Category: Goals

I published my final year project

Final year students Annette Strege (graduated 2013) and Sorrell Bunting (graduated 2012), who both did  lab projects with Dr Bernadette Byrne, were recently delighted to see their research work published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. Annette tells the story: 

During my final year project in 2013 I investigated the functional effects of introducing thermostabilising point mutations into a G-Protein Coupled Receptor (GPCR) in Dr. Bernadette Byrne’s lab. GPCRs are important proteins to study, because they are the most popular type of drug target, representing around 50% of all drug targets. However, these membrane receptors are also very challenging to study because they are very flexible and hydrophobic.

Are you professional?

This is an interesting and somewhat provocative post from Dr Steve Caplan, a colleague of mine on the Guardian Science Blogs.

Since many of the final year students are currently in the midst of their major lab projects, Steve’s comments might strike home. Are you using kits or techniques that you don’t fully understand? That may make things easy, but the essential point is to learn and become more independent, more… professional. If you haven’t been asking questions from the people supervising you day to day, you might come to rue that omission on the day of your project viva.

Or is Steve an old fogey who doesn’t really understand the students of today?

Guest Post: A Year in Industry, by Lee Sewell

Rather than spending three straight years slogging away at my BSc, I decided to trade in the pen for the pipette and take the opportunity to spend a year in industry. This was a 12-month placement at British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Hopefully this blog-post will make you consider a research-based placement year.

I get the feeling that many undergraduates question the idea of taking a year out altogether; after all you still only get a BSc for what is an extra year of your life. Well, simply put, I think you’d be making a mistake if you didn’t jump on the opportunity to explore research in the life sciences.

What is a university degree for?

The education journalist Peter Wilby had a comment piece in the Guardian last week, in which he raised some interesting questions about the value of educational qualifications. The article resonated with me because it touched on an issue that I have become more and more aware of since assuming the role of Director of Undergraduate Studies: the meaning of a university degree.

Wilby starts from what is probably a widely accepted position:

“Education is regarded as an unmitigated good, of benefit to society, the economy and the individual. More means better, we think. In many respects, that is true: if we are a more tolerant, more inclusive society than we were 50 years ago, that is largely because most of us are better educated.”

But despite improvements in education he notes that many professions have been affected by a sort of qualification inflation, by which the minimum entry requirements have risen inexorably and, in some cases, without proper justification.

Publish and be praised

Congratulations are due to Dominic Swift, a biology student who has not only just graduated, but also become a published author.

Dominic’s account of his research into the effects of logging on primate populations, which was performed during the Uganda field-trip on the Tropical Biology course, has now appeared in Bioscience Horizons.

His supervisor, Prof Vincent Savolainen, is justifiably proud of Dominic’s work — as are we all.

If any other students have succeeded in publishing their results, please do let us know.

Prize winning Biochemistry Students

We were rather late getting around to this but would nevertheless like to celebrate the achievements of the top three biochemistry students from the 1st and 2nd year classes in the academic year 2010-2011.

First up are the highest-scoring first years, Yong Zi Tan, Hung En Lai and Kam Pou Ha.

The top three students from the second year were Michael Anderson Burley, Benedict Turner and Thomas Wood. Unfortuately, Thomas wasn’t around on the day we handed out the prizes so we didn’t get a chance to take a photo.

Congratulations to all six students — and good luck to this year’s cohorts!

Spring Forward

Welcome back to everyone – I hope you had a restful break and are looking forward to Spring!

First though, there is the small matter of exams.

For those with exams coming up this week (2nd and final years) or within the next few weeks (the lucky first years), I trust you also made some time over the holidays to prepare yourselves. I hope those of you who put in a steady effort since the start of term felt the benefit. If so, please be sure to tell your classmates.

Exams are never an easy time – no-one enjoys sitting them (or marking them for that matter).

Do Some Research

However good the lecturer, there’s only so much science you can learn through the process of being talked at in a lecture theatre. If you really want to get a sense of what research involves, you need to get into a laboratory. Some of our students have been doing just that recently, with considerable enjoyment and success.

First, as you may have heard, a team of Life Science and Bioengineering undergraduates has just won the European final of the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition and will be heading to MIT next month to compete on the world stage. Their winning project aimed to re-engineer E.coli bacteria to tackle the problems of desertification and poor crop growth in dry climates.

Beginning and End

At the very start of the academic year it may seem odd to mention what will happen at the end of your time at Imperial: all being well you will graduate and move into the next stage of your life.

In the USA, the graduation ceremony is actually called ‘commencement’, perhaps in recognition of the fact that the end of your degree is in fact a beginning. Traditionally, high-powered universities will invite a high-powered individual to give the commencement address. They are supposed to provide words of wisdom for the young graduands.

One of the most famous commencement addresses in recent years was given in 2005 at Stanford University in California by Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, who died at the relatively young age of 56 last week.