I Promise I’m Still Alive!


Sorry I’ve gone so long without writing–I’d descended feetfirst into the rollercoaster of emotions that constitutes exams season. Just kidding, your emotions don’t really rocket around during exam week. You won’t have emotions. Everything you hold dear will melt, slosh around, and consolidate into a little ball of stress ricocheting around your head. Embrace this–this is good! Stress has been empirically proven to be more dense than airy emotional baggage. It’ll leave space in your head for an extra biochemical pathway. Take your pick: lipid beta oxidation? Reductive biosynthesis? Amino acid catabolism?

Just kidding, you have to know it all anyway.

The exams themselves were suprisingly un-horrific. Between the free week we’d had before them (revision week is your frieeeend) and the breakfast I’d had, I felt rather well prepared. I don’t usually have breakfast, much less a balanced breakfast (with a blueberry smoothie thingy no less), so I think I shocked my body into thinking I was heading into my last moments and it fired up all the engines. Breakfast is recommended, as our metabolism lecturer gleefully reminded us ever morning (to a resounding retort of 100 stomachs’ grumbling).

Two things to consider for exams:
1) Don’t be afraid to go out, have human contact, and generally maintain your relatively normal life. I think this is essential and often ignored in favour of spending 18 hours a day locked in one’s room, revising until your vision goes. Revision week is not a vector of stressed living and shouldn’t be– even if you just revise during “normal college hours”, 9am-6pm, that’s nine hours of revision a day. That’s way more than enough, at least for the first semester of biochemistry. No one I know actually revised that much. This leaves a great deal of time for you to keep seeing friends, going out to things, and even to take a day off here and there to go see things in the beautiful city you’re living in. Don’t make your room an island fortress. Go out to the sports night/ACC, head to the union for a pint with your friends, etc. I know people who stopped partying three weeks before exams. Why??? (They were also the most stressed ones!)
2) One of the main methods of revision I found very useful was taking the past papers the lecturers put up online. One caveat, though: If you go way back (e.g. I looked at the 2010 papers), some of the questions will very obviously be things you’ve not been lectured on (e.g. asking you to describe the mechanism of siRNA cleavage when you’ve not even seen nucleic acids). The course evolves quite a significant amount with time and this is reflected in the papers. Two points. One, this effect is less obvious (but just as crucial) when you look at papers only a year or two previous. There will be tiny differences in how a concept is taught that can lead you into thinking you know how to do the problem, realizing you’re missing a bit of knowledge, and getting more stressed because you “don’t know” something. Relax–this particular approach to the concept may very well not have been taught this year! Two, this means that the exam you actually have to sit will almost invariably be the easiest of the papers you see, since every problem on there is guaranteed to be something you’ve specifically seen in a lecture or tutorial.

Phew, enough with the exam stuff! Reading a course at Imperial isn’t about exams, as my new lecturer (more on him later) said, albeit rather less eloquently.

A group of us went to Chinatown during the Chinese New Year festival. London Chinatown proper is actually very small, only about six or so streets in a rough grid. It cannot accommodate the entire united urban population of greater London, as six harrowed and very surprised-looking volunteers and a policeman found out on Sunday.
If receptor-mediated endocytosis can concentrate signal molecules a thousandfold, so too can taiyaki-mediated meatpacking concentrate Londoners to sort of desperately shuffling mass. I got my youtiao, though, so zero [redacted] given.

In other news, we’ve started two new lectures, and I can’t decide which one’s more awesome. Proteins and Enzymes, lectured (unfortunately only for a few lectures) by the indomitable Dr. Byrne, will make you confront your uncomfortably intense feelings for nature’s very own, very perfect nanotechnology. Day two and I’ve already come to terms with the fact that I will probably one day marry an affinity chromatography column. In the other corner of the ring we have Molecular Biology, given by force of nature, born entertainer, and accidental molecular biologist Dave Hartley. I don’t think I’ve ever instantly liked anything or anyone as instantly and permanently as Dave Hartley (except of course affinity chromatography shh shhh baby I’m here for you). “Biochemistry is f***ing difficult.” That’s all, ladies and gentlemen, take it or leave it. Need I say more?

[He reads the molecular biology of the cell textbook on the beach in the Caribbean though]





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