Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

Topic: Maeva

The difference between an MSc and an MRes

  

📥  Faculty of Science, Maeva, Postgraduate

I would like to share a big factor I really had to consider when I applied for a scientific master's degree. Like many people, more than I realised, I started my application well into the summer, after my third year exams were out of the way. Those of you thinking it is too late to apply, it’s not! I wasn’t too sure what kind of course I was looking for. As I did more googling, I quickly became overwhelmed by the numerous course options available with similar titles that differed by just one word. The main thing I struggled to decide on was whether I wanted to do a taught or research master's degree. What were their differences and did they really matter? At the end I’d still get a postgraduate degree, right?

Remember, choosing to get a postgraduate qualification is a great way of enhancing your chances to rise above your competitors in the competitive science industry. That is why choosing the type of postgraduate programme (MSc or MRes) best suited to your career aims and preferred learning style is very important.

Essentially, an MSc primarily contains taught modules, whilst an MRes is more heavily research based and you learn through the projects. Whereas an MSc will generally have one large research project, which makes up the dissertation and one third of the course, an MRes will have two research projects and one third of the university credits will come from taught components.

The emphasis in an MRes is development of individual research skills, providing students with a deeper introduction to research methods and writing, which provides a strong foundation to build on for those considering a PhD. This isn’t to say to that you can’t follow-up an MSc with a PhD. An MSc does provide sufficient preparation, but if you are pretty certain research and academia is something you want to pursue, then an MRes should be seriously considered as it facilitates the transition. Another thing to point out is that many postgraduate funding bodies only award money to PhD students who have completed research programmes, something to keep in mind as finding PhD funding can be notoriously difficult. An MRes also gives you a better taste of what a PhD or a research career could be like, allowing you to work out if it is really for you.

I ended up choosing to study an MSc, because what I really wanted to get out of my degree was a broader understanding and theoretical expertise in multiple topics that I was interested in, instead of a more narrowed focus. Also I know that an MRes requires a lot more independent study which I felt I wasn’t quite ready for.

Another thing to consider is that there are more taught master's options across the country than research master's degree. A search on FindaMasters UK (www.findamasters.com) showed that for the Life and Chemical Sciences discipline there was 2372 MSc courses available for only 294 MRes. However, sometimes an MSc will have an MRes counterpart; same programme title and content focus, just with a different course structure. This has been increasing in recent years.

At the University of Bath, there are seven MSc and seven MRes on offer in the Biology and Biochemistry department. Six of the MSc share the same programme title to an MRes counterpart and thus are good examples for course structure comparison. Students doing an MRes in Biosciences, for example, can pick the same taught modules as those doing a MSc in Biosciences. Often MRes and MScs of the same program title or nature, will share compulsory units, again showing the similarity in overall course objective. Yet, across the two semesters MRes students can only pick two optional modules, whereas MSc choose seven, as they only do their project in the summer once the taught modules are out of the way. MSc have more assessment through examinations, coursework, dissertations and group projects which can feel very similar to an undergraduate course, which appealed to me but is not for everyone.

Due to this, MSc have more diverse modules, whilst an MRes can feel a lot more focused right away. I have been told by MRes students in my department that it can feel difficult prioritising optional and compulsory modules when there are the two big projects looming over them. They really had to develop a strong work ethic to not let the project interfere with the success of  their taught components.

Neither degree is more prestigious or preferred by employees. Both will ultimately teach you how to be a good researcher and analytical thinker with strong transferable skills. It really just boils down to which type will make it easier for you to achieve your best work and keep you interested.

 

 

Hunting for a Space

  

📥  Faculty of Science, Maeva, Postgraduate

Exam season is upon us. With barely a month between us and the start of exam week, we are all running around trying to find a place to take cover. The next few weeks for many of us master’s students will be spent on the constant look out for the perfect spot to sit and revise. Now at this particular time of the year, it can be harder than trying to find a parking space at midday. Though the student council is doing a great job of addressing the “overflowing Bath” issue, it is a slow moving process.  The increased number of students, both undergraduate and post-graduate has really put pressure on the university’s study space.

If you are anything like me, you sometimes need to get out of your bedroom to be really productive and eliminate distractions. There are only so many hours you sit in a house without feeling stir-crazy. If there is already a little spot on campus that is your go-to place during term time it may be necessary to consider other options during revision period as it may get taken. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself doing what I did last term, coming in to university earlier and earlier to claim my spot.

In anticipation for the stressfulness that trying to find free spaces can bring, I have listed a few suggestions.

1.) The library- Now before you roll your eyes at what seems to be the most obvious answer, hear me out.  The ground floor has recently been refurbished to optimise study spaces.  The new rectangle tables in level 2 allow more people to work on them and in early April, new and improved chairs will be coming in on all levels. Additional silent study spaces were created on level 5 as they are often in demand. These refurbishments were done in response to what the students requested for the revision period, so it would be worth checking it out.

2.)  4 West Café- My friends and I feel we may abuse our rights to sit in the café, as we can spend over 8 hours there a day, sharing only two purchased cups of tea between us. However, the atmosphere is great, if you like the low background noise to help you focus. Plus you can bring your own food in. There are several tables and a decent number of plug sockets allowing us to charge our laptops. The best thing about the café is being able to buy a quick pick-me-up hot drink, or nip across to Fresh to grab some food.

3.) The Graduate Centre- A room specifically designed for master’s students to socialise and study in. It can get quite busy at times, particularly at lunch, but there are a couple of extension leads and plenty of chairs. Revising here is ideal if you want a more laid-back atmosphere. The real perk is that its open really late and it gets pretty quiet from mid-afternoon.

4.) Booking a room- You are allowed to book a room up to two hours a day. This includes group study rooms dotted across campus. Now, if you’re organised, you can form a study group where each individual books a two hour time slot for the same room. This may not be practical as a daily revision method, but it can help on the day before an exam for example. You can book a room by going to the timetabling webpage-http://www.bath.ac.uk/timetable/roombookings.htm.

5.) Computer rooms on the 5th floor of the Chancellor building-These tend to be free in the late afternoon and can be a forgotten option. It is practical if you do not want to lug your laptop with you every day.

6.) Bath Central library- Well why not? It is very central, next to Waitrose, and it offers free wifi and quiet study areas. If you live in town this may be an interesting alternative. They also have free computers you can use, including a Quiet PC area which only needs to be booked in advance.

7.) Cafes in town- I sometimes like to get away from very academic settings to trick myself into thinking I’m not actually revising. So I take a quick bus trip into town and head over to a café I fancy that day, Bath has many to offer. One I particularly like is the Boston Tea Party café on Alfred Street near The Circus, not just because it does amazing gluten-free brownies. Like most cafes it has a fast and free wifi, and is a lot less crowded than the campus. Most places tend to not bother you if you purchase one item and stay there for hours, so might as well make the most of it. This is the student life after all.

I like to think that the first thing for a good study session is a calming environment, but what helps me stay calm varies from day to day. Hopefully at least one of these suggestions can help you find a place to work effectively in the coming weeks.

 

The importance of living it up and having a social life (even if you're a master’s student)

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📥  Faculty of Science, Maeva, Postgraduate

Panic.

Only four weeks into my master’s course and I can see it in the faces of my fellow peers. The moment when we ask “what have we gotten ourselves in to”? Surely choosing to do an undergraduate degree is one of the typical motions of life. Something expected. A master’s degree at one of the top universities in the country is not. The decision was pondered throughout third year or saved up for over a few years. There is no one else to blame but ourselves for thinking that an additional year of deadlines, exams and assessed public speaking would be a great idea.

We rant to our friends, vent to our personal tutor and toy with the idea of telling our parents that we have changed our minds. But it goes no further than that. The moment of panic passes. Mutual support from my peers have helped me get through the first term of my postgraduate degree.

Too often I get caught up in the daily stresses to enjoy my time at university where I am studying something I’m actually really passionate about. When that happens I know I need to slow down, take a break and grab a skinny late in the 4 West Café and dedicate all my attention to the latest gossip. Now that may not be how you like to spend time with your friends, but it is important to have a social base, even if it feels like it is unnecessary or pointless because you’re only here for a year. But a year is a very long time, regardless of how quickly it goes. Sometimes I get so worked up trying to achieve my best that I forget to take the time to breathe and appreciate all the perks student life has to offer and that will soon be gone.

As I live off campus like most master’s students, I like to make the most of my trips into uni and tend to stay for several hours. In a way it’s the best way to also maximise time with friends, as it always seems impossible to organise something off campus. We always break for lunch. By the time 12:30 rolls around we’ve had our eyes on the clock for the past hour and a half. The Calverton Rooms is our first port of call, though we have fun trying the different food venues.

After a big assessment hand-in day, my course mates and I regroup and go to the Student Union to grab a pint and try to not dwell on it too much. Though none of us are fans of pool, we do like to play ping-pong in the Plug. I think it’s really important to try and break up your day whilst on campus, and not only associate it as a place to do work. Have an annoyingly long gap between two lectures? Go to a gym class, partake in yoga or pilates. Hit the treadmill and sweat it out if it has been a really tough day.

My peers have made the most of the brilliant Graduate Centre Common Room. It’s an area in 4 West that can be used for studious work and more relaxing activities. There is a large collection of contemporary films on loan in the library, and an impromptu decision resulted in an early break from studying and watching Love Actually on the projector in the Graduate Centre in the weeks leading up to Christmas. We definitely bonded over the soppy romance and felt much better afterwards and we were able to attack our revision more positively the next day, because we had destressed.

Another thing to make sure to look out for are emails and messages on the TV screens. Yes, we do get inundated by tons of emails and half of them never seem relevant. However, sometimes there are great opportunities to have fun on and off campus. Make sure to take full advantage of those coffee mornings the PGBio society advertises weekly. Nothing says TGIF like tea and biscuits after a long hard week. It’s a great way to meet people doing different types of postgraduate degrees as I, myself, normally only see taught master’s students.

Events I went to this term include the Bath University carol service in the gorgeous Bath Abbey and the Science Showcase at The Edge and the PGBIO society Halloween party. The showcase was a particularly fun night of listening about a topic I am very familiar with, but and we can all agree a comedy cabaret is 100 times more entertaining than any lecture. I also made the time to attend the post-graduate welcome party in The Tub (top of the Student Union) at the start of term. Who says that post-graduate students can’t party and make use of those great SU prices and drink deals? Undergrads do not have monopoly on the fun in Bath. Letting my hair down and getting down with my friends quickly chases away any sense of worry. At least until the next morning.

I cannot stress enough the importance of making the most of your time. Set aside some free time for activities and socialising. All work and no play makes for a very dull student life and will quickly lead to you burning out and feeling demotivated. Your course mates or other students know exactly what you are going through and together you will go through the ups and downs of this crazy year. For the first time I consider myself an actual scientist. It has a lot to do with being surrounded by such like-minded people. Master’s are so specific and they require more passion than any previous stage of your education. The university offers numerous supporting services, but I find slowing down and chilling with friends the best remedy for most cases of the blues.