Thursday, 2 November 2017

Review: October 2017

Hi guys! I've been hella busy this month but just with college and studying mostly, not with a ton of super exciting events like last year, oops. Have been generally happy though, so that's cool. I'm gonna talk about the modules I've been doing (next week I'll have a blog post on each module talking about what I've learned in the first six weeks), Lablinn, pals, Physoc, conferences n things, Harvard grades, going outside, Hurricane Ophelia and other miscellany.


This is probably my favourite module. It covers the mechanisms of evolution (natural selection, genetic drift, founder effect, bottleneck effect, allopatry/sympatry/parapatry, polyploidy and hybridisation, etc), the evolution of animal behaviour (co-evolution between predators and prey including arms races and mutualisms, Batesian and Mullerian mimics, sexual selection and dimorphism, cooperation (including mutualism, reciprocal altruism, kin selection, the evolution of intelligence and more)), endosymbiotic theory, biogeography, genetic evolution (genotypes and evolution, phylogenetics including tracing the origin and evolution of HIV, and upcoming lectures on human evolution, evolution of development, and disease genes). 

I know I just listed all the stuff we've studied, hope you survived that paragraph, but anyway it's so fascinating and fun and I'm learning so much while having a blast. The practicals are also all really creative -- they're all self-directed, which is pretty challenging, and one was to go down to the Trinity Botanic Gardens and answer a ton of questions about plants there and their evolutionary relationships, one was to go to the Zoology Museum and build phylogenetic trees of animal lineages based on morphological characteristics, and for the upcoming one we have to test a theory of altruism by designing and completing our own experiment out in the world. Surprisingly challenging, but very cool. Also, the lecturers have in general seemed to love their subject and be friendly and positive, and all around it's just a great experience that I'm delighted to get to experience. 


This is a strong contender for favourite module; it's a lot of work because of the module structure, and it's harder, but it's super interesting. It's taught as a flipped classroom, meaning we're given recorded lectures to watch and take marked (for continuous assessment points) quizzes on before attending the lecture, and then extra material is covered in the lecture or we get more quiz questions in the lecture via clickers, which are great because we can answer the MCQs on the slides without having to risk shouting out an answer and being wrong, and also the lecturer can see what percentage of the class picked each answer so they know how much we understand. 

Because we often have two or three presentations and quizzes to do per lecture, it can mean that we essentially have 12 Biochem lectures a week instead of 4, but I do like it because it makes sure I stay on top of things and because we get the results of each quiz and I generally get 100% so (a) I know it's contributing lots to my CA marks (b) I know that contrary to what members of college admin said, I am in fact capable of doing this subject despite not having done it for first year or Leaving Cert. They really wore down my confidence despite all the work I'd done to get up to speed but this is a really nice means of validation and of seeing that I am in fact capable of doing well/getting 100% instead of failing like they acted like I would. So I like how this module gets me to work hard but does reward me for it. 

So to get to the actual stuff we cover:

  • Eukaryotic Cell Structure (cell anatomy and means of transporting molecules in and out of organelles; the cytoskeleton i.e. how things are transported around and arranged in cells; DNA, RNA, Transcription and Translation; the Cell Cycle and Apoptosis i.e. programmed cell death)
  • Proteins (Amino Acid Chemistry; Protein Purification & Analysis; Protein Folding)
  • Enzymology (Michaelis-Menten Kinetics, Briggs-Haldane Kinetics; Enzyme Inhibition modes; Enzyme Regulation)
  • Neurochemistry (chemical synthesis of neurotransmitters; action potentials and signal propagation through nerves; neurotransmitter reuptake and degradation; medical applications including Parkinson's and depression medications)
  • Signal Transduction (upcoming)
I didn't really like enzymology but acknowledge that it's important so will learn it. The other stuff has on the whole been fascinating -- there are so many disease-related applications, for one (imagine how excited I was learning how Triple Therapy for Parkinson's works and being able to understand why), and just getting to learn so much and understand so much about how life works. It's an intense course with the essentially 8 to 12 lectures a week thing but it's meant I've learned an incredible amount. I never thought I'd be able to understand this much after just six weeks of college (and a lot of work over summer) and it makes the hard work so worth it. 


Chemistry has been my least favourite module this year but it's been alright. We had a week of Kinetics, which was very intense and squished into fewer lectures than it should've been, and since then it's been Inorganic Chemistry (Coordination Chemistry of Transition Metal Complexes and Molecular Orbital Theory). Our Inorganic lecturer is good with creative analogies, and I did like Crystal Field Theory and the associated field splitting diagrams. My appreciation for them isn't really because they helped me understand stuff that much, it's more just that I got them quickly and like making logical diagrams and populating them according to logical rules. 


Maths has been way better this year, mainly because we have a really good lecturer now and also some stuff seems to have clicked because I had to finally learn them for the summer exams, like finding a vector product using matrices and using the various techniques of integration (I can't believe it took me until after the first of the summer maths exams to just learn that stuff properly). 

There have been some things I haven't understood but I've generally felt comfortable asking the lecturer during or after class because she's really approachable and cheerful, so that's been really helpful. The maths can get pretty crazy though -- look at this from today:


We've been working hard over at Lablinn. 

  • We held a Training Day to train the team members in holding workshops and worked out logistics for going out in pairs to schools. Also did all the associated things (there are so many associated things) like refining the presentation, writing a script, minutes, FAQs, templates...
  • We have a workshop organised for a school in Meath next week, and two more being organised at the moment. 
  • We have an interview underway with APOPO, the organisation behind the HeroRATs that detect TB and landmines.
  • I've drafted Lablinn's themed weeks, which run every two weeks, from November until May. Next week is Diagnostics week, so we'll have our APOPO interview and some articles from me on nanodiagnostics and the relevance of diagnostics to antibiotic resistance. 
  • Daniel, a Gaeilgeoir member of the team, is heading up a project to get some of our material translated into Irish so we can talk to Gaelscoileanna as well. 
  • Ella wrote an article for the blog about presenting her research at the Young Scientists' Journal conference.
  • Members of the team have in general been really great at taking the initiative and coming up with e.g. interviewees to contact and articles and ideas for developing Lablinn.
  • I've been invited to speak at Twitter Dublin about our work next week. 
We're also doing a bunch more that I'll share later but yeah, I'm really loving the momentum we have going. Lablinn team is cool. 


Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland so college was cancelled for a day. It was pretty windy out. That's it really -- we had prepared to lose electricity but we were lucky and didn't even though thousands of people near us did. So a pretty chill hurricane on our end. I did see a tile fly off a roof and over my head and smash on the ground in front of me though, which was pretty cool. 


I got my grades back from the Harvard Business School thing I did over the summer -- got 100% (800/800) on the Statistics exam, 96% in Economics and 93% in Accounting, which was cool. Kinda funny since I don't like business but in fairness I do like stats so. 


I went outside sometimes! Climbed the Sugar Loaf (a mountain, for the unacquainted) on the bank holiday we had off college with a bunch of college pals. Here we are.


Have been officially living with Leon for a month and a half now. It's pretty good. This month we went to the cinema to see Maze, which was about an IRA prison breakout, and bought a new board game to play together called Forbidden Desert as a Halloween treat. We've mainly been playing Magic and Carcassonne this month, which are both fun. We were playing Pandemic a ton (epidemiology? yes please) and he got sick of it so  "accidentally" left it behind when we moved out. 


I'm Physoc Secretary this year, which as an exec position actually has some responsibility attached. I quite like being Secretary; my responsibilities are to write the weekly email to our members and take minutes at meetings. I stress a bit about having the wrong information in the email but generally it's worked out pretty fine and I like it, it feels like I have my own domain which is nice. 


I've been invited to speak at a Twitter-UNICEF event on Thursday November 9th at Twitter Dublin HQ about my work with Lablinn and "raising your digital voice", so that's a thing.


I'll be off in Budapest 10th to 13th November at the Youth Platform's annual meeting there. 


In general, I've really buckled down over the last few months after transferring to a subject I love and am doing fewer conferences and superficial things and more just keeping my head down and putting the work in. Conferences are fun and I'm open to doing some if asked (see above), but I'm not seeking out that sort of thing quite as much and am instead studying a lot and working away building Lablinn up. It feels really nice and wholesome and fulfilling. 

I should have significantly more blog posts in November I think because I'll be writing about my impressions of each of my modules after six weeks, Budapest, Twitter, and maybe some stuff about Lablinn. If you want to keep up more with Lablinn, you can check out the website or @LablinnTeam on Twitter. 

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