What to expect from final year?

As my third and final year of university as an undergraduate draws closer, I’m wondering how different it will be to second year. You might also be wondering what modules are available to you in your final year of a biological sciences degree. As I’m doing a Genetics BSc, I have four compulsory modules: Applications of Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics, Ecological Genetics, and Dissertation – Genetics. This leaves me with one optional module. Optional modules for Genetics and other biological sciences degrees for third-year include:

  • SCI3309 Biodiversity and Conservation
  • SCI3310 Tropical Ecology
  • SCI3312 Environmental Change
  • SCI3314 Current Issues in Biology
  • SCI3316 Pathology
  • SCI3318 Invertebrate Ecology
  • SCI3321 Pharmacology
  • SCI3324 Epidemiology
  • SCI3325 Ecological Interactions
  • SCI3326 Conservation Issues
  • SCI3329 Field Botany
  • SCI3322 Laboratory Masterclass
  • SCI3017 Nerves, Brain and Behaviour

Some of these modules are available in second-year, and some are even mandatory, such as Laboratory Masterclass being a compulsory module for second-year geneticists. Some of my compulsory genetics modules can also be taken as optional modules for other biological sciences degrees. More information can be found here!


Entering third year can be a daunting or scary prospect, it’s weighted heavier than second year (60:40) and in some cases holds the compulsory dissertation module. If you’ve been away for a year for whatever reason, be it for personal or educational reasons, going into a new year group may also be quite nerve-wracking. I was away last year on a sandwich placement and am nervous myself about entering classes potentially knowing no-one there. But if we could do it in first-year, we can do it again! There may be a bit of added pressure this year but it’s essentially the same, classes and studying, maybe less partying, and a more long-term project in the form of a dissertation.

The future is a vast and uncharted ocean, but it seems looks like smooth sailing ahead… Godspeed!

Biology Dissertation Fieldwork

Large-leaved lime leaf with numerous lime nail galls protruding from the upper surface

Since I’m entering my third and final year of my BSc Genetics degree very, very soon, I need to be thinking about my genetics dissertation. I have chosen to centre my research project on plant genetics and ecology – both in the field and in the lab. The organism of interest for my studies is the large-leaved lime, Tilia platyphyllos. Specifically, the large-leaved lime growing on its own (by which I mean, away from its close relative small-leaved lime or Tilia cordata, and the hybrid of the two, common lime or Tilia x europaea) in the South Downs.

Before setting off on the 4-5 hour drive down to the South East, I needed to request the equipment necessary for 5 days of fieldwork! After delivering an equipment list to a Technician, they will get it all ready in time for your trip – provided you deliver the list in advance, two days usually isn’t enough time! For my fieldwork, I needed a fair number of plastic bags, to safely secure leaves and soil; a handheld GPS unit, to record positions of trees; a laser distance measure, to measure the distance between trees; a measuring tape, to work out the diameter at breast height (DBH) from circumference; and a clipboard and pens, for recording measurements and marking bags.

After making it to the South Downs with Mark, the technician who would be accompanying me on this fieldwork – driving and taking samples and measurements with me, we set off into the wilds and tried to find our quarry.

Close-up of large-leaved lime tree bark

Our first day didn’t prove very successful.

After scouring databases for records of recorded large-leaved lime, I came up a little short but was still determined to sample from the area. On the first day, I decided to follow my hunches and check the sites that had shown very few or no records of lime but appeared to be the right kind of environment. Unfortunately, this was slow going and fairly unsuccessful, yielding us only three trees that day.

Fortunately, after shifting tactics to explore the sites further East that had more markers recorded for Tilia platyphyllos, we had a lot more success. Averaging around 30 trees from 2-3 sites per day, it was a pretty successful trip in the end. There were snags and hiccups, and my project may have changed slightly because of this- but that’s science! Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan, and that’s what keeps it interesting!

For more pictures of the trip, check this twitter thread, since they’re too large to upload here!

A Biology Dissertation Proposal

One of the compulsory modules in third year on any biological sciences undergraduate degree is the dissertation. This module is worth twice the amount of a single third-year module – and with third-year being weighed more than second, this amounts to a hefty percentage overall!

Perhaps some books from the new library in The Catalyst will help with your references!

The first part of the dissertation that is currently due in late June is the proposal. Worth 15% of the overall dissertation grade, this piece of work is focused on designing a scientific project that suitably addresses an identified knowledge gap within a field, whether it be ecology, human biology, or microbiology. The proposal for the biology dissertations is very similar to the proposal made for the research projects in the second year module Research Methods.

Part A of the proposal is an overview including context – does this project build on previous works; why is it important; how does it fit into our current understanding? Included in this section must be the project aims and a list of references used in Part A. It’s very similar to an introduction of a scientific paper, which starts out broad then narrows its focus until it is focused on a concise issue.

The Gantt chart I used in my second-year Research Methods proposal

The following part of the dissertation proposal, Part B, is all about the implementation of the project. This includes a clear indication of the research questions being asked; the methodology; timescale; and data analysis. Things to think about for the methodology include the basic experimental design – what kind of sampling and measurements are being taken, how many replicates, etc – sampling strategy, and sites. The timescale is an obvious one, but it might be an idea to include a Gantt chart to illustrate this clearly. Data analysis and management cover the statistical tests that will feature in the project and the tables used to record the data. This section should also feature difficulties that might be faced along the way, for example, the problems I think I might face are identifying sampling sites with my target organism and learning new programs related to genetic analysis.

 

The final parts, D and E, are all about health, safety, and ethics. As well as completing these parts in the proposal, it’s vital that the separate ethics form is filled in to be assessed by the Biology Department Research Ethics Committee (BDREC)! Other additional forms that need to be attached to the proposal are, for example, an equipment list, lone working, and risk assessment.

There are a fair few documents that need submitting, but they’re all important and make sure you’re ready to really begin work on this big project. You need to be prepared for a module that makes up a third of your final year grade after all!

Beginning Third Year

 

Hi everyone 🙂

In September I will be starting my third and last year of university at Edge Hill. It’s something I have been thinking about a lot and the idea of graduating in just over a year is so terrifying as it feels as if I started uni last week!!

Many people will already know that your third year is the most important year of study in your degree programme as it it worth 60% of your overall grade. This year I will also be doing a dissertation which I am both excited and nervous for as I get to research a topic I am really passionate about and explore it in more detail than I ever have before. 

The prospect of leaving uni is also nerve wracking especially as the friends I have made are all scattered across the UK, and i will be so sad to not be living with them anymore. I definitely want to make the most of third year and create some unforgettable memories with my friends.

If you have any questions about anything I have mentioned then please leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible!

Ellie 🙂

Biology Dissertation Topics

Dissertations are a big undertaking. Not only is the dissertation module worth double the credits of a regular module, it is meant to take up 200 hours. For the biological sciences degrees, you must perform a series of experiments or scientific techniques to answer a research question. Depending on your specific degree ie Human Biology, Ecology & Conservation, etc. your dissertation must be on different topics – relating to your discipline, obviously.

To provide guidance and support to you during your dissertation, through advice and feedback to your proposal, you are assigned a supervisor. Since there are only so many lecturers, and they can only have so many dissertation pupils, not everyone will get their first choice of dissertation supervisor (and therefore dissertation topic). Even if you don’t end up with your first or second choice, the topic you choose to work on with your supervisor can involve transferable skills, for example, molecular techniques that can be applied to many different organisms.

For the year of 2018, there are two new lecturers in the department, and one established lecturer who was not a dissertation supervisor last year that is this year: Dr. Sven Batke, Dr. Aristides Tagalakis, and Dr. Rajeev Shrivastava.

Sven’s topics this year are related to plant ecology and physiology, specifically plant-water relations and epiphytes. An example of one of the topics this year is: “Quantifying the contribution of different epiphyte growth-forms to water interception and storage in
forest canopies.”

Aris has joined Edge Hill as a Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor in Human Biology, his research involves the treatment of diseases such as solid tumours and cystic fibrosis, particularly the delivery mechanism of treatments to diseases such as these. One of his dissertation topics this year is: “mRNA (commercial and in house) vs traditional plasmid: compare the different transfection efficiencies.”

Raj started at Edge Hill in 2008 as a Senior Lecturer in Chemistry and is offer dissertation questions this year related to environmental chemistry (in particular, water pollution), food analysis, and pharmacology.

Facilities
The Biosciences building for Biology at Edge Hill

These are but a few of the lecturers and only a sample of the broad range of topics that researchers at Edge Hill University study. Further topics for study include antibiotics, biodiversity and conservation, phylogeny, population genetics, mycology, nanoparticles, cloning, cancer, microbes, bioinformatics.

Biology – Second Year Decisions

With the summer term of second year approaching, many people have had to decide on a number of future ventures – third year modules, dissertation topics, and perhaps summer placements. So, in chronological order I present to you – the recent decisions of biosciences students.

Erasmus

Although not a particularly​ recent event, it does pertain to the summer activities of the biology students and affects their summer plan. Back in term one, details of the ERASMUS+ program were announced and applications were accepted. The ERASMUS+ program is a europe-wide student exchange of sorts. In the case of the biology department, there are two institutes that currently offer summer placements for students: The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), and The Cyprus University of Technology (CUT). I have been lucky enough to be offered a placement at SLU, where the department that our own biology department is currently in contact with is the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies. The kind of activities that occur during placements here consist of bird, fish, invert, forest, and fire ecology, as well as research into genetically modified trees. Since I am to be abroad during the summer, I cannot be present at our very own Edge Hill University (EHU) to take part in the internships hosted closer to home.

Internships

A more recent decision to be made regarding the summer break is whether or not you would like to work an internship. Currently, the university offers​ a number of summer internships for students to assist in research with the lecturers. Since I was already due to be away over summer, I have experienced this process as a third-party of sorts as my fellow students have applied. Numerous topics are available with various lecturers, for instance: microbial genetics, extremophile microbial genetics, vector biology, dermatogenetics, conservation, and forest ecology. After the long summer, students will head back as third years and begin their new modules.

Module Choices

Third year, currently weighted slightly more than second year, will consist of new modules to those studied in the second year. A full list of modules (and who came take them depending on course) can be found on the relevant course pages in the biology section of the EHU websiteSome modules may be available to choose in second or third year, which is a wonderful idea, as it allows further customisation of your course – allowing you to choose a full range of modules relevant to your degree focus. Of course, the big one – the dissertation module, is a module you must choose for third year.

Dissertation

With a wide range of courses and lecturers, comes a wide range of topics for dissertations. As tutors are limited to a select number of students per individual, they are allocated as fairly as possible to the topics you have expressed interest in. Since deciding on your dissertation topic may seem like a herculean task when presented with so many options, help had been provided in the form of suggested topics and questions, and the option to begin research in the summer. So far, the department have been very helpful in assisting in our decision – with lecturers coming to pitch their topics and inspire us.

My Studying Essentials

It’s very easy to get distracted whilst trying to get your uni work done. Procrastination is one of the most tempting forces in the universe and we all fall victim to it from time to time and find ourselves watching irrelevant Youtube videos with hours-worth of work still left to do. But I have some tactics essential to my studying routine to help me from getting distracted.

Music

Some people have to work in complete silence. Me, however, I find that I need music to concentrate on my work. It’s best to find a playlist of relaxing music, perhaps without lyrics, that won’t distract you too much. Spotify has some great pre-made playlists or you can make your own. You’ll find it will drown out any background sound and keep you focused for longer.

Hydration

I’m a big advocate for staying hydrated lately, I always drink loads whilst studying. I drink endless cups of tea and glasses of water when I have big essays. This keeps me from getting headaches and I don’t have to keep getting up for drinks if I have them there and prepared. I recommend either sorting yourself a pot of tea so you can just pour it at your desk or have a few bottles of water ready so you don’t ruin your work flow.

Comfort

Being comfortable whilst working is really important, but don’t be so comfortable that you end you falling asleep. You have to be able to find the balance where you can sit for hours but won’t become preoccupied with how cosy you are. I recommend sitting at a desk but wearing comfy clothes and maybe a few cushions to pad out the chair if it’s usually uncomfortable. I’d avoid working on your bed as, if you’re anything like me you’ll be far too tempted to sleep!

Peace

Having peace and quiet whilst working is essential for me. The best way to do this is to block out all distractions. Shut your door or ask your flatmates to keep the noise down, politely of course. Or if that isn’t possible – you have to be considerate of the people you live with too – alternatively you can go to the silent area of the library or book a study room which is brilliant for getting your work done!

Until Next time! 🙂

So, what’s left?

Hi guys,

How are you all? Just a quick one today my friends.

Well things are starting to come to an end and I’m starting to get a little sad about that. I handed my dissertation in last Thursday which was a massive weight off of my shoulders. I’ve got two more assignments to do and then that’s it. Two assignments, I literally can’t believe how fast these three years have gone! Where the time has gone I’ll never know. It feels like I arrived yesterday and bam in a blink of eye I’m here, almost about to leave.

So what should you be doing to prepare for University?

Well… UCAS should be all up to date. If you change any of your personal details, make sure you update your online student account… we don’t want student finance to be slow now do we?

Studying. Yes it’s an ache, but it’s a must if you want to get the grades to come here! Get your head down and before you know it you’ll be here, loving your newly found independence, course and friendships.

ENJOY your summer! Obviouly college has been hard, so take your time and enjoy yourself. You’ve done amazing… WELL DONE PEEPS!

Until next time…

Dissertation deadline is looming, ahhhh!

Hey guys,

How are we?

Well what’s new? With my dissertation deadline right around the corner it’s time to start worrying. I worry about a lot of things, especially when it comes to university work, I just want it to be good! Over these three years I’ve had my fair share of panic tears and miniature break downs, but that’s all part of it. Along the way I’ve discovered a few things which help me calm down, so go on then I’ll share my tips with you…

  1. Down time- you must make time for yourself. When I can’t think of anything to write, it’s time to stop and take a break. Go watch your favourite to show, spend time with friends, RELAX… You’ll find that when you go back to work you have fresh ideas waiting for you!
  2. Support system- when those panic tears and mini break downs occur, you need your people! Go and ring your mum, brother, friend, friend of a friend, literally anyone you want as long as you can vent to them and stop thinking about work. I always find that a few words of encouragement from my mum puts things into perspective and I always feel better. Mums are the best aren’t they.
  3. Food- treat yourself to nice things as a reward for doing work. Set out what you want to achieve and set treats as targets for words. Fatties like me love that.
  4. Plan- believe me they help!

Find out what things help you and do them, it’ll really help.

Goodluck with all your essays and exams coming up, I’m sure you’ll do great!!!

Until next time!??

So what’s new?

Hey guys, just a quick one…

So, what’s new in the life of Jen? Well, I have recently been to V Festival and had an amazing time but since I’ve gotten home I’ve clicked into gear and continued the preparation for my dissertation. I realise that this year is going to be one of the hardest of my life so I am doing as much as I can this summer to steady the ship for when I get back and prepare myself in the best way possible. I have used a variety of sources to prepare for my dissertation, which will focus on the impact of the troubles in Northern Ireland upon the youth, such as journals; books; Ebooks; podcasts and documentaries.

I am very excited to get stuck into my new modules this year as well as balancing my dissertation alongside my part-time job. Hopefully this year I will immerse myself in a range of activities around EHU and finish my university experience on a high.

Enjoy your freshers experience and I hope to see some of you around the campus.

Until next time…:)