On the 19th of February one of the UCAS days was held at Leicester, where prospective students that have selected the university as one of their options are invited to find out more about what being a student here is like. For natural sciences students, this means a lunch with current students and staff, an introductory lecture about the course, a tour of the department, and an informal interview. In particular, the informal interview and introductory lecture are used to emphasise how natural sciences at Leicester differs from other university courses in being taught through a research-based methodology, just so students know what they’re getting themselves into! For me, my UCAS day here really confirmed the idea that studying natural sciences at Leicester was what I wanted to do, especially in light of how the course is designed, so I’m always eager to volunteer at these events to try and pass some of that enthusiasm on! I made a blog post earlier in the year answering some common questions at these events, which you can find here.
Last week was also the second meal hosted by the Interdisciplinary Science Society, which, in keeping with tradition took place at Spice Bazaar after a seminar held by the department. This time Professor Jeremy Ramsden gave a talk on the trends in nanotechnology, showing how different approaches to synthesising nanostructures are influenced by different disciplines, from a bottom up approach of self-assembling structures in mimicking mechanisms in biology, to a top down mechanosynthesis approach employed in chemistry.
The day before the meal I was given an opportunity to be a speaker at the Institute of Physics conference entitled ‘Enabling All Students to Achieve Their Full Potential’ at the University of Manchester. Topics ranged from gender issues and the Black and Minority Ethnic Gap, to assessment focused on conceptual understanding, providing gateway programs for incoming physics students, and supporting students with Asperger’s syndrome. My presentation was on how studying a research-based degree helped me to go from a background in biology and chemistry to now moving to a career in areas of physics. One of the main points I wanted to get across was how such a degree focuses on learning the research process, rather than assimilating information. In light of the amount of educational resources freely available online and in textbooks, what I as a student needs is not a series of one-size fits all lectures that I can find online and learn at my own pace, but guidance on what to learn, and how to use these concepts to answer a given problem. This is especially true now as free online courses become more sophisticated, and I think the natural sciences course at Leicester offers a strong template to complement how the role of university is changing. A lot of the topics I covered you can find in this previous blog post.
It was a great experience to hear from those researching on how science is taught, shedding light on a lot of topics that deserve more attention in shaping how university courses are designed. Speaking of research, tomorrow is the next seminar by the Interdisciplinary Science Society, where Jaelle Foot will be presenting her research in the area of structural biology. More information on the event can be found here. Now I need to go buy the refreshments!