Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

Bath University Boat Club's Campaign at Head of the River Race 2016

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📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph, Second year

A little while ago I was lucky enough to travel to London with my Novice Rowers from the University Boat Club for their biggest race to date. The Thames riverside was packed for the annual Head of the River Race which attracts an array of clubs, schools, university teams and international crews. This year, as one of the Novice Men’s Captains, I have worked incredibly hard to get the Bath University Novice Rowers racing as much as possible and, despite the quality of the competition, the Head of the River Race in London was not to be an exception on our calendar. Collectively, thousands of hours of training had led up to this race, including tens of early morning sessions in the build up to the event. It was going to be make or break for my Novice Men and right from the off I was very proud indeed.

Having loaded the rowing boats onto the trailer in the early hours of Friday morning before heading to lectures, it was an early night for everyone prior to a very early departure to Putney on Saturday morning. The majority of us travelled by car to the capital city and were quick to unload and rig the boats in Putney along the side of the river. It is very rare to see so many rowers (let alone rowing boats) all in one place and it was an amazing experience for everyone involved.

Due to enormity of the event, the novice rowers were quick to boat on the Thames and ended up sat in boating queues for a huge amount of time. Although cold, this meant that they were fully immersed in the racing shortly after arriving and could focus solely on the job at hand – completing the course in as little time possible. The course, which is traditionally the reverse of the Oxford Cambridge boat race course, was their longest race of the entire calendar and hence was set to be gruelling! It wasn’t long before myself, as a captain, and all of the other spectators who had made the trek from Bath, set off towards Hammersmith Bridge to watch the event unfold.

The Novice crew in action

Once propped up along the railings of Hammersmith Bridge (which was very cramped due to the sheer numbers of people watching the race), it was time for racing to begin in earnest, with the fastest international crews being let off first. Senior University teams were quick to follow; Bath University Championship VIII being no exception. It was great to see the senior crews put in a strong performance and hold off arch rivals Bristol, over the length of the course.

Some of the crews taking part in the Head of the River Race 2016

It wasn’t long before both of my Novice crews made an appearance in the distance and everyone associated with Bath began screaming words of encouragement. Coming through the bridge, both teams looked incredibly strong with no obvious faults in technique or mechanical failure. This made the day even more exciting for everyone in London. It was the first time in years that Novice crews had raced the HORR course, let alone completed it with such confidence. I was incredibly proud and relieved to see that all of our hard work over the course of the year had paid off. All rowers came off the water with beaming smiles, although exhausted they had clearly enjoyed the experience and were delighted to have been part of such a prestigious sporting occasion.

Once warm and dry it was time to de-rig the boats and load them back up onto the trailer before making a speedy exit and heading home. We all made it back to Bath safe and sound, but most importantly, we made it home just in time for a team meal out in the city centre followed up by a round (or two) of well-earned drinks.

As the mad weekend of rowing and racing came to an end it was swiftly time to return to our studies on Monday morning. There’s never a dull moment in Bath! Having said this, it is impossible for rowing folk not to be excited about the hectic season of regatta racing coming up after exams. The summer cannot come quickly enough…

 

Open Days- things to do while visiting Bath

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📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

The season for open days is coming up! An open day can be really useful to help you decide which universities you want to apply to. You’ll be able to visit your subject department, learn more about the course, meet some of your future lecturers, and get an opportunity to explore the campus and accommodation.

While open days are often pretty busy with trying to cram in all the talks and events you want to attend and trying to see as much of the university as possible, it’s also a good idea to get a feel for the town or city that you’ll be living in for the next three or four years. While I haven’t been into the city centre on a regular basis during my first year at Bath, I’ll be living in the city next year and in my final year after I have completed my placement. That's twice as long as I’ll spend in my first year university accommodation, and so open days are a good opportunity to see what Bath has to offer. If you’ve got some time to kill before your train home after the open day, or if you will be spending the night in Bath, the city has some great places to explore.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey on a sunny day!

Bath Abbey on a sunny day!

One of the main attractions in Bath is the beautiful Bath Abbey. Entry is free (although they do ask for a small donation), and there’s a lot to see inside. When I visited the Abbey with my family (it’s a great thing to do when family and friends come to visit you in Bath) we spent ages reading the plaques and stone tablets of people who had been interred in the abbey and buried in the churchyard. People from all over the world have been buried there – I think we read nearly all of them! You can also go up the bell tower, and although they do charge (around £7), it offers amazing views of Bath. There are only certain times of day you can go up though so make sure you check in advance if this is something you want to do!

Museums

Hopefully you will visit Bath on a sunny day, but if not there are plenty of things to see and do indoors as well. Bath is famous for its link to Jane Austen, several of her novels are set here and she herself lived in Bath for part of her life. The Jane Austen Centre offers a wide range of information about her life, her family, and Bath society during the Regency period. The museum is situated in a house very like the one she would have lived in, and there are frequent talks and tours. There is also the chance to dress up in Regency period costume – something me and a friend enjoyed a lot when she came to visit me!

Trying my hand at old fashioned writing in the Jane Austen Centre

Trying my hand at old fashioned writing in the Jane Austen Centre

If, like us, you hadn’t had quite enough dressing up in the Jane Austen Centre you can also visit the Fashion Museum which has a really good exhibition of fashion from the 1700/1800s to modern day. Again, there is a whole room dedicated to dress up, this time with crinolines, corsets and a special backdrop so that you can take photos. The fashion museum is also free for Bath university students so it’s a good place to go when friends visit you at Uni.

Enjoying the Fashion Museum

Enjoying the Fashion Museum

You can find out more about the great museums in and around Bath here.

Walks

If the day you visit Bath is sunny then I would recommend either the Bath Skyline Walk or a gentle stroll alongside the River Avon. The Bath Skyline Walk is a round walk of around six miles that starts in the city centre, climbs to the top of the hill where you get amazing views of the city and then descends back down. The walk is accessible from the University campus – walking round the edge of the golf course just above the university you will soon find signs pointing you to the walk. If you prefer a walk more in the city there is a path that runs just alongside the river and gives you great views of the city.

Shopping and Eating

And last, but not least, what lots of people come to Bath for: shopping. Bath has an excellent range of shops- both chain high-street stores (Primark, H&M, Topshop, Zara etc.) and also many smaller boutiques and independent stores. Wandering round the shops is also a good way to get to know the city centre and to try out some of the great cafés and restaurants in Bath. If you’re looking for a light lunch or a snack I would recommend the Boston Tea Party (amazing lemon cake) and although I am still to try it, the world famous Sally Lunn’s is very popular as well.

Whatever your tastes you should be able to find something to see or do in Bath that suits you. I think that getting a feel for the town you are going to live in is as important as getting a feel for the university, so don’t pass up the opportunity to sample what Bath has to offer!

 

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.

 

 

Reality of doing research

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

Things don’t always work. I know I've mentioned this before, but it’s the truth!

This time last year, I was in the middle of trying to get a Western blot to work. A Western blot is a technique with which you can pick out a specific protein in a mixture of proteins, and as it involves various reagents and steps, some of which can be changed, there are quite a few things to tweak. I was changing this and that, trying it this way and that way, but nothing. When I finally got a signal, it was messy – lots of background “noise” – so I had to change the procedure bit by bit, and also change how I prepared my samples. Then the results were not showing any differences, so I then had to prepare samples from different time points. By changing things here and there, I got what I needed from the Western blots in the end. It was a rather tedious task, and took too long, but I made it through to the other side as it were!

Other experiments have been smoother, and others have been difficult like the Western. For example, initial polymerase chain reactions (PCRs) I did was generally fine, no huge problems, but when I started doing them again last autumn, I had contamination issues which proved to be tricky to solve. This was the case for real-time PCRs I did around that time too – took till Jan./Feb. till I got that sorted! So all in all this project was over two years of work, and I was so happy when I finished it all! – however, once you have a look at all the data and look at the story of the project, you’ll most likely have other experiments to do!

What I really want to say is, I think the hardest part of research is staying motivated; it's quite disheartening when you try everything you can think of, only to come out with nothing. It’s easy to lose motivation. So if you are currently in a similar situation, don’t be too disheartened – you’re not alone! I think that’s something important to keep in mind. It can feel like others are doing so much better than you, but please don’t compare yourself to others; probably the worst thing you can do if I'm honest! If you are concerned, talk to your supervisor - I'm sure it won’t be the first time they've encountered this.

How did I stay motivated? Well, I don’t think there is a “one-size-fits-all” approach here unfortunately! But I think the one thing that kept me going, particularly this time last year, is the fact that I wanted to find out the results. I wanted to know if what we thought was actually the case. However, this does not mean that I didn't have days when I was just distraught – I have cried a few times! I kept changing things in the experiments, and hoped that it worked. Essentially, I knew that I was not alone, and I knew that I had people I could talk to about this.

To people considering research/PhD; it is hard work, I won’t deny that. But at the same time it is rewarding, and I don’t regret going down this path at all, despite everything I've mentioned! It is also flexible, in that it doesn't matter when you work, which I like. And, you’ll be adding to existing knowledge, and possibly this could change things for the better – that is a big motivation for me, to think that one day the work I do may benefit people. Find what motivates you, and go for it!


 

Talking about exams

  

📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, First year, Ruth

So exams have finished which means my first year of university is over, let summer begin! I can’t believe I’m thinking about exams, let alone writing about them but I wanted to answer any questions that you may have about exam season at university.

I guess it all begins when you receive your exam timetable. Although you’ll know about your exams long before this (hopefully) this is when it suddenly seems real. The exam timetable informs you of the date, time and location of your exam enabling you to imagine it and panic! My course is predominantly coursework and therefore I didn’t even think about exams until the timetables were released.  I have only had one exam this summer but some of my flat mates have had five so the intensity of your exam period is totally dependent on your course.

I found this exam season incredibly different to A-levels in that you aren’t required to attend lessons or be around peers/teachers and therefore revision at university requires a huge amount of discipline! Consequently, I’d recommend making a revision plan before you even try to begin. Once lectures are over the whole of the university has one week set aside for revision and then a three week exam period. There is of course the choice to stay at university and revise or head home. Some people find that they can work better at home in their familiar environment however personally I get distracted too much at home and can’t even concentrate for more than 10 minutes (lesson learnt for next year!) Plus, there are so many places to revise at university which can help prevent insanity because I’ve found that variety is good.  Many people revise in their rooms or flats, others head to the library, some settle in the eateries and cafes and if the weather is nice you’ll see lots of students outside.

So the dreaded day has arrived and you’re about to sit your first exam either feeling prepared or a little under prepared. One thing that has taken a bit of getting used to are the 4:30pm exams, here at the University of Bath exams can either be at 9:30am, 1pm or 4:30pm. I don’t know about you but by 4:30 I’m done with the day and ready to curl up in bed with a hot chocolate and a film! Honestly, they’re the worst but at least for those who feel underprepared it does provide an extra bit of precious last -minute revision time. The exams are normally held in the main sports hall (Founders Hall) but when that is full other students sit their exams in lecture theatres or seminar rooms. Days pass and the same routine occurs: you wake up, you revise, you sit an exam, you sleep but eventually you walk out of your final exam and your summer starts then!

Relaxing in the sun with exams behind me!

Relaxing in the sun with exams behind me!

I have had the best time celebrating the end of my exams in Bath, there is so much to do and it is even better when the weather is nice. My favourite thing has been to grab a drink and sit by the lake if it is sunny. I’ve also enjoyed using the free time to explore Bath as a city, playing crazy golf in Victoria Park and taking a picnic to the royal crescent. Once the exam period is over the University holds a summer ball which includes a variety of music acts, a fair and street performers, as well as much more! It is a great way to celebrate the end of the year with your whole flat.

One final tip: if you’re lucky enough to finish exams early don’t celebrate too obviously in front of those you know who still have exams – it doesn’t go down too well!

 

An insight into Maths & Physics at Bath

  

📥  Eman, Faculty of Science

Maths & Physics at Bath is probably one of the smallest courses at the university, with around 35 students. When applying to university, I had trouble choosing a course as I didn’t particularly want to narrow my studies down to one specific field. Having had such a strong interest across many subjects at A-level, I didn’t want to have to settle for just one subject, hence why the Maths and Physics course grabbed my attention.

One of the things I particularly liked when researching the course was how there is more maths than physics involved. We study 3 modules of maths alongside 2 modules of physics. The straight maths course and the physics course each study 5 modules too but what I found was that my course has the best (well, in my opinion anyway) modules from each of those courses, which was a bonus. I don’t think I would change any of the modules I’ve studied so far for others.

In the first semester, the maths modules we studied were Analysis, Methods & Applications and Algebra, with the physics modules being Properties of Matter and Quantum Mechanics. In semester two, the maths modules stay the same but the physics modules change to Electricity & Magnetism and Waves, Vibrations & Optics instead.

Problem sheets galore!

Problem sheets galore!

What I didn’t expect when starting this course was how different the maths would be. With this I don’t mean the level of difficulty but how it was so different to the maths I was used to at school. After a while I thought I would never be able to grasp this style of maths, but it was also easy to forget that everyone else on my course was also experiencing this new style for the first time too. For me it took a while to get the hang of it all but once I did, I realised just like everything we’ve ever studied at school, it just takes practice to get used to.

The fact that the two physics modules I study each semester are topics I find extremely interesting, it made being able to understand university level physics much easier than I expected. Going into this course I expected there to be a massive jump from A-level physics, just as you would with any course really. The exam style questions were much easier to grasp compared to the maths exam questions, but the topics we study go into much more detail than what I had studied before.

Just to add to the already full on course but where would I be without their help?

Just to add to the already full on course but where would I be without their help?

Early on in the first semester is when you start to understand how much work you need to do for your degree. During that time I felt that it was really easy for me to fall behind on work at the end of the week and have a lot more to do over the weekend. Every course requires you to do some amount of work every day, but for me I found I needed to do more than I thought. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing though. I’m studying a course I really like and it was effortless to get into the routine of doing a fair amount of work each day.

I do think that as a whole, the Maths and Physics course is what I expected it to be. Like most people, there may have been doubts before starting university about whether I had chosen the right course for me, but I can definitely say I’ve made the right choice.

 

Staying organised at University!

  

📥  Charlotte (Sociology), Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, First year

Now, I don’t want to sound preachy, but staying organised at University is super important for staying on the ball, getting the most out of your degree and keeping on top of your work. I know, accuse me of sounding like your teachers but it’s true! Juggling your time, keeping up with your reading lists and question sheets at the University of Bath can be a daunting task, but providing you stay organised, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.

Thus far, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt whilst at University is about balance. Balance is a word that is thrown around a lot; whether about our food and lifestyle choices, school work or emotional balance; it’s really key when you’re a student. It’s important to balance having a happy and thriving social life, smashing your assignments and having some ‘time for you’! Some may even keep up a part-time job too so keeping organised and in control can really give you a leg up!

My first tip for staying organized at University is to get to-do-listing! Once you start, it’s hard to stop and whenever I lose or am without my weekly to-do list I feel a little scatty and lost. One of the best ways to keep tabs on what you need to get done is to jot down a list every Sunday evening for the week ahead.

Hopefully your to-do lists aren't as shoddy as this one (although, planning a day of 'nothing' can be very cathartic).

Hopefully your to-do lists aren't as shoddy as this one (although, planning a day of 'nothing' can be very cathartic).

You might want to split it into sections such as ‘Miscellaneous’, ‘Cleaning/Room’, ‘Assessments Due’, ‘Reading to Do’, ‘Events’ and go from there or you can bung everything together to get the ball rolling. Adding a tick box to each task just adds to the feeling of accomplishment when you blitz through your to-do list and get it all sussed and complete.

I like to add a reward for myself at the bottom of my lists; for example, coffee and a cake at the weekend at my favourite coffee shop or going to the cinema in town, a trip to Bristol or even just buying something that’s tickled my fancy in the shops. This is fab motivation, and I guarantee everything will be scratched off in no time! You’ll be feeling pretty smug and efficient also.

In prime position on my desk in Halls, this is where I jot down everything I need to do for the week. (I usually spill coffee on it by Wednesday!).

In prime position on my desk in Halls, this is where I jot down everything I need to do for the week. (I usually spill coffee on it by Wednesday!).

Another handy way to keep everything in order is to print out your timetable at the beginning of every week. At University, timetables can be subject to change every single week due to seminar locations, differing lengths of lectures and different events going on or even the addition of a ‘reading week’ to swot up before assignments. Pinning your timetable on your wall means that you only need a quick glance before you head out every day, and an overview of what’s going on throughout the week means you can plan around it. Highlighting where you need to be and when helps make this crystal clear.

Routine can be a handy thing at University. As dull as this may sound, getting things done in a certain way or on a certain day every week can help you out hugely. For example, maybe you could set Friday as your day to review the weeks' work and the day where you indulge in a movie as a treat for staying on top of everything. You might want to allocate an afternoon for errands and cleaning such as getting that blasted pile of laundry done, wiping down the shower or meeting your group for a forthcoming group assessment. A routine day to pop to the supermarket every week can be beneficial, and your family will be singing your praises if you make it a regular thing to contact them- this gives you and them something to look forward to and a catch-up with your nearest and dearest is always refreshing!

Having an organised work space when you’re doing work for lectures, seminars or language classes can be really helpful. Getting rid of that mountain of used teabags, the dried up pens scattered everywhere and the thousands of post-it notes can be a good way to clean up your desk and make it a good place to work. Sometimes having a cluttered area around you can make you feel a little rattled, so making sure that your desk and room is organised can help you feel less frazzled and more productive.

Another way to keep all your work organized is to buy an ‘in-tray’ for your desk or a shelf somewhere in your room. In here, you can keep all those pesky sheets that usually go missing and know that everything is in order if you need it: receipts, society membership confirmation, postcards from home, essay titles, revision notes, shopping lists and tickets for club nights can all be easily shoved in here and having them in one place means that you never have to experience that panic of losing an important document again.

Finally, a diary is a great investment when coming to University. When I got to the University I decided to snap up a diary and jotted down all forthcoming important dates such as when group presentations were, when I was booked to travel home, when the university Ski Trip was, when important talks and conferences were being held and when I had shifts at my part-time place of work.

Having a diary means that you don’t ever have that day-before panic when you remember that you’re due to meet your personal tutor, or there’s a great market on in town which you don’t want to miss. You can also remember the birthdays and anniversaries of people at home, and they’ll love that you’re not totally deserting them when you can send them a nice message on special days.

Keep organised! Although boring, it is a super way to keep on your toes and it’ll certainly pay off. I promise!

Charlotte.

 

Surviving the exam period at Bath!

  

📥  Charlotte (Sociology), Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, First year

Examinations. That dreaded, dreaded time of the year when students have to swap clubbing for revising, laughing for sobbing and their mojitos for coffee. Exam-season is never fun for anyone, but what’s different about university exams in contrast to exams in college or at Sixth Form is that at University, you’ve essentially opted for many of the modules you’re being examined in, and you’re studying a subject that is paving the path to your future.

Additionally, the University of Bath offers many subjects that are broadly assessed by coursework and independent study as opposed to formal examinations, which is handy for some and saves some of the typical exam stress.

Revision is tough, exams are draining but once they're over you'll be feeling proud of yourself and your accomplishments.

Revision is tough, exams are draining but once they're over you'll be feeling proud of yourself and your accomplishments.

The first way to survive examination time, and to keep your head above water (which is totally feasible at Bath; there’s tonnes of academic and pastoral support/help available. Peer mentors and peer tutors are delighted to lend a hand at all times!) is to keep organized. Making yourself a revision timetable or to-do lists can be really helpful for arranging what needs to be learnt, tested and re-capped and this allows you to feel in control and not scatty or flustered when it comes to revising for your exams. Organisation of your work area or desk is good shout too; clear surroundings = a clear mind.

Another way to keep on top of your game when it comes to exam time is to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. Instead of powering your brain with energy drinks, strawberry laces and endless cookies (yes, we’ve all got textbooks full of crumbs!) try and incorporate some fresh and wholesome foods into your diet as they’re great for brain power and general sprightly well-being. Oily fish is superb for memory, green tea is ace for concentration and a wealth of fruit and vegetables can be great for helping you to feel ‘on the ball’ and healthy (try popping to the shops in the evening when the prices of fresh produce are slashed!).

Drink lots of water, and try and stay active. Take frequent strolls around campus or where you live and still engage in sporty societies as this is great for release from intense studying. Socialising too is superb during mind-frazzling periods.

Another pointer to being top-dog during exams is to keep up a reward system, great for motivating you to get your metaphorical revision hat on and to supercharge your productivity. For example, why not allow yourself a coffee out or cinema trip after 10 hours of revision or a small ASOS splurge when you’ve revised and tested yourself on a whole module? Having something to look forward to, and a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is always helpful for zipping through all those case studies or equations.

When you’re revising for exams, make sure that you change up your revision styles a tad when they become dull or mundane. We all learn in different ways (to assess how your brain gathers and retains information take a simple ‘learning styles quiz’, easily found on Google) so will naturally revise in different manners. Some may opt for mind-maps, others may vouch for flashcards and some stick with Team Post-It-Notes-EVERYWHERE.

Making sure you prepare for your examinations in a variety of ways means that revision is less likely to become uninspiring and helps surge your creativity when putting pen to paper.

Another way to tackle feelings of stress or mental exhaustion when it comes to revising for exams is to take some time out and to focus on relaxation. Although there’s pressure to be constantly scribbling away, recalling facts and reciting key definitions; sometimes you’ll find that you can be more fruitful in your revision with frequent rest and breaks.

Using an app to meditate can be a great idea, as can doing a 20 minute yoga routine from YouTube or even just stopping fully to reflect, relax and recuperate at common points during the day. It’s also super important to ensure that you snatch at least 8 hours of sleep a night, and experts suggest that you should usually stop revision 2 to 3 hours before you snooze so all those key dates and statistics aren’t playing on your mind when it’s time to unwind.

Good Luck, there’s no doubt that using these tips you’ll smash your examinations!

Charlotte.

P.S Did you know that the Examinations Office at the University of Bath organises over 1000 exams for around 9000 students annually, which translates to over 70,000 candidate places in 60 different exam venues?! You have to hand it to them - they're good.

 

Adventures in the Netherlands

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📥  Faculty of Science, Postgraduate

I struggled for breath as my body was in free fall. Some people apparently hate this feeling when a plane descends. I loved it. It almost felt like the thrill of a roller coaster, and I was a kid again wishing it would take yet another dive. This plane was about to land in the Netherlands. For my CDT placement, I was going to do research there for six weeks with my project partner, Emma.

It was a quiet January night when we arrived in Nijmegen, a city near the Netherlands–Germany border. Our supervisor, Alix, welcomed us and showed the way to our apartment. She had a calm and thoughtful demeanour, just as I remembered over Skype when she briefed us on the project.

Emma and I were going to test a thermometer for use at temperatures below –200 °C. Weird things happen when stuff is this cold, one example being superfluidity [1]. Traditional thermometers measure expansion and contraction of mercury in a glass tube, whereas digital thermometers measure changes in electrical resistance across metals like platinum. Both types, classed as secondary thermometers, can be a problem for researchers: at low temperatures, they lose calibration. That’s why for our project, we were to test a primary thermometer which doesn’t need calibration. The catch? It takes over ten minutes for a single temperature measurement. This involves software plotting a conductance–voltage curve whose full width at half maximum is directly proportional to temperature via known constants. Despite long measurement times, primary thermometers are worthwhile for researchers needing reliable results in low-temperature physics.

When we reached our apartment, the lab where we’d be working was close enough to be seen out the window. How convenient. It took only a few minutes to walk there, but it felt like going through a freezer. The sharp difference in temperature between well-heated buildings and outside made even Alix grumble.

image1

[View from the 7th floor of our guesthouse apartment in Nijmegen, Netherlands. We worked in the High-Field Magnet Laboratory (HFML) seen on the right with curved architecture.]

The lab itself was the High-Field Magnet Laboratory (HFML) where magnetic fields up to 37.5 Tesla can be reached; for comparison, a fridge magnet has a strength of 0.005 Tesla. Magnetic fields are often used in low-temperature experiments to reveal more information about samples like a magnifying glass. The downside is that magnetic fields affect thermometers so they need to be monitored and accounted for when calculating temperature. It turns out that unlike other primary thermometers, the specific type we were to test—a Coulomb blockade thermometer—was expected to be independent of magnetic fields. Confirming this would be useful for researchers in the HFML.

Everyone in the HFML was friendly and supportive. Ineke helped us settle in and was a joy to be around, and Olga went out of her busy way to help us when needed. We couldn’t be more grateful. Someone I admired, Inge, whistled and strolled around the lab as if she had springs in her steps. She’s a confident person, able to fully express herself with infectiously enthusiastic body language. Another researcher, Laurens, noticed Emma’s lip ring.

“Do you have piercings in other parts of your body?”
Emma let out a big smile and confirmed his curiosity.
“That’s all I needed to know."

Cycling is the norm in the Netherlands, so we borrowed bikes to explore Nijmegen. The trouble was that I hadn’t ridden a bike for over a decade. It had been many years for Emma, too. Unsurprisingly, we had a rough start when riding again. Emma fell and scraped her knee. If she felt embarrassed, that soon disappeared with what happened to me in the hours ahead.

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[Bikes parked outside Nijmegen train station. There are more levels below ground, and this is a typical sight in the Netherlands.]

While crossing the road, I almost got run over by cars. It was my fault, though. I was so focused on trying to ride in a straight line that I forgot traffic goes in the opposite direction here. And yes, I should have looked both ways, but learning to ride a bike again in foreign land threw me off big time. Along not-so-straight lines, we continued onwards to the city centre. “We came all this way to another country and the first store we go into is Primark?” I saw the irony that Emma was referring to, but we needed towels and knew Primark would sell them. After exploring the city centre, we returned to our bikes parked beside an overflowing bike rack. I managed to topple over an entire row. The bikes fell like dominoes. Paralysed to react, I could only watch, but onlookers generously helped me pick them up afterwards. At least on our ride back to the apartment, I finally saw someone looking shaky with eyes down on her front wheel.

"Emma, look, someone else is learning to ride too!"
"Aye, but she's half our age.”

Back in the HFML, reaching low temperatures for our thermometer involved putting it in a cryostat. This was a freezer cooled by liquid nitrogen and liquid helium. We glued the thermometer onto a 2 m long metal rod—a probe—to be placed inside the cryostat, and then soldered wiring to connect the thermometer to a computer where measurements can be read. Emma and I did our best to get it all working, but we would later find that this wasn’t enough.

image3

[Cylindrical cryostat supported by a triangular structure and attached to a liquid helium vessel. Cables connected the thermometer to a computer where temperature measurements can be read.]

On one weekend, we crossed the border to the German city of Düsseldorf. It was like little Japan, so we went to Okinii, an all-we-can-eat Japanese restaurant. Emma showed me how to use chopsticks, but I could have downed more food if I had practice beforehand. We also had drinks at a restaurant 170 m high in the Rhine Tower. Seeing Düsseldorf from up there was most memorable, even if Emma hadn’t shattered her glass by accidentally pushing it off the table. When evening settled, we stopped by a street drummer called Oded Kafri [2]. As an introvert, I find it difficult to connect with others, yet here was a person who used music and theatrics to connect with and entertain the crowd. I was inspired.

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[Rhine Tower (Rheinturm) is the tallest building in Düsseldorf, Germany. It’s 240.5 m high with an observation deck and restaurant at 170 m.]

"All hopes and dreams have been shattered", Emma wrote in her lab book. Dramatic, but it's how we felt when seeing a dozen wires had snapped from disconnecting our stubborn probe. It wasn't the first nor last time that snapping wires stopped our progress. Experimental physics was showing us no mercy. Eventually, with practice and patience, snapping wires no longer troubled us. However, the software didn't plot conductance–voltage curves correctly but instead gave scattered data points. This lasted for weeks. Having ruled out experimental errors, we could only conclude that there was something broken inside the thermometer. Alix’s plan was to contact the manufacturer for assistance and possibly get a replacement, but we wouldn’t be around to see the conclusion. Our time in the Netherlands had come to an end. Hopefully, Alix doesn’t have as much trouble when working on the thermometer herself.

It seems that progress can make the difference between a frustrating project and a fulfilling one. Although our project was the former, Alix was sympathetic and reassured us that these things happen. Sometimes, things are beyond our control. We may not have achieved much research-wise, but that doesn't mean the CDT placement wasn’t worthwhile. Far from it.


[1] More about superfluidity and our CDT in my previous blog here.
[2] Feel free to search for Oded Kafri on YouTube!

Second Year Mouse Project

  

📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph, Second year

Semester 2 for the Department of Engineering at the University of Bath was always going to be busy, but I never expected it to be quite as varied and exciting as it has turned out to be!

At the start of this semester all of the Electrical engineers and all of the integrated IMEE engineers were given a basic ‘mouse’ chassis and told ‘go’! The challenge for us was made very simple- in groups specified by the department, we were to design and build a mouse to follow an electronic track by any means possible. Although the end result may sound fairly mundane, the circuitry required was fairly complex and, as always, having a developed understanding of the underlying theory really helped.

The nature of the task meant that, as a group, we were going to need to spend hundreds of hours in the labs as well as a long time discussing the theory that underpinned our whole design. I really enjoy the group work that is carried out within the department at Bath because, more often than not, you are able to work with people you haven’t ever worked with before and learn about things that you may never have considered if working alone.

Our (unfinished) mouse!

Spending hours and hours soldering and testing circuits in the laboratory spaces may be frustrating from time to time but there is no better feeling than when your circuit works well and reliably, week in, week out. Moreover, the work ethic required has imposed an impressive nine-to-five approach to the degree course. I’ve never seen so many people working so hard all at once. Not only is this really good practice for the real world and placement year, but it means that everybody can work really efficiently in the day, with fewer lectures breaking up proceedings. Likewise, given my busy schedule with the rowing captaincy, as well as all of the other academic work that I am immersed in this semester, the nine-to-five schedule works very well indeed.

Although the mouse project is one of the most exciting things that the IMEEs are doing this year, there is always lots of breadth to the IMEE course. Yet again I have really enjoyed a modelling assignment that we were given. For this assignment we all had to model the heat transfer through a tile on a space shuttle. Although this was daunting at first, with lots of theory work required, the fact that the situation could be related to a real world example meant that it was very interesting indeed. In fact, it was very easy to get distracted by all of the background reading and forget completely about the programming at hand.

The race track with a completed mouse in situ

The race track with a completed mouse in situ

On the whole, as we come into the final few weeks of the year, let alone the semester, everything is speeding up and everyone is feeling extremely busy. There is a fantastic energy about campus as everyone makes sure that things get finished ahead of revision week. For me personally, although nervous about the mouse challenge race day in the final week, I have worked hard to get all of my other reports done so that I can really enjoy my time at Bath in the last few weeks and focus solely upon my beloved mouse!

As you may well know, my life at Bath is made up of two fundamental chunks; my time within the engineering department and my time at the boathouse. Although I am forever busy with my course, being such a big part of rowing this year has helped me unwind at the weekends and gives another purpose for my time at university. Not only is my course ramping up as the end of term approaches but so too is rowing with regatta season just kicking off. All in all, this means I have to endure lots of early mornings and a regular 4.50AM alarm clock. Although miserable at times, early mornings on the river (especially in the sunshine) are often a great way to refresh and energise before a day in the labs on campus. I just hope the sun keeps shining and the rain stays away!