Unfortunately, the current pandemic means that many students returning to the UK or arriving in halls for the first time will have to self-isolate for two weeks. This is a particularly difficult experience if you are a fresher, being cut-off from almost all in person interaction at a time when you are leaving your old social support network. Additionally, we will all be spending a lot more time secluded in our rooms this year, a place where, at the best of times, it is easy to fall into a slump, forgoing your work in favour of binging video games or television.
From: UK / Switzerland
The last few weeks have been a blur of intensive project work. We’ve had two programming projects, one individual and one group.
Simulating Relativistic Decays
The first programming project was for the relativity module. We had to simulate the energy distribution of neutrinos from a set of particle decays. This individual project was an interesting test of applying what we had learnt in the module, combining programming skills and careful consideration of the scenario. Since the project was assessed automatically, this required a lot of scrutiny to the specifications given for variable names and the units values were presented in.
Statistical Application and Group Tensions
While the first project went quite smoothly for me, the second was rather bumpy.
Given the current pandemic, all of our learning has been moved online. The most readily apparent impact of this is that our physics exams are now remote and open book. This is a welcome change, at least for me, as I always found the need to memorise content for exams a bit redundant, when in real physics work we will always have access to reference material.
Additionally, all of our tutorials and other meetings are conducted over video call. The efficacy of this has been mixed, in some cases people are quite open to working over call, using video when possible, while others seem to be able to sit in a breakout group call for 15 minutes with their microphone muted, trying to avoid putting themselves out there.
Seeing that the country I live in is now stuck in a state of quarantine, it’s become impossible to hang out with friends like I used to. However, my high-school friends and I have found a means to connect together over online games. Not online videogames, but online board games.
Despite not being able to play in person, this tool has allowed my friend and I to play together. It’s fantastic, as it simulates an actual 3D playing environment, allowing players to interact with virtual board game pieces including dice, cards and tokens. It’s been a great source of laughter and a good chance to reconnect.
Engaging, exciting and educational, the optional Horizons module sound technology has been one of my favourite courses this year. The content aims to bridge music and science, starting with the basic physics and biology governing sound and our perception of it, before exploring further into resonance phenomena and the impacts of music on our cognition. We’ve also looked at the artistic side, learning to compose and analyse music with consideration to how anticipation and subversion govern emotional responses to music. Notably, this class has been a massive opportunity for discussion, gaining interesting perspectives from my classmates, lecturers and even visiting presenters who are innovating to change the technology we use to experience music.
When I’m not doing problem sheets, or writing lab reports, or reading ‘recommended reading’ so dense with acronyms I just skip entire paragraphs, I try to relax.
Of course, working out regularly and going to Taekwondo really helps in this regard. But sometimes you just feel like it’s become a routine. A routine where being 2+ weeks behind on problem sheets and taking longer then you estimated to complete anything is the routine.
Ergo, it’s great to break that routine. Recently, RCSU – the science subjects union, organised a trip to Urban Axe Throwing. I don’t know how they know these people exist, but it’s fantastic that they put these things together, particularly since as a teetotal I don’t go to socials at clubs or bars.
When a professor asks you a question in a seminar how should you reply? According to one my hall seniors, you shouldn’t say anything, lest you embarrass yourself. Instead, you should “suck up” to professors by going to their office hours.
I found this sentiment quite surprising; I always thought that answering questions in seminars, God forbid raising your hand to try to answer, was a great learning opportunity. After all, the purpose of university for me has always been to learn, not just to memorise content for tests, but to become more confident, to try to tackle hard and interesting problems.
Imperial offers first-year students a series of optional courses outside of their degree in design, the humanities and languages, called Imperial Horizons. During my first term I experience some of two of these modules: Nature of Science and Making and Prototyping.
Nature of Science
In the first term I was initially allocated my second choice of course: Nature of Science. It’s a module where we discuss the philosophical and sociological aspects of science. In the first session, we talked about the utility of scientific thinking and the criteria to determine if knowledge is scientific. We discussed the ideas of falsification and the need to attempt to disprove scientific claims.
Like many students coming to university the first time I was quite apprehensive about leaving my high school friends behind. Never having moved school in my life, it was the first time I would be somewhere where I knew nobody.
I need not have worried. The first day I arrive in my kitchen and right there, everyone’s playing cards against humanity. Perfect, it’s a social game, I know the rules and the awkward “Hi what’s your name? What do you study?” conversation starter will be much easier once we’ve all laughed at some inappropriate jokes.
Looking back at the last week, I’ve massively appreciated the hall events I’ve attended.