you chose, that are difficult. However, there’s a light at the end of this tunnel – while BIOSCI 201 was one of the more difficult papers, the immunology module really started an interest and passion for me in this topic. It has probably been one of the most interesting modules I’ve studied, and it really reaffirmed why I chose biology – I’m passionate about it, and I find it very interesting, even though it can be difficult at times.

The results of my PCR from BIOSCI 204… because our PCR experiment for BIOSCI 201 was instead a video walkthrough due to Covid 🙁

PSYCH 109 – Brain module
The two stage 1 psych papers (PSYCH 108 and 109) are really a whirlwind tour of a range of psych disciplines – social, clinical, evolutionary, neuropsychology, learning, language and all those exciting topics. One of my favourite modules that I’ve studied was neuropsychology and learning about the brain in PSYCH 109 – it involved things like the different brain structures and conditions affecting the brain. It really stimulated my interest in neuroscience and the brain – which I went on to learn more about in PSYCH 202.

Sniffy the virtual rat from our learning experiment during Pysch 109 lab

PSYCH 202 went more into depth on the brain module of PSYCH 109. I fondly remember (though it was only a few months ago!!) looking at different MRI views and cross sections of the brain and learning which structure is what (don’t worry – the assignment for this was open book!). It was also so interesting to learn about conditions like traumatic brain injury, hemineglect, and language disorders.
At the moment, tests and exams are usually open book (though it will be made very clear if they aren’t for any exceptions). While this means you can refer back to your notes – and I’m sure you’ve heard this before – you can’t rely on this as your only form of preparation. PSYCH 202 was enjoyable and really interesting, but a bit content heavy. For classes like these, I find it really helpful to make summary sheets and flashcards as a way to condense the information down into the key points – and it helps for quick reference for information that you might need during an assessment.

STATS 101 (also called Stats 10x, 108)
In high school, I had only ever done stats up to year 10 as a topic that only lasted a couple weeks. Needless to say, I was pretty nervous about having to take stats in uni. My fears were put to rest quite easily once I had started the course, though. The coursebook lays out everything really well and for note taking, you can just fill in the blanks during lecture and focus more on understanding the concepts. I also had a really great lecturer who explained everything so well! This course definitely piqued my interest in statistics and made me feel more confident going into my science degree.
As I said, I’d never really studied stats before, so I wasn’t completely armed with study strategies for statistics going in. Currently, I’m also taking BIOSCI 220 which is focused on stats and coding for biology/biomed majors – often, when statistical concepts are presented in a lecture, I feel like there’s a whole lot of jargon and sometimes it sounds like the lecturer is speaking gibberish! My advice on this is that everyone learns in different ways, and this might change based on the subject or course that you’re doing. Sometimes it helps to draw out diagrams and concepts, sometimes it helps to read articles/notes (especially when there is lots of jargon and specific terms, so you can take things in at your own pace), and sometimes reviewing examples and past questions helps you understand what you need to know.

One of my longest standing interests has been in ecology and marine sciences. Studying marine ecology has been one of the best parts of my degree, because it’s always been such a passion of mine. It was quite disappointing to have the field trip cancelled this year due to Covid (we were given video tutorials instead), but nonetheless the course overall has been a favourite.
This course included two reports, which were both on the results and findings from the field trips. But since we didn’t actually go on these field trips and the data was supplied to us, it was a bit difficult at times to actually write up the report. My advice on this is to make use of all the help and resources offered to you. We were given a link to an ecology writing guide which I used lots to help guide my scientific writing, and the lecturers held zoom office hours so that we could ask questions. The lecturers are there to help and are always happy to do so – so it’s a good idea to make the most of this.

Honourable mentions
I’m currently taking this paper as my second Gen Ed – but I already have lots of good things to say! While there is a big range of different lecturers, all are so passionate about what they teach and the variety of topics makes this paper so engaging. Everything is well laid out and the lectures have all been really enjoyable – definitely a good choice for a gen ed!

I’m also taking this course currently – but it has been one of the most interesting I’ve done! This course is all about social psychology, and the lecturers are really knowledgeable about their topics. It’s so interesting because it’s relevant and makes a lot of sense – I think you can really easily apply the concepts you learn about and see how they’re operating in real life.

This was just a selection of the courses and the highlights that I’ve done so far – while uni is a lot of work and can be tough sometimes, it pays off to be studying things you really love.