Second year, first semester – BMS at NUMed

Second year, first semester – BMS at NUMed

Here’s a little (not literally, I apologise in advance for the length!) post on the first semester of my second year as a BMS student at NUMed. I’ve written this in Summer after completing second year, and time flew by so quickly I barely remember the past year! Not to worry though, I’ve got the academic bits covered. Maybe a little too covered. I hope you enjoy!

In first sem we did 4 modules again, 3 more taught ones (BMN2001, 2004, and 2006) and a practical module (BMN2000). This time though, the modules have different credits, so they’re weighted differently. BMN2000 and 2006 were 20 credit modules, while 2001 and 2004 were 10 credit modules. The difference in credit showed in the number of lectures we had (2001 and 2004 were only 10 lectures each), but also meant that in order to do well in the final exams, you’d need to keep an eye out for the heavier credit modules.

BMN2006, which is Cell Biology and Disease, was my favourite module this semester, mainly because it was easily subdivided into 4 strands, which made studying the module more efficient. These strands were:

  • Membrane transport and ion channels. This strand was really to do with generating action potentials, cardiac rhythms and channelopathies (diseases caused by disturbed function of ion channels). One of the practicals involves knowledge from this strand, and we were required to create a poster based on data from the practical. Though the practical was done in a group, the poster is done and marked individually.
  • The Extracellular Matrix. This strand is a popular essay question in the final exam, and for an essay assessment, though this changes yearly. The many practice sessions we had on the ECM and its functions, and diseases associated with it really helped me understand the strand well. As a result, I performed extremely well on the essays and EMI’s on the topic. This lead me to believe that practicing essays on your own can be an efficient way of studying (a post on how to write essays for uni will be coming soon!)
  • Cell signaling. Another very popular essay question, this strand discussed the insulin signaling pathway, and how a defect in the pathway leads to diseases. This particular topic was the one of the essay questions for my first semester exams, though the questions from this strand usually require more critical thinking. 
  • Cell cycle. A lot more in depth than what we’ve previously touched on the cell cycle, this strand also focuses on how malfunctions in the cycle leads to diseases and cancers. The strand heavily involves facts and memorization, as the knowledge on cell cycle is well-established. A popular essay question, though it isn’t as easy to answer well. Further reading for this strand is necessary, unless you’d rather write an essay on ECM or cell signaling. I personally found this strand too much to handle, especially since it was the last strand we studied.

About 30% of this module consisted of marks from assessments (a timed essay and a poster) which really helps you obtain good marks in the module. Needless to say, performing well in the assessments in this module and BMN2000 is necessary in order to maintain good marks. For 20 credits, and about 20 lectures, this is a heavy module, with each strand capable of being a module on its own. You might find it difficult to keep up in the beginning, but do try going through the lecture materials beforehand. Focus in class, ask questions, and make your own notes. If anything, try to create your own questions as the year passes by; I keep stressing this because I wish I’d done it!

BMN2000 is a practical module, and by this time you would have gotten over the fear of using the lab equipments. Instead, this is the time to focus on understanding concepts behind key biomedical techniques in order to build a strong foundation for your future. It’s common sense, but truly you should try to run though the practical sheets before the lab itself, and try to identify the reagents used, why they’re used, and what is the outcome of the technique. A lot of these techniques will be repeated throughout second year and third year, where you’re expected to operate them independently. 

BMN2000 is divided into 4 strands, namely Practicals, Informatics, Ethics, and Statistics. There’s a final exam for this module too, which I believe accounts for 50% of the module mark. Drawing graphs and short answer questions are included in the examination. We did 6 different assessments, including specific ones for each strand. In ethics, we wrote essays to discuss ethical problems we might face in biomedical sciences, while informatics was more on how to efficiently search for information, use biomed-related software and websites. In statistics we used MiniTab, a statistics software, and learnt about t-tests and probability calculations, 5 lectures in total. Each MiniTab pactice session was fully guided, and it really wasn’t difficult to understand. We did a few practicals on recombinant plasmids and proteins, ELISA and immunoblotting. All basic techniques heavily used in our field.

Honestly, the way around this module is to put in the work. Really understand the principles behind what you’re doing, and try to score well in assessments to help raise your grade. The final exam includes questions from all strands, and is relatively tougher than other module examinations, so the 50% from in-course assessments really help.

BMN2001 is the Control of Eukaryotic Gene Expression, and it really was all about that. 10 lectures on the topic, with an EMI exam during finals. 10% of the module, however, was a data interpretation test. The test is mainly questions on data derived from different scientific techniques for you to interpret the data. This isn’t something necessarily taught; I remember watching a lot of YouTube videos on how to interpret data from assays and such. Due to the fact that there were only 10 lectures, it made revision easier, but there are lots of facts and pathways to remember. I highly suggest going in depth on some parts of the lectures, such as the pathways, as it may come in handy in the exams. 

BMN2004 is Cell and Molecular Biology of the Immune System. 10 lectures filled with information about the immune system, most of which was already covered in first year. This module is 100% final exams, and there’s no way around it; memorize pathways, understand how the immune system works, answer the EMIs. Along with BMN2001, these were the two modules that were easier to prepare for, since it only involved less lectures and EMI questions. While studying for these modules, I would highly recommend creating your own EMIs by asking yourself questions while you go through the lectures. For example, if the lecture discusses how T-cells are activated, ask yourself questions on the how, where, why and such, and use these questions as practice. Peerwise isn’t available for second year, so the only practice you have is textbooks and yourself.

All in all, first semester went by too quickly to register. I was President of the Student Association in second year, and the first semester was tougher to balance. My one tip to handle the load is to be as present as possible during the semester. Keep track of your deadlines, seminars and assessments. Studying in groups is extremely ideal, and I didn’t start a study group till towards the end of second semester.

Like I’ve mentioned, I’m planning on writing up posts on essay writing and interpreting scientific papers soon, along with a few more suggested titles! Thank you for reading

Love, Dania.

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