Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Ending 3rd Year 2nd Semester Officially

As any semester before this, I am now ending my 3rd year 2nd semester of my undergraduate course officially. This, however, is the last semester for this degree and you will have to wait until I attain another degree course to see another post like this.

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When I say this semester, my schedule is perfectly normal, it meant I have five modules. But as you look into it, you would have wondered why am I taking so many EU-coded modules rather than LSM-coded. The truth is, thanks to DBS who changed the syllabus days before my final exam last semester, I only need to take one more Life Sciences course and two European Studies. But I ended up doing something else, as you see… Since Life Sciences is my major, I shall start with Life Sciences modules and follow up with my minor, European Studies modules.

LSM3223 Immunology

Now, about this module, I would say I enjoyed it a lot. I am not sure if it is because I know I might not have any chance of studying Immunology in year 4 that I precious this very ‘last lecture’ myself, or I really like it – I would suggest it is a mix. The module taught us on immune response on its process, effects and study of few examples. The whole course is not very heavy but yet not as simple as one thought. I have to admit I might not be doing very well in the test as test were just about how much you are better than others – but I am proud to acknowledge that I understand everything I answered and I know what I am learning! I enjoyed the class not only on its content, but I actually find back the interest of curiosity towards the subject as how I first get in touch with Science. For those who wanted to take this module but fear it to be a boring subject, it is not a dry subject after all! Do not fear if you wish to enjoy the process of learning Sourire. The professors were really brilliant, not as though they could make the whole lecture theatre burst into laughter, but I know their effort in giving lecture with such compact content in such a short period should not be forgotten. Plus, they managed to deliver the message clear and straight, which is a great help to students who is bombarded with such a packed learning schedule. And therefore, we could use the extra time to learn more things outside the lecture, which will in turn helped in my understanding towards the subject. One flaw in this module would be the practical which was simply too few yet not well arranged as we were changing TAs and given TAs which had no idea what they were teaching as well. More often, we ended up discussing and teaching each other among students rather than asking the TA. Some professor reckon the problem and did roam around our bench more often to check on us, but life could be better if the TA was as enthusiastic as us… Of course, don’t get me wrong, the professors are not as strictly-teaching professor type, we did have several funny occasions, one including a professor who entered the wrong lecture theatre and nearly started talking about immunology to a bunch of chemistry student while we were waiting bluntly for his arrival somewhere.

LSM3288 & LSM3289 Advanced UROPS in Life Sciences I & II

Hoho, THIS! THIS is a long story, of course – covering what I had done since last semester. However, I should say, UROPS is just like your life – it has all the emotions, yet when you are finish with it, each moment make you miss them Clignement d'œil. Of course, every student who took this will have different project and supervisor. My project is Expression and Characterization of Novel Toxin Protein from Snake Venom. Due to research etiquette, forgive me for not be able to openly state exact details or publish any document about it. However, to summarize, I am dealing with snake venom protein which I performed protein expression, optimization, purification, refolding and in-vivo toxicity study. From this, I get to learn many things which included techniques such as Ni-NTA, ESI-MS (which is said to be a rare opportunity Rire), RP-HPLC and also many manual experiments. My project stopped at testing the protein on mouse by injection, which gave the opportunity to look at a real animal lab instead of the animal garden I had in secondary and high school. I like this project because I really is learning and I can feel myself growing a lot! Yes, I don’t have a mentor who will ‘hold’ my hand and guide me each step I walk, it is frustrating for a lost student like us – but I supposed this is a trust everyone able to give us, to learn independently. And I should say I grew a long way out of this. It is not just about finding journals or surfing net for information, it is about designing your experiment and also the courage of asking around. After so many years of studying, asking had became so rare in our life when all we could find is already in books or on the net – and this is when I have to find back the true me who keep on wondering about life, questioning the truth. I am very thankful for given such an opportunity to learn, truly. Other than that, working in a lab and near so many scientists, I understand more about Science and its career – etiquette, spirit, politics and so on. There were positive stuff but there were negative ones as well, but no matter how, I am glad I am given a chance to look into all these at such a stage. Nonetheless, it is in this module which I truly realized grades are really not that important after all. When it comes to research, what we needed was not how much and how well you could write in two hours in the exam hall – it requires more than just that to strive through your research career. And I am grateful when I am down, bogged down by certain obstacles, it was a lecture in Why History which led me to see the whole thing differently. Not only that, to realize Chain was actually working on snake venom before working on penicillin seemed to make me cheer up a bit, haha! Of course, Norman Heatley’s spirit will always be with me, thanks to Dr Murfett who introduced such a great figure to our class – Heatley is in my ‘hero’ list now! All in all, I do wish I will continue my passion towards research from this and not just stop here. We will see how my future unfold then… Sourire

EU 2219 Why History? The 20th Century, 1914-1989

Seriously, my impression towards this module before I take it is just so bad – and of course, it is not now! After two interesting European History class experiences, I decided to plunge myself into history just for the sake of my late-blooming interest. And I need two more EU modules to get my minor, thanks to European Studies Department who do not recognize my French for Academic Purposes as fulfilment. So, my initial plan was taking this and another level 2000 EU module. This is the module top in my list at first, but when I look into the course profile – it is empty!!! And I started to hesitate as I wish to learn something out of it, not just a general module where students go to class, laugh and write and walk out and get the modular credits. Jan actually told me the syllabus was a bit with various themes and not like how we got in Europe of Dictators. But for I know I am not a history major and not sure if I can cope in the level 3000 Cold War course, I decided to take this up and see if I should drop it if it is really a module that is aimed just to fulfil the credits – as I what I described  whether if the professor is just ‘教爽’. However, things changed as I followed the course. Yes, we were covering various themes, history from different perspective – which included my interested topics of Nazism and Hitler. Not only that, the lecture was more than just delivering the ideas but learning about life – at least, that is what I got after attending the lecture. The lecturer is just good and tutor is really responsible. This module is taught by the Dr Murfett which I mentioned earlier who taught about the founding of Penicillin. I enjoyed this module very much as it does not only deal with facts but also the discussion of such a wide range of things which has consequences in our life among the class. I am very lucky to know my tutorial group who were really kind and lively! Of course, as it is also a general module for some people, there were comments where it is quite heavy for a general module – but, who cares, seriously, ha! The recommended book list consists of 78 books which I wondered if any of us finished that list – I definitely didn’t but I would like to if I am given enough time Rire. And to see how this module impact on me – just see why I did not drop this module even though its final exam falls on the same day as the EU2223! I decided to take up the challenge for the sake of the interest I have in the module. Crazy, you might say – but that’s what you do as a student! For details of the module, we covered topics like War and Peace (1914-20), The Wall Street Crash & the Great Depression, “It’s the Economy, Stupid!”, Imponderable but Not Inevitable: Warfare in the 20th Century, ULTRA: the Vital Link in Signals Intelligence, Anti-Semitism gone mad: The Final Solution, Dire Age of the Atomic Bomb, A Medical breakthrough: the Discovery of Penicillin, Dateline: Cuba October 1962: The World on the brink… , A Social Revolution: the wild 1960s, Nationalism, Drugs and Sport, The Aids-HIV Crisis, and Ethnic Cleansing. Other than that we had two debate sessions, one which you will be the debating team while another where you participate as the floor. For details on what I did for my debate, refer this post. Other than that, I would like to thank Dr Murfett and Hussain for being such a great educator for this course.

EU2223 Ages of the Mediterranean

How exactly I came about taking this course is just bizarre!!! My initial plan for taking EU modules were Why History and another module called ‘ EU2221 Empires, Colonies and Imperialism’ and perhaps, another alternative of EU2217 European Politics. European politics page sounded very basic and boring, seriously, and that actually put me off from taking it although it might be interesting in truth. But what happened to EU2221?! I planned this timetable last semester and found out this semester before bidding that it is not even in the list! Apparently the European Studies programme did not update their timetable and I was left with finding another EU module to fit in my timetable. Again, taking level 3000 module was not in my mind at that time yet! So, this is the only European History module other than Why History, so I basically was left with this choice. But things changed as I checked out the course outline which included many things which I questioned along my life. Besides, as my eyes glanced at Islamization, it twinkled! To me, it may be the time I repay my debt of not studying properly during my secondary school… The reason of taking this module is really just that simple and funny. And things started to get interesting as the teacher teaching this class is Dr Fairey who was teaching and tutoring me in EU1101e last semester. Nonetheless, by covering millenium of history, this course is quite heavy, given that I am not from any history, christian, mediterranean or european background. Anything this course is, I am not! It was quite tough for me, truly speaking, and I need to put more effort than anyone else in class because of my ‘distant’ to this subject. Ultimate inferiority is unavoidable when compared to others but I guess this is again when the will of learning beats reality. I enjoyed the class to the max. Attending class was none other than one of the best times of the week and an escape from my lab work. Of course, when I say it is best time – it is not what most of us defined as ‘fun’ of playing, go into class and turn on Facebook or whatsoever – my life with this module is more on notes, books, information and learning, learning and learning! I guess, at some point, my wish in fulfilling my promise to study Islamic history properly had made my way so far as well. It became so personal that sometimes I might feel disappointed with my ‘uselessness’ when I did not do as well as expected in it. But I had learned to look at it as a way of learning. From this module, I get to learn what learning is all about, in theory and in practical. Personal experience with this module is just too long for a post like this. The module covers from ancient Greek, classical Greek, Roman Empire, Hellenization, Christianization, Islamic History and Europeanization. The textbook which I bought first hand, had now become worse than a second hand condition – which Papa always regarded as ‘the purpose of book’. So, I am glad I actually put in effort regardless how it might turn out. Throughout the course, we had symposium where we went around four themes and we worked on tesserae: Did Rome Fall? Or Was She Pushed?, Is Islamic Europe an Oxymoron?, What is Love Anyway?, and Is Beauty Truth?. The themes were interesting and we learned even more from it. I did the second topic and you could find out about what I did here.

EU3230 Cold War in Europe, 1945-1991

As I mentioned, level 3000 history module? Wohoho, it is tricky! Yes, so far the only year 3 history module was Europe of Dictators which i took last semester in Dr Kelly’s class. It is a thrilling experience and I enjoyed it since, again, it has something to do with Nazism and Hitler. However, I knew very well how much I am behind a normal history major in terms of knowledge and maturity in writing and analysis. Hence, taking this is always not in my mind. But when the timetable was changed, I thought of finding one module which exam is not on the same day and it was this. Plus, given that it was the same professor who taught this and Why History – Cold War course outline consists more interesting information rather than the empty Why History ones. This is why I was worried whether Why History was a dummy. However, Jan did tell me she didn’t do well in this module but it is interesting. So, my initial plan was to take this and decided to drop either Why History or this. The result was: I did not drop any of them Sourire. Dr Murfett must have did something to the class that I didn’t drop the class? Nope, the class is as normal as ever – but is a very good class. His lecture style is different, of course, from Dr Fairey and Dr Kelly – but I find it another good experience. Not only that, I think it’s because I am now older and on the verge of leaving school, I became so thirsty in terms of absorbing knowledge. Cold War is again another topic which I have no background of. Come back and think about it, except some random information about Nazism, I did not actually has any knowledge about history – this is how backwards I was! Yes, so many of a time, when I didn’t get to read before lecture, I might end up writing notes just by writing spellings of names which I heard, and need to go back to check about it. Wikipedia had become one of the best site for me to have background reading, kudos for it! The class was sometimes lively with some enthusiastic student who ask question. And of course I can’t do that since my knowledge is so meagre that what I asked might be their ‘what? aren’t you supposed to know that in primary school?’ question. I do ask question to the teacher and some group mates. The module covers: A convulsive continent (1917-45) , An iron curtain is drawn down over  Central and Eastern Europe (1945-49), The Tito-Stalin split and its deadly aftermath, The Western response (i) from Morgenthau to Berlin (1943-48) and(ii) The Berlin, Blockade (1948-49), Life after Stalin (1953-56), Khrushchev cuts loose (1955-64), The flowering and withering of the Prague Spring (1968), Ostpolitik: A Trojan horse? (1966-74), Poland exposes the cracks in the Soviet wall (1980-81), Reagan rides into town (1981-88), and Eastern Europe before and after the Gorbachev tsunami (1982-91). As usual, when you are studying something you have no background in, you are learning a lot and this is what happened. Besides, we has two debate sessions: one as debater and another as the floor as well. What I did is listed here. And I am so thankful to have such wonderful group mates seriously. They were real great teachers to me and I actually met Toffa on a bus and we chatted a bit. She actually encouraged me to go for it if I like history and shared his fascination towards the subject with me. I have to admit, that’s one of my best bus ride chat ever!

Looks like I had finished discussing all modules I took this semester. And one thing Suanne told me on how I came about European Studies which I find it true, “looks like there are many miracles happened to let you get your European Studies courses’. Yes, when think of it, it all happened like a miracle. Defining when it start is like defining when Cold War start: maybe the moment I decided to learn French? Yes, and I started to self-learn before I am admitted into NUS and given the letter to apply LPP. And I got LPP for French and then when I realize I am not allowed to go for SEP and realized I can get a minor in European Studies? And then I started to put myself into European History and then I was not allowed to get European of Dictators but I spotted Dr Kelly’s ivle in my first Eu1101E class before he end the class, then I am in history class after hating it for most of my life, then timetable changes and with all the twist and turn, I came through taking all these wonderful courses. What else can I ask for, right? I am already feeling too lucky for being able to realize the wonder of a subject I loathed in this one year, and it changed my life and my perceptions. And with research project which helped me to grow so much and learned so much – if you ask if any regret I have, I would say I wish I could get such a year more than just one year, haha, so greedy! But yes, I shall conclude this year as really really really interesting! Rire

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