Biology Semester Two: Begin!

With a new semester comes new modules (unless you have any that stretch over them both, which I don’t), so I thought I’d give a little run down of my first impressions on the modules I have started this week in 2017.

Western Campus – Partially showing the GeoSciences building.

Biogeography: This module is one that is a kind of collaboration between the Geosciences and Biology department. Despite being two different modules for both departments, they overlap so much that the majority of them are taught together.

The study of biogeography is defined simply as ‘the distribution of species around the globe,’ and the module deals with exactly that. The first session introduced the very idea of what a “species” is, and how they come to be. Of course, their distribution, and how they come to be distributed, was explained next – particularly the idea of Gondwanan distribution (Gondwana was a supercontinent, like Pangea that broke apart to form the continents and microcontinents we know today. Knowing that this is only the tip of the biogeographical iceberg has me excited for what future lectures have in store.

Research Methods: The EHU website concisely summarises the module on their website. An essential program to biological research, R, will be taught.

“Research Methods in Biology introduces you to essential biological research methods and data analysis. You will examine experimental design and analysis with varied types of data and subsequently design a study of your own.” – Edge Hill University

As well as this, the actual assessment section of the module this year will be centred around a research project that is conducted over the course of a week in pairs, and presented on a poster during a “conference style” poster evening.

Biochemistry & Metabolism: The module this year focuses on “biomolecules, the different types of anabolic and catabolic pathways, as well as basic concepts in enzymology and eukaryotic and prokaryotic cellular energetics” (as stated by EHU).

However the intriguing part about the module this year is that part our assessment will be based on a presentation we give in conjunction with animation students. This provides valuable experience in working with others who may have less understanding of scientific terms and concepts. Communication will obviously be a vital part of this assessment – as biologists, we will have to explain our assigned biological process; on the flip side, the animators will have to explain to us what is feasible in terms on the animated end product.

Semester One Biology Highlights

Since semester one has essentially finished (bar a few exams and reports being due), I thought I’d take this time to look back on my favourite parts of the modules I’ve experiences on the second year of my undergrad Biology degree.

Life On The Edge

Tech Hub

Life On The Edge (LOTE) is the new and improved version of the Environmental Physiology module from previous years, it deals primarily in microbe, plant, and animal extremophiles. The largest addition to the module was Life On The Edge Evening, a series of short presentations, by the students, on a chosen extremophile. This was hosted in the lecture theatre of the new Tech Hub. One of the purposes of the event is to test the students’ research and presentation skills – which counted towards our grade. Although public speaking isn’t my strong suit, it did give me the chance to bust out my PowerPoint skills – as lame as it sounds, I’m quite fond of designing the slides. However anxious it made me, I’m sure the experience improved my public speaking abilities and got me used to presenting in a professional environment.

Another point of interest for this module was the field-trip to Anderton Nature Park, where we sampled the salt springs for microbes and isolated them from the water back at the lab.

Molecular Biology

This module featured quite an insight into the techniques and points of interest in the field of molecular biology. My personal highlight was learning about epigenetics, as I already knew a little about it and was interested in it before knowing it was featured in the module. Google defines epigenetics as, “The study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.” This module was quite technical but very rewarding, in that the subject matter is complex but also very cutting edge.

Laboratory Masterclass

The highlight of Lab Masterclass has got to be using the scanning electron microscope (SEM). It’s an expensive piece of kit, so it’s incredible that the department to trust all the second year undergraduates to use it for our practical coursework. The assignment in question had to contain two images from the SEM which both had to be scientifically relevant, as well as a short report on the subject matter of the images. This practical was weighted quite heavily for the module, so it was imperative we used our time wisely on the microscope to get some impressive images. We could’ve chosen any sample with biological relevance to look at under the SEM, and being a fan of plants, I chose leaves. I won’t go into the details, but here are some of the images I didn’t use, that I think are still pretty impressive:

The course page for biology has a tab that gives an overview of the modules.

New Blogger Approaching: Ashley Tuffin

New Challenger Blogger Approaching
This is my face.

I’m new here, so I guess I’d better tell you a bit about myself! This will serve as a good way for current and future readers (as well as my fellow bloggers) to get to know me and hopefully give a sense of the kind of perspective I’ll be writing from.

First things first, I’m a non-binary transgender person (meaning I am not a man or woman, use non-gendered terms, and they/them/their pronouns). Luckily, as I came to realise this, I had a loving and supportive group of friends that not only accepted me but respected me too. Having to go and enter a new environment where I wouldn’t know anyone, and wouldn’t know how they’d react to my identity was a daunting and quite terrifying prospect at times, but it has been largely a non-issue, as I have made some good friends through my course and societies (including the LGBT+ society).

The Sugar Hut

Now, my origins. I was born and raised in the south, specifically in Essex. When I tell people this, it’s sometimes followed by some kind of Q&A which usually results with me saying: No – I haven’t watched The Only Way Is Essex; No – I haven’t been to the Sugar Hut; and Yes – I’m aware I don’t sound like I’m from Essex. It’s nothing personal, I’m just not a huge fan of reality TV (although I’ve watched my fair share of I’m A Celeb, in the past). Which I guess means I should brief you on a few things I am a fan of!

Things I am a fan of watching: Sense8, Planet Earth II, Fresh Meat, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Things I am fan of reading: Young adult, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Romance (preferably in some combination). Things I am a fan of doing: Badminton, Swimming, Historical Reenactment, Volleyball.

Now, back to the past. I studied at the sixth form of my secondary school, so I know how daunting it can seem to go and live and learn in a completely new environment after seven years of your life. This is something I embraced by moving up to Ormskirk, around five hours away, but you may not be as dramatic (or maybe you’ll be more-so)! I studied A-level Biology, Chemistry, and Religious Studies aka Philosophy & Ethics. I chose Edge Hill as my firm choice, and here I am!

Facilities
The Biosciences building

Currently, I’m a second year studying Genetics, but I first enrolled as a general Biologist, an even briefly changed to study Ecology and Conservation. In the end though, the BSc Genetics degree held the most modules that I was interested in. I’m involved mainly in two societies: Historia Normannis (historical reenactment), and the LGBT+ society, where I am the Freshers Rep. At the time of writing, I am also in the middle of applying for a summer work placement under the ERASMUS+ programme and also a year abroad placement for the coming uni year.

Now that that’s over, I can promise that my following blog posts will be less egotistic, and will be considerably more related to university life at Edge Hill. However, I hope you found some enjoyment in getting to know the blogger! See you next time!

 

When to Start Looking For 2nd Year Housing?

By this time next year you will be looking for a house to live in during your second year, or you may have already signed up for a house!

This does seem early but to ensure that you’re not left struggling I really can’t emphasise enough how important it is that you sort it ASAP!

Edge Hill produce a housing list at the very start of December that you can use to ring up landlords to book house viewings.

Here are a few questions to think about with your future flat mates:

  • How much is the deposit?

With the deposit you need to know if you can you afford it, do you get it all back at the end of the year and if so what are the conditions to ensure you do get it back!

  • How much is the summer retainer?

Again, how much is it. Remember you won’t get this money back as it is a fee to hold the property for the summer months when you’re not in it.

  • How much is it per week?

Can you all afford it? Is it more expensive than your room now? If so can you afford the extra money, as you will have less to live off!

  • Does the price include bills?

If it does- great! If not, can you split it ‘x’ ways without arguments of who hasn’t been in the house for so many days so should pay less or how someone else should pay more because they have had a friend over!

  • When are the payments due?

Can you afford the payments at the times required, as the money may need to be paid before your student finance comes!

  • Is the landlord or estate agency reputable (do look into their reputation!)

You do not want to enter into a contract where the other party is unreliable.

When you go to a house viewing check out the following checklist and don’t be afraid to ask questions! It is a lot of money you will be giving them, make sure its right!

Happy New Year!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

So, 2015 has finally arrived and everyone wants to start the new year with a positive attitude, along with goals to achieve. I read somewhere that the majority of people give up their new year resolutions within the first 8 days, but we’re going to be optimistic and say we’ll make it until the end of the year (or at least 9 days ay?).

It took me a while to think of what resolutions I wanted to achieve this year, before deciding on 4 different ones. Firstly, I decided to dedicate one of my resolutions to my university studies. I want to make sure that this year, I use all the library facilities as much as I can. I felt that during my first year I didn’t use half of the resources I could have, so I intend to improve on this during 2015.

Secondly and thirdly, I chose cliché resolutions, of course. I want to lose weight and to stop biting my nails. I’m aiming for these to not only last the year, but to be as good as they can by summer… not just for an amazing beach body, but to be healthier in general.

Lastly, I want to be more outgoing, trying new things and saying yes to more opportunities. When I looked back over 2014 (as amazing as it was) I felt like I didn’t try as many new things as I wanted to. So, 2015 is going to be the year of ‘YES’ and I’ll make sure to keep you up to date on all the new things I have been trying through out the year.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter how many goals you set and whether you achieve them all… if you complete one and try, that’s all that matters. Happy New Year everyone, have a super start to the year and I hope by the end of it you’ll be able to look back and say ‘2015 was amazing’.

Goodbye 2014, hello 2015.

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Until next time…:)

Time Flies

I can’t believe that my first year is over. It seems like only a few weeks ago that I was making my way to Edge Hill on my first day, worrying that I might not find a parking space and that I might feel out of my depth. Fortunately, I was made to feel at home from my first day and have never once struggled to find a parking space (the parking attendants are heroes), and from that point onwards the year began to fly by.

All ready for my first day at Edge Hill
All ready for my first day at Edge Hill

Not only have I enjoyed the year as a whole, I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my writing and also feel confident that I’ll attain a good mark next year. I know that this year has gone so fast because I’ve been studying something that really interests me; in contrast, the time before Edge Hill when I was working full time seemed to drag, and drag, and drag…

Before I started Edge Hill these shelves were empty...
Before I started Edge Hill these shelves were empty…

Now that the year is over I can focus on enjoying summer. I’ll be attending Glastonbury Festival and Leeds Festival, I have tickets to several club nights, I have plenty of catching up to do with friends, and I might take a trip to London. I’ll also be moving to my new house in Liverpool at some point. I’m excited and nervous, and I think that a trip to Ikea is definitely in order! I also need to start getting ready for next year, but I’m sure that I can take a little time off first!

I’m excited about going into my second year, so I can’t imagine how all the people who are about to become first years at Edge Hill must feel! If I had to give advice to somebody who was starting I’d say  go with an open mind, be ready to work hard, and remember that everyone else is in the same situation as you. I’m starting to get a little envious of the people starting; I’ve enjoyed my first year so much that I’d happily do it again!

Student House

Moving in to a student house is really exciting. Whilst halls are a great way to get settled in to living away from home, I think living in a student house is a brilliant next step. Choosing who you live with, having more responsibility for keeping everything clean, watching how much you spend on bills; it’s all quite different from halls but I’ve really enjoyed the experience this year. Rather than possibly boring you all with tales of my shenanigans, I thought it might be interesting to show you what my student house looks like.

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This is our little bungalow from the outside. I think it’s kind of cute.

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Our living room, somewhat tidier than usual. This is where I spend most of my time, normally watching Jeremy Kyle.

IMG-20140506-00187.The kitchen. It gets in a state every now and again but that’s students for you.

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My room which is one of the smallest of the 6 in our house but I love it anyway. I couldn’t take a picture of the other half of the room because I’m too ashamed of the mess but I also have a chest of drawers and a shelf buried somewhere under all the clothes.

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One of our two bathrooms (the other one is pretty much identical).

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Our garden: which is…garden-y?

In case anyone wants an idea of how much a house costs, we each pay £90 a week which includes bills, but obviously this will vary between houses.