Blog posts

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).

Guest Post: Coursework

Guest post by Laurence de Lussy Kubisa (Biochemistry, Yr 2):

Whilst many of you may know me as a fun-loving free spirit – I am, occasionally, forced to reign in my frivolities and concentrate on more serious matters. The issue of coursework in Life Sciences has been one such intrusive subject. Crucially, I feel that it has proved a relatively unsatisfactory supplement to my course and yet holds so much potential for Life Sciences degrees.

It is absolutely essential for both training as a scientist and development of life skills to be able to communicate ideas and solve problems. These are skills to be primarily developed through the coursework assignments.

Tricky Questions

On each of the past two Mondays I have shared a drink and a bit of chat with the freshers on the Biochemistry and Biology courses. Both were rather enjoyable occasions.

But in both cases I came across questions that I couldn’t answer, though I have since looked up the the information I didn’t have to hand.

While explaining my research on RNA viruses to some of the biochemistry students the conversation wandered to the subject of ‘flu viruses and vaccines. I mentioned that ‘flu vaccine preparations are generated by infecting chicken eggs. One student asked me if fertilised or unfertilised eggs were used.

Guest post: It’s Welfare Week!

Guest post from Roddy Pracana:

Hi everyone! I’m Roddy, and I’m the Biosoc’s Welfare officer. I’m writing this because it’s RCSU Welfare Week!

As you know from the email sent by the RCSU’s president Luke (if you bothered to read it), this week is packed full of exciting events! I would definitely not miss Wednesday’s cycling tour at lunchtime and Ice skating at the Natural History Museum in the evening (for £6 only!). If you are looking for more a more relaxing activity, there will be a free Yoga taster class on Thursday.

On a more serious note, it’s important everyone is aware of the welfare services provided by Imperial.

Numbers are up

First of all – following on from the last post, many congratulations to the Imperial College team for their successes in the Grand Final of the iGEM competition in Boston, in which they were runners-up. What a fantastic achievement!

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see the team’s talk before they left of the US and was mightily impressed. Not just by the quality of the work in the project and the presentation, but also by the inclusion of some maths in their analyses, which was used to model the rate of production of plant growth hormones by their engineered bacteria.

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.


Many thanks to the Imperial College BiochemSoc for arranging a very pleasant BBQ for the freshers yesterday.

The organisers were understandably flustered by the failure of Asda to meet their promised delivery time (I wouldn’t like to be reading the students’ feedback on that one…), but although the food was late the mood remained buoyant as students and several members of staff chatted amiably in Princes Gardens.

Most people I talked to seemed to have enjoyed their first week at university — some rather too much! — and to be looking forward to getting stuck into the course. I hope that’s true for everyone.

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.


Welcome, Welcome, Welcome!

Welcome to our freshers — those of you who are brand new to the College, brand new to London and brand new to Britain.

Welcome back to our second, third and fourth years, who having already drunk deep from the well of Imperial, are returning for another swig. Cheers!

And welcome to this new Life Sciences Blog for undergraduates. In the very best scientific spirit, this is most definitely an experiment. And not a very well designed experiment at that, since I am not certain what the outcome will be.

The aim is to open up a new and more informal line of communication between students and the department.