Blog posts

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.

Good-bye and Good Luck!

Last week our final year students on all our Biochemistry, Biology and Biotechnology programs got their degree results and — in the vast majority of cases! — celebrated their success.

Many students seemed to be pleasantly surprised by their performance, suggesting perhaps that you tend to be harder on yourselves than your examiners, a lesson that first and second years might want to bear in mind. (The phenomenon, that able people tend to underestimate their abilities, is rather well known).

The Biochemists and Biotechnologist’s were the first to learn of their fate, on Thursday last.

And then on Friday it was the turn of the Biologists:

Congratulations to all our students!

For those about to write project reports…

I have always had a soft spot for this poem by Robert Frost, which is not entirely irrelevant to the task at hand. Good luck to final year students who are shortly to compose reports on their lab or literature projects.

A Considerable Speck


A speck that would have been beneath my sight On any but a paper sheet so white Set off across what I had written there. And I had idly poised my pen in air To stop it with a period of ink When something strange about it made me think, This was no dust speck by my breathing blown, But unmistakably a living mite With inclinations it could call its own.

DDT (not DTT) – good or bad?

In a lecture on Protein Science to 2nd year Biochemists the other day, I mentioned the reducing agent DTT — dithiothreitol — and pointed out that it should not be confused with DDT, a chemical that used to be used to control mosquito populations. Though effective, it was taken out of service because of toxic effects on other species.

Coincidentally, DDT features in science writer Brian Clegg’s latest podcast for the Royal Society of Chemistry. Have a listen (it’s only about 7 min) to learn something about how biochemistry can have an impact on biology.

Why Statistics?

An recent editorial from Science (warning: may be behind a paywall unless you are accessing from campus or via VPN) argues that statistics is important for all branches of science and even beyond — in public policy.

To quote the opening paragraph:

Popular media and science publications sound the drum: “Big Data” will drive our future, from translating genomic information into new therapies, to harnessing the Web to untangle complex social interactions, to detecting infectious disease outbreaks. Statistics is the science of learning from data, and of measuring, controlling, and communicating uncertainty; and it thereby provides the navigation essential for controlling the course of scientific and societal advances.

Final Year Lab Project Poster Session

There was definitely a buzz in the room as the final year lab project students gathered to present and assess their mini-posters.

Not only was there a tremendous variety of project work on display…

…but there was also a great range of styles. Some more successful that others? That was for the students to decide; each had 5 posters to assess and there will be £20 Amazon vouchers for the best ones.

Hopefully all the final years in attendance saw something to take their fancy — or perhaps even to stimulate a new idea.

I was so excited my hands were shaking.

The controversial importance of failure

There is a very interesting article in the Times Higher Education magazine today on the knotty subject of failure — something that anyone who wishes to succeed will inevitably encounter.

To quote just one small snippet:

“It’s entirely understandable; parents want their children to succeed. Unfortunately, they may be ensuring just the opposite. As Tough notes, protecting students from experiencing failure also prevents them from gaining the self-confidence that comes from overcoming it. There are no safe routes to success. If we want to prepare our students for life’s inevitable slings and arrows, then, for their own sake, we must let them fail.”

But the whole piece is well worth reading.

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!

NSS Enterprise Needed from Final Year Students

Through the National Student Survey, our final year students have the opportunity now to give their views on their entire experience of being a student at Imperial College and we would very much like to encourage them to do so.

The organisation of the NSS means that unless at least 50% our our students complete the survey, the results from our department will not be included in the published report and so will be disregarded. So it’s crucial that we at least cross that threshold. But even more importantly, we would very much like to have the views of every single student in the final year.