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Life as a student in Bath

Tagged: Lectures and study

Transitioning from Physics A-Level to University level

  

📥  Undergraduate

The idea about progressing your studies into higher education can be daunting and is usually surrounded by a thick cloud of misconceptions and, primarily, frantic searching for information on student forums. With this post I aim to clear up the main misconceptions around this transition and hopefully give some insight and clarity to prospective Physics students.

1. You might not want to pack up that entire stack of Physics textbooks and notes.

The great thing about starting a new Physics module at university is that at the beginning of the course students are taken through the basics . This is to account for the fact the student demographic will be a diverse mixture of people with all kinds of scientific and education backgrounds. So, while some of the material taught might seem redundant and obvious coming from an A-Level student perspective, it could be entirely new information for a significant percentage of students. Moreover, the majority of the groundwork was taught and given to us in the notes, provided by the lecturers. Due to this I found myself to personally have no use of the A-Level textbooks and notes I brought along with me. This could, of course, be different from person to person, given the fact there are numerous exam boards and individual learning styles.

Vibrations and waves handout (provided by lecturer) and my notes

2. Shift of teaching dynamic.

The way you are taught will obviously change as you progress onto university. But not by much. Although daunting at first, I found the lectures were comparable to your average A-Level lesson. The lecturers are very approachable in the way they create an interactive atmosphere. Students can ask questions and/or seek further explanation at any time during lectures.

My notes on the Properties of Matter module, which we learn during the first semester of study

There’s also the option to talk to the lecturer after the lecture or outside of teaching time, i.e. visiting them during office hours or revision sessions. It is easy to assume that you’ll receive little to no one-to-one attention for help with assignments and problems. Speaking from my experience with the University of Bath Physics Department, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only do lecturers provide constant opportunities for support throughout the course, you also have a personal tutor with whom you meet at least once a week in a group. Moreover, there are more support systems in place, such as peer mentors and peer-assisted learning sessions.

3. You will need to step up your individual study game.

It’s an obvious fact that your studies will become exponentially more independent, but I’m here to explain just by how much. The biggest difference at university is that you don’t really receive prep/homework. What you do receive are problem sheets with no specific deadline, except maybe for the day the problems class regarding those questions is held. It is basically your responsibility to find time in your day to sit down and do those problems, and preferably not the day before your exam! So, although there is a well-built support framework set out for students, it is up to the student how big of an advantage of all of the resources available they’ll take.

4. Practical work

Probably the biggest change I had to adapt to- the laboratory work. This could of course have to do with the new lab atmosphere, but that is a factor in adapting to any new place. Within these lab sessions, typically 3 hours long, you are given a lot of responsibilities. Firstly, the safety of yourself and those surrounding you (i.e. don’t poke the cool-looking equipment) and secondly, having to adapt to brand new material, equipment, techniques and gathering data all within a set timeframe. Don’t let that come as a scare, because you are given a set of detailed instructions/background information and there are very friendly and attentive lab support staff. You will find yourself using some methods and knowledge covered at A-Levels, but you will mostly be building upon them. For example, you will learn new graphing methods, how to use other types of graphing paper, how to make more effective and efficient measurements, new types of data analysis, etc. You will also be faced with the challenge of starting to learn to do wordy writeups of those experiments, especially when it comes to doing your first lab project. But again, there’s a strong support framework set for tasks like this.

To summarize, although adaptation time may vary from student to student, you won’t be alone in this transition. You will be surrounded by fellow freshers in the same position as yourself and, speaking for the University of Bath facilities, with access to a support system all through your studies.

 

Chemistry: To BSc or not to BSc?

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📥  Faculty of Science, Undergraduate

Sweet – you’ve chosen to study Chemistry at the University of Bath! Great choice, but now comes another decision. Do you choose to follow the MChem course or the BSc course? What the heck is the difference? Which one will suit you? Does it even matter?

I’m Freya, and I’m a fourth year MChem student. When I was applying to study Chemistry, I didn’t have a clue which degree course to follow. I settled on the MChem route on the basis that, assuming I did an industrial placement, I’d (hopefully) graduate after four years with a Master’s degree instead of graduating after four years with a Bachelor’s. This blog post was not written to sway you one way or another, but to lay the Chemistry cards on the table and allow you to assess what is best for you.

Let’s start with your first two years at Bath - you won’t see any difference between BSc students and MChem students at this stage. There will be differences if you study Chemistry with Management or Drug Discovery, but BSc students and MChem students will be as mixed together as two ideal gases in a closed system. You will attend the same lectures and help each other out with the same labs, rock up to the same tutorials and endure the same exams. But things will change come third year, so I’d recommend working out what’s going on before then!

Let’s talk BSc. This is your solid, old-fashioned, Bachelor of Science. It can be followed as a three-year course in Bath, or a four-year course with a sandwich year in industry/year abroad at a partner university. Final year is final year, whether you choose to take a sandwich year or not. What this means is that when you return to the university for your fourth and final year, you will follow the same course of study as a third year BSc student who did not choose to undertake a placement/study abroad.

I’ll use an industrial placement as an example, but the same applies to the study year abroad. You will not receive a grade for your sandwich year, but you will have to pass the year to proceed to your final year. This essentially means a year out from formal assessment and the opportunity to earn a bit of money or explore a new culture without the exam stress (dreamy). It will be accredited on your exam certificate though, so employers will know that you have got this experience. What this does mean is that you’ll gain a BSc in four years instead of three, so it depends how keen you are to escape the education system!

Having spoken to BSc friends, the unique selling point of the program is the freedom you get to tailor the final year to your personal interests. You’re able to select between different Chemistry modules in both semester one and two, as well as modules from management, education, or the foreign language centre. You also have an abundance of options regarding your final year project; you can work in the lab, you can do a public outreach project, you can do a case study in a school – you’re the one in control!

Now let’s talk MChem. As I said, everything until the end of year two is followed exactly the same as your BSc colleagues. MChem students can either do four straight years at Bath, or four years including an industrial placement or a year abroad. The main difference between you and your BSc pals is that you will have to complete distance learning during your sandwich year, and they won’t. I don’t blame you for recoiling in horror at the thought of having to study after a long day at work – it isn’t the most pleasant notion. However, your time is your own and you’ll graduate after four years with a Master’s degree, saving yourself an extra year of study and student debt. You will take two exams in the summer before final year; one distance learning exam, and one general chemistry exam (a multiple-choice test on first and second year content). Combined with a placement report, your supervisor’s report, and some coursework, you’ll get an accredited year towards your MChem.

In your final year of MChem, you will have no choice in the modules you study in semester one. In semester two however, you’ll have 100% freedom of choice, as long as you stay within the listed chemistry units available. The main block of the year will be spent on a research project, working for a member of staff in the department. You won’t have as much choice as your BSc counterparts, but you will choose your project and you will become a member of a research group.

They were the hardcore facts and figures, now for some advice:

  • If you want to do a Master’s, I’d suggest doing it as part of a placement program. You’ll pay £1800 for your placement year instead of £9000 being at Bath. You’ll probably get paid, and (this goes without saying but) you will broaden your horizons.
  • If you choose an MChem with a study year abroad, you will be expected to pass exams at your host university and complete the distance learning for Bath. Although the grades at your host university won’t count towards your mark, it’s worth considering the potential workload.
  • If you are undecided where you want to go after your degree, it might be worth doing a BSc. You can only do a non-lab-based placement if you are on the BSc course, which opens up areas such as education, marketing, and management.
  • You can switch between the two courses. Please don’t see this as a no-wiggle-room commitment! Focus on your application for Chemistry, and work out the BSc/MChem details later! I think you need to have a 55% average in order to switch from the BSc to the MChem at the end of the second year, but switching is no problem at all.

I’ve tried to encompass the strengths and downsides of both courses, but I’m bound to have missed something. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to know more. Whatever you choose is not set in stone, and you’ll soon get a feel of what is right for you. To BSc or not to BSc? Indeed, that is the question.

 

What it’s like to study civil engineering at Bath: an update from my first semester

  

📥  Faculty of Engineering, Undergraduate

One of the main reasons that I came to study at the University of Bath was the quality of the teaching and the content of the course. The course at Bath is heavily design focused compared to other universities – though this is the case you don’t necessarily need to be good at drawing (as I’m certainly not), but being able to communicate well through sketching is important. This is something that can be practiced though, so don’t let it put you off applying.

For the first semester the architecture and civil engineering students get taught the same units for everything except geology – I think I’m right in saying there is no other university in the UK with a joint architecture and civil engineering department. It’s also interesting to see how both groups differ in their approach to solving problems and to understand each other’s point of view when designing – one favours architectural beauty and the other structural stability. As the two professions are closely related, it's beneficial to learn how to better work together in preparation for future careers- something that is a key feature of the course at Bath.

Our first main project was a unit called Design Studio, and the brief was to design a place to sit that exemplified the theme “floating” in some way using all the materials that we were given. Initially we were randomly allocated into groups of 5/6 and instructed to design a 1:10 model of our proposed chair. This process involved purchasing card, paper, string and balsa wood that was used to represent OSB, canvas, rope and softwood rods and creating small scale models. We probably made over 20 models before we settled on a design to focus on – modelling really helps to see how the chair will work physically and can convey ideas a lot better than drawings.

After the 2 weeks we had a “crit” which involved our model being critiqued by some of the lecturers, who gave us lots of good feedback. Shortly before it we were told we had to make the model at a 1:1 scale using the real materials – so it changed our perspective on things knowing it had to hold someone’s weight. In 4 weeks we had to make changes to the design to improve it structurally and aesthetically and then physically construct it alongside creating a design report. We split the workload between all of us according to our strengths – for example the architects did the drawings for the design report and those who had done DT at A-level did a lot of the construction.

Our final model for the first crit

Overall the project was very enjoyable and a great learning experience, but it was also tough at points. Agreeing how to proceed with design decisions and where to make compromises took a long time and it was difficult to make everyone happy. However, it gave us the invaluable experience of working in a multi-disciplinary team on an interesting and challenging task, something I am very thankful to have done (this wasn’t the case at certain points in the project!) Despite the struggles, the outcome was much better than I expected. At the final crit the lecturers loved our concept and the execution of the construction which gave us a nice end to the project.

Our finished structure

Another interesting unit we do is called Structures 1A. We learn about where and how forces act on structural elements in a building to keep it all in equilibrium and which materials are used to optimise performance in a building taking in to account cost, life expectancy, and lots of other things. Not only do we look at successful examples, but we also study why certain structures fail - whether it’s down to poor design of a connection or certain materials being put under extreme conditions which have not been accounted for in the planning. Making sure these mistakes are not repeated is key for any engineer.

To start with, the teaching was at a very basic level covering concepts like stress, strain and mechanical equilibrium which are taught at A-level physics. This is done to get everyone onto the same level as some people might not have taken physics or have forgotten that stuff. The teaching isn’t all lectures; we have tutorials where specific questions can be asked based on questions we’ve been assigned, and we have laboratory sessions to support the material taught in lectures. These lab sessions have involved us compressing concrete until it breaks and putting steel rods under tension until they snap. They help to understand the concepts taught in the lectures and show what it takes to break materials we would typically deem as being very strong.

The remnants of the broken concrete blocks

All in all, the start to my civil engineering course has been thoroughly enjoyable and has made me excited for the rest of my time here – we will see if my enthusiasm for it lasts!

 

First year Pharmacy course and assessment

  

📥  Faculty of Science, Undergraduate

I wanted to write about what the first year of pharmacy involves (the content and modules), how it is assessed and what that is actually like. I am the second year of the new course and when I was researching universities Bath was still operating its older course so it wasn’t set in stone what was to be included. I think it would be helpful to know what sort of knowledge the course includes. There are 5 modules- Healthy Body 1 and 2 (Biology), Molecules to Medicines 1 and 2 (Chemistry) and Preparing for Professional Practice. You can find more info about these modules here. Each are 12 credit modules and you have to pass all of them and there are some other requirements. First year doesn’t count towards the degree mark, however you do have to pass everything to progress to the second year, so if you fail something you have to retake it in the summer. In addition to the exams for each of the modules there are is also a Pharmaceutical calculations exam- doing calculations such as working out doses and how many grams are in a certain amount of a cream for example, which has a 70% pass mark and you have to pass to progress.

My modules for the first 2 years

There are also two observed structured clinical examinations (OSCEs) in first year, both of which you must pass. The learning for these comes under a mixture of the Healthy body and Preparing for Professional Practice modules. These test how well you can communicate with a patient to find out what is wrong and then give them the right treatment, using clinical knowledge and also knowledge of products and of consultation skill models. To be honest when I heard about these I thought that’s good as I am good at talking, but it is a bit harder than that. You have to learn to a certain extent the Calgary Cambridge model of consultation skills and know the right questions to ask in the right order, checking for any red flag dangerous symptoms. You also have to be able to listen to the symptoms and work out what is wrong with the patient and make sure you get enough medical history, then summarise and give them the right treatment while ensuring you are empathetic and provide good non-verbal communication.

Some of the conditions you cover in first year include cough, cold, flu, hayfever, and sore throat. You sit in a little room with a lecturer and they pretend to be a patient with one of these conditions, and you ask questions and find out what is wrong and offer an appropriate treatment e.g. with chesty cough mixture giving them choices, e.g. drowsy or non-drowsy or children’s depending when their problem is what they are doing, their age. The other consultation is again with a lecturer or someone who role plays a patient who has been given a prescription for, or wants help with, a few different types of inhalers or a peak flow meter for asthma. You talk to them about the device and teach them how to use it properly, checking that they understood. If you fail one you have to retake both, although most people pass as long as you have practised (I did it over Skype with my boyfriend and family and with a flatmate) and have learnt symptoms, treatments and how to use the devices. You also get workshops to help you learn and which provide valuable practice.

The two Healthy body units include things such as DNA transcription, translation, nervous system, cells, microbiology, metabolism, endocrinology, heart, lungs, liver, health psychology- changing behaviours, and much more! Each unit has a 3-hour exam and 60% is multiple choice (with 20% scaling so 20% of your mark is taken off to allow for random guessing). The rest are short answer questions , and typically you can choose four questions from a choice of six. In the first semester we had quite a few 2 hour practicals- for example doing a microbiology practical followed by write ups including data analysis.

The two medicines to molecules units included topics like organic chemistry, bonding, amino acids, shapes and molecular structure, biochemical reactions, drug design, kinetics, pharmacokinetics, acid-base, absorption, analysis and drug development process. These are also 3 hours long exams consisting of some multiple choice questions (some of the patients were Harry Potter characters!) and some short answer questions. We had 3 hour practicals once a week for most of the second semester practising analysis, which was quite interesting, and we also did a practical data analysis which counted for 10% of our second molecules to medicine unit.

The final unit is the preparing for professional practice unit where we learnt things like roles of pharmacists in different departments, different pharmacist skills, ethics, pharmacy law, and evidence based practice which covers how to write continuous professional development entries reflecting what you have learnt. We also practiced dispensing and have worked on two problem based learning projects- a presentation about what to say to a parent of a child with a cough and a summer safety campaign) in our tutor groups which count towards the module as well as an essay. We also have a pharmaceutical calculations exam which is not part of this unit but it is compulsory to pass it 70% for the year which is a mixture of multiple choice and short answer calculations.

 

An overview of first year psychology

  

📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Undergraduate

Despite it being only March there are actually only a few weeks left of first year. This is a bit daunting; ‘it’s fine, this year doesn’t count’ has been pretty much my mantra for approaching every deadline. Whilst my only exam this year isn’t until the end of May, the Easter break is just a few weeks away, and after that there are only 2 weeks left of teaching. It has flown by! It’s so crazy to think that just a few months ago my flatmates were strangers and that I thought I’d never learn my way around campus, but here we are! I’m enjoying university so much more than I expected and am already sad about not seeing my friends over the summer!

Before arriving I had very little knowledge of the psychology course. I signed up for the 4 year course which includes a year long placement during the third year. And this was pretty much all I knew… oops. The psychology course has about 180 people on it, most of which are girls. I went to an all girls school so this just felt like the norm for me!

The course is split into different modules, and the year is split into two semesters. During both semesters some modules are the same, these are Mind and Behaviour, Controversies in Psychology, and Quantitative Research Methods (I’ll explain what these are later!). As well as these, we had Applying Psychology in Semester one, as well as one optional module. We chose these at the start of the year, and I pretty much chose based on the unit names. There was a range to choose from, from sociology, education, a language module etc., and I went for Being a Psychologist during first semester and Psychological Skills during second. In second semester Applying Psychology was replaced by Research Methods and Design, and for those of us doing the placement degree we also had a weekly lecture about this.

This is probably a lot to take in and sounds a bit confusing, but I will explain it as it’s actually very simple. Nearly all of our contact hours take the form of lectures which have everyone on the course present. For Mind and Behaviour we also have people from other courses there, too, which is pretty cool as one of my flatmates studies Psychology with Education and so she’s in the lecture with us. The exception to the lecture format is Controversies in Psychology, which is a seminar. We have these for one hour a week and we’re split into seminar groups of about 13. We also occasionally have labs to do practical work, and the course is split into two groups for these. Lectures vary from 1 to 3 hours, though the majority are 2. My attention span is not great so I’m always very grateful for a break after each hour (which usually involves a snack…) The optional modules are a lot smaller too, and I think both of mine have probably had about 30 people in.

I thought I’d give a little description of each module! They are all compulsory apart from the optional module, but luckily they’ve all been really interesting and not too intense! Mind and Behaviour is essentially an introduction or overview to studying psychology at degree level. We’ve covered loads of different aspects, like memory, development, sleep, and consciousness. The lecturer, Ian Fairholm, is amazing, and the lectures are always engaging and cover a range of content. If you’ve studied psychology at A Level or IB you might recognise some of the content from that, but it’s not all of it, and if you haven’t it doesn’t matter either! But it’s nice sometimes to recognise the name of a study, nice to get some clarification that my brain still actually functions… This is the module which our summer exam is based on (it’s so nice only having one) and it’s multiple choice! What’s not to love, really?

I definitely didn't make as many notes for my exam as my flatmate did for his...

I definitely didn't make as many notes for my exam as my flatmate did for his...

Controversies in Psychology is, like I said, the seminar. We cover a range of stuff, and because of the small group size it’s a good place to ask questions and it’s quite guided. We wrote an essay during first semester and did a group presentation, and this semester we did an online debate, another group presentation and we’re currently working on an essay. There isn’t a theme as such for this module but we’ve covered a broad range of content and there’s a lot of opportunities to engage with other members of the group.

Quantitative Research Methods is probably the module I find most difficult. But my grades have actually been okay for it (Touch wood!). I’m not sure if it’s just a confidence thing, but this is the module where we face the dreaded stats. I didn’t do maths after GCSE and my parents were very worried I’d struggle with it at uni, but what I didn’t realise was that we only have to do statistical tests online using special software, and it’s very well explained and talked through, so it’s really not that bad. The lab sessions are SO useful. We learned a lot about knowing which statistical tests to use for data, which I covered briefly at A Level, but I feel like I understand it a lot more now. We’ve done 3 lab reports, which involve carrying out an experiment in class and writing it up. I find these challenging but nothing beats the feeling when you hand one in! This semester we are working on a research proposal, which essentially involves planning an experiment and I’m finding that really interesting which is good! We’ve even planned and carried out our own experiments in groups which has been so good- it’s really nice to do hands on work so early in the degree.

Applying Psychology was the module which we had our January exam on. This was an interesting module last semester, which involved hearing about different areas of psychology. We covered loads, including clinical psychology, organisational psychology, social psychology… The list goes on. It was good to learn about how broad the subject was, and the lectures even gave an insight into how to go into each area in the study. The exam was essay based and as much as I hate exams it really wasn’t too bad!

When facing a lot of deadlines I like to retreat to the coffee shops in town

When facing a lot of deadlines I like to retreat to the coffee shops in town

Being a Psychologist was my final module of Semester One. I wasn’t really sure what I had signed up for but I really enjoyed it! Each week someone from a different area of psychology came in and discussed how they got into the area they worked in and then gave a detailed description of some research which they had carried out. We wrote 2 essays for this module, one of which was a summary of one of the pieces of research, and the other comparing the methods used by 2 different psychologists. The module gave an insight into quite how diverse psychology is and it was really interesting! I don’t know what the other optional modules were like but I really enjoyed this one.

My optional module during second semester is Psychological Skills, which so far has been great. We’ve had a mixture of lectures and workshops about different areas of psychology. These have varied massively from risk assessment to reflective writing skills to mindfulness. We’ve written an essay on our experience preparing for the January exam and it’s been a really practical unit as we’ve learned skills which will help us with future exams and study! Would definitely recommend.

The final module is Research Methods and Design. I love research methods!!! Which I think is quite odd, as a lot of people regard it similarly to stats. But I love it! I really liked this topic at A Level and we’ve done it in more detail now, studying different data collection techniques like questionnaires, interviews and focus groups, practiced carrying them out, and during our research proposal we essentially plan a study based on gaps in current research. This is quite challenging but the topic area is so useful that I’ve ended up doing extra reading purely out of interest!

Reflecting on the year like this makes me feel like I’ve done loads… which is so weird because I spent so much of first semester in bed! The course is so varied and interesting that I haven’t got bored of a particular area, and whilst I want to go into clinical psychology this has given me a much better understanding of what other careers are available to me. We’ve had a lot of support- we can email questions to our lecturers and we have forums set up for each assignment where we can publicly post questions which has been sooo useful. Whilst I’ve had many late night panics in the library (who hasn’t?!) I honestly love the course and can’t wait for the next few years!

Laura x

 

Getting into the flow: essays, reports, and the struggle to concentrate

  

📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Undergraduate

I am in my 6th week of university. One assessed essay behind me, two reports due next week, two group presentations to perform, more assessments to come and unfortunately, I’d say I have not yet got into the flow of work. It’s difficult, here at university, to get anything done. Whenever you manage to sit yourself at your desk with the laptop open on an empty Word document, and begin typing, someone is bound to knock on your door asking for a chat. How can I say no? It’s rude; isn’t it?

Psychology is a demanding subject. Unlike other sciences at Bath, 70% of the assessments are coursework which makes for a productive year and a lovely, relaxing exam season. I’m not used to this. After dropping AS Drama at the end of year 12, I only had two pieces of coursework to complete. One for Biology and one for Chemistry. This meant the effort I put into studying was a bit unevenly distributed. Have a look at this chart I drew while procrastinating the next paragraph of this blog post:

My year 13 'effort over time' graph

My year 13 'effort over time' graph

As you can see, my studying habits (if they can be called habits at all) are a bit inconsistent. I work when I need to work, but this isn’t sustainable! The amount of coursework I need to complete means that I need to be working all the time and not just three times a year. It’s time for a change.

After spending a good half an hour googling “How to be more productive?”, “How to stop procrastinating?”, and “Why am I so god damn lazy?” I reached the conclusion that googling the answers to my issue was counterproductive, and was only contributing to the problem. What I had to do was block out all distractions and just get on with it. I locked the door and then, after a second thought, I unlocked it again because I figured out the key to stopping my pestering house mates. After some scribbling and taping, I stood in awe of my solution. All I needed this entire time was a sign:

My sign to deter potential distractors

My sign to deter potential distractors

My house mates, of course, decided to deface it:

My sign, defaced by flatmates

My sign, defaced by flatmates

Nevertheless, my plan worked. I was left alone to do work. Great. With my ear phones in, blocking any outside noises, a jug of water by my side (because hydration is key) and a new determination to just get on with it, I got more done in an hour that I got done all week. I realized the secret to productivity was never a secret. Get on with it. “Just do it.” like Nike says. After a while, just doing it, will become your habit and after it becomes your habit, it’ll only get easier.
The only issue left was the issue of distractions. Sign or no sign, sometimes my house is impossible to work in. The temptation to go downstairs to goof around is a little bit too strong. Those days I need a plan B or a plan B, C and D, so I can mix it up and prevent studying from getting too boring.

Plan B

The Lime Tree – The Lime tree is a bar, café and food court. It’ll be great if I want to study right through lunch and dinner times but might become a bit of an issue if I ever need to hand in written work. I doubt lecturers take too well to food stained coursework.

Plan C

Local cafés – Bath is a national heritage site. Its continuous stream of tourists means there’s many local cafés perfect for some filmesque studying. I recommend buying one coffee and staying for the entire day, no matter how busy the place gets! I hear staff love this but, ideally, find cafés out of the way that you know won’t get too busy and enjoy the quiet that usually accompanies them.

Plan D

Lastly, here comes the dreaded plan D. This is where I’ll come when all other options fail me, when the food stains on my coursework build up into full course dinners, when the owner of every Bath café runs me out of their establishment and I am left with only one option… The Library. Studying there can’t be that bad. Can it? I mean, I see people coming in and out of there all the time… They don’t look like they’ve been permanently traumatized by some event there. No sign saying “NERD” ever develops on anyone’s face. Maybe I too, could become a library goer. Only time will tell. Right now, the sign is enough.

Working out how I’m going to avoid my house mates during crunch time and deciding to start getting on with things has already made me more productive. The elaborate techniques the articles I searched for on Google suggested may be helpful to those already doing their work but when you’re having issues getting started, reading them only wastes more time. Next time I’m sat staring at an empty word document, I’ll know to just start typing. After all, I’ve already made my sign.

 

Physics: transitioning from A-level to studying a degree

  

📥  Faculty of Science, Undergraduate

Making the transition from A-level to degree level physics can sound like a daunting prospect. For a start, choosing any subject on a full-time basis is a big decision. When I was applying for a physics course I had a great deal of concerns and unanswered questions. Would I cope with such a large workload? How can I be sure it’s the course for me? What does higher level physics do differently to A-level?

Here’s the good news: if you’re considering applying for a degree at Bath then you’ve almost certainly got it in you to comprehend and excel in the material taught. This teaching has been given in lectures, which are noticeably different in style to sixth form lessons. For a start, each lecture is given to the entire first year at once (160 people this year) in a variety of buildings across campus. Luckily they’re all very close to each other as Bath’s campus is nice and compact.

Our lecture theatre filling with students

Our lecture theatre filling with students...

…and our properties of matter lecturer, Dan Wolverson

…and our properties of matter lecturer, Dan Wolverson

To give you an idea of how the course is arranged I’ve listed below the first semester modules and a brief description of their contents. A semester is slightly different to a term; a semester describes a period of modules that end in an exam season.

  • Properties of Matter – This unit feels a little like the physical side of chemistry, looking at the phases of matter and the physical laws that govern them. Think ideal gases, ionic lattices etc. The second half of the unit is solely about thermodynamics.
  • Electrical Circuits – What you’d expect. Reviewing things like Kirchov’s laws, Ohm’s law and capacitors whilst introducing a wide range of new components like inductors and operational amplifiers. The unit also streamlines circuit analysis with an array of new tools.
  • Classical Mechanics – Takes the “suvat” style mechanics for constant acceleration and velocity systems and introduces tools to apply them in systems with varying parameters. Also contains rockets, which have been the highlight for me so far!
  • Vibrations, Waves and Optics – examines simple harmonic motion mathematically, including for damped and forced oscillations. This unit deals with travelling waves and how they can be combined and introduces the physics of light.

As well as these core units, the first semester includes assessed modules in experimental physics and computing and mathematics for physicists. I was worried about the difficulty of the maths involved, having not taken a Further Maths A-level. I was concerned that the course would assume knowledge outside of my scope; this isn’t the case and all further material has been taught from the ground up.

Lab sessions of undergraduate physics are familiar yet a lot more in depth and rewarding than at A-level. I have recently completed my semester one lab sessions- over the course of four three hour periods we were given a piece of unknown science to interpret. The title of the task was “measuring specific heat ratio for gases using a resonance method”. This was an initially confusing piece of work but after a little research and a few hours of discussion me and my partner were taking measurements to plot data from an area of science we’d never had any exposure to before.

I wasn’t sure if I would cope with the pace of the course before joining. Honestly, from what I’ve experienced so far the work is very fast paced, but the modules are very intertwined and support each other well. I can’t stress how important is it to keep organised! Organisation will be a big thing in keeping up with the pace of the course.

A tidy desk is a tidy mind, so they say. Uni has made me very aware of this.

A tidy desk is a tidy mind, so they say. Uni has made me very aware of this.

In addition to my physics course I’ve also been managing to maintain an optional Spanish module and a very full social life. Exceeding at university does require a lot of dedication, granted, and my life has become busy, but that’s half the fun! If you think of going half-heartedly into physics it will seem like an uphill struggle; remember that you’ll be doing it for the next three years. If you enjoy physics at A-level then you’ll enjoy it many times more as a degree!

Is there anything you should think about before starting a physics course? If you’re passionate and ready for a challenge, it’ll be the time of your life. University begins to introduce compelling branches of physics, such as quantum mechanics and relativity, granting changes of perspective on the subject that only a degree can give. Physics is a subject for the curious, and that’s even more true at undergraduate level.

I guess the moral of this story is that although physics is a specialised area that requires dedication and lots of hard work, it’s manageable, achievable and extremely rewarding. The learning curve is steep, but if you’re applying for a Bath physics course and you have the passion needed then I say go for it!

 

Exploring “The Edge” at Roche Continents ‘16

  

📥  Faculty of Science

Agnes Wong, one of our MPharm students, has just returned from taking part in this year’s Roche Continents project in Salzburg, Austria.

The project aims to bring together 100 top students from across Europe to give them the opportunity to explore sources of inspiration at the intersection of science and art, as well as the creative processes that drive innovation. 

Agnes has written a short blog about her experience


The journey did not start in Salzburg, nor at W.A. Mozart Airport, nor at Stansted airport… It all started with the application form.

The Roche Continents program was a pivotal moment in my three years as an undergraduate pharmacy student. After being nominated to attend the event, I was directed to the application site where I was to put on a different thinking cap after a long time since studying Theory of Knowledge during my IB days. “What does ‘The Edge’ mean to you?” This question was not an easy one to tackle but it definitely set off my personal expectation for Roche Continents 2016 – it was going to be an exceptional experience.

Roche Continents ’16 group photo. Photo credit: Roche

Roche Continents ’16 group photo. Photo credit: Roche

This year’s theme was “The Edge” and broadly speaking, we were meant to challenge the boundaries of our thoughts across the arts and sciences – two subjects at both ends of the area of knowledge continuum. Throughout the week, we had the privilege to listen to talks by renowned speakers on various topics such as astrophysics, evolution, cancer and genome sequencing as well as musicologists and Salzburg artists on the evening concerts we were to attend. Another brilliant experience I had was when we were given a task to present an artistic concept representing “a billion” which had a mix of science and art students. This was definitely an eye-opener for me as I had the opportunity to explore the mind works of scientists and artists.

Me outside the Mozarteum where the works of Cerha, Schwetsik and Gruber were performed.

Me outside the Mozarteum where the works of Cerha, Schwetsik and Gruber were performed.

Intriguing talks, evening concerts, sumptuous food (yes, we had waffles for breakfast) etc, but personally my best bit of Roche Continents was the opportunity to listen to the stories from my fellow friends from across 29 nations. During the week, I met some of the most inspiring personalities and creative characters who are courageously pursuing their passion in different fields, some of which I have never heard of such as theoretical chemistry. The individuals I encountered were bubbling with so much enthusiasm when they spoke of the work that they do, be it producing compositions using African polyrhythms, doing a PhD in Wallerian degeneration or even organizing Roche Continents for the nth time; these special people have certainly helped deepen my understanding on what it means to be Passionate about something. Over the course of six and a half days at Salzburg, this group of strangers became a group of friends whom I seemed to have known for six and a half years.

The Roche Continents experience has taught me a lot about passion, to never lose the willingness to explore the unknown and last but not least, to continuously push my “Edge”.  It has been a pleasure to have been part of the journey. Thank you, Roche Continents and thank you, DPP!

 

An insight into Maths & Physics at Bath

  

📥  Faculty of Science, Undergraduate

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!

  

📥  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.