Fellow coursemates and I were looking forward to our dissertation, the most exciting and final part of a Biology/Biochemistry degree. Biology and Biochemistry both belong to the Department of Life Sciences so have the option to share courses together in the final 3rd year. Unlike having to do a dissertation, you can opt to do a lab-based project instead of a literature review as your final undergraduate assessment. Each individual gets their own supervisor which is impressive considering there are more than 200 of biologists and biochemists combined.
Although COVID has disrupted the chance for half of us to spend 2 months in the lab, our department has responded promptly to student concerns, clarifying the safety net policy College has imposed shortly after government and College lockdown. All of us now have the same assignment requirements, but with the guarantee that our graduate outcomes would not be affected if we didn’t do as well compared to before College locked down whilst making sure we reap what we sow. This means if we got a higher mark during our entire course before the lockdown that would account for our degree classification. Vice versa, if including our dissertation our overall mark is better it would be included as part of the degree classification.
The research staff has continued working tirelessly despite campus lockdown, inviting external guests to deliver online talks on microbiology and evolution to us via Microsoft Teams. There are also online talks hosted by the College itself on a broad range of topics, from the role of engineering in sustainability to what it’s like being an astronaut. Our department reps have continued to look out for us, hosting a campus-wide online Talent Show and making us aware of intern opportunities available to us from departmental society sponsors, including KPMG of the Big Four. Each course subject has its own society with multiple student representatives, from each year that feedback on course reflecting opinions of the course student body to the departmental staff including wellbeing. Communication between Biochemistry reps and staff have permitted the construction of a Common Room, which will open during the 2020/21 academic year.
The best thing about Imperial during COVID is how quickly the community has responded to help out with public health. Volunteers with facilities provided by the Advanced Hackspace in the White City campus open to any Imperial staff and student have already made hundreds of thousands of PPE for the NHS, ensuring they have the protective gear to protect patients as well as themselves. Although many students have moved out because of government lockdown, first-year halls have continued their hall services with hall wardens holding support chat sessions every day for an hour and house quiz to keep remaining residents entertained. My peers and staff have continued to be considerate, checking up on progress with assignments and each other’s mental health.