Natural Science Clearing Special – Part 1

Clearing is tomorrow, and while I hope that everyone gets the results that they hope for, some people will be forced to rapidly form a new plan for the next few years. So for those people who want to know about Leicester’s Natural Science course, but don’t have the leisure of reading through all the documentation, here’s my whistle-stop. I’ve been through the first two years, so while my first memories are now a bit hazy, I’m hoping this will help you decide if Leicester is for you. See Part 2 if you want to read a description of the course structure.

I’ve never heard of this course! Give me buzzwords!

Sure. This course is (in no particular order): coursework based, communication oriented, designed to accommodate a variety of people with different scientific backgrounds, features both individual and group work, highly interdisciplinary, high workload, and intended to give you a strong grounding in skills needed for almost any scientific work.

What’s the teaching style?

Most of the core teaching is done through workshops. These often have brief presentations at the start, and a set of questions are provided as discussion starters. They are not hand-ins, and you don’t have to do any of them if you go down a different (on topic!) discussion route. Expert sessions are usually more traditional lectures. Computer workshops are more like social work sessions, where everyone works through individual hand-ins and can ask an expert for help. Maths have one lecture and one workshop per week. Optional modules tend to vary between workshops and lectures, depending on the person giving them. If you enjoy group learning and discussing material, this is very good. If you prefer learning on your own or through lectures, then you might struggle a bit.

How’s the quality of the teaching?

Usually very good. The Teaching Fellows for the core sciences have good communication skills, and are usually very open to questions. Obviously everyone has their off days, but I’ve found that usually they can be relied upon to help you understand the material and make the topics presented interesting. Other parts of the course are taught by experts, and while the teaching quality here is more varied, it is again usually fairly good. I’ve only had a few expert sessions in the past two years where I walked out feeling like they were a waste of my time.

Is the team supportive?

Yes, very! I can speak from personal experience here, as I’ve struggled with chronic mental health issues since my second year of A Levels. My personal tutor has been immensely helpful and supportive, giving advice and showing an astounding willingness to listen and understand the issues I’m facing. The administrator for my course has likewise been very supportive, helping me sort out mitigation paperwork and giving advice on how to handle my occasional struggles with handing work in on time. They are also happy to help with less dramatic issues, and I find that any member of the team is happy to help you out as long as they’re not too busy.

What size is the group? Is there a good sense of community?

My year started at 22 people, and at the end of this year was down to 20. I believe that previous years have been slightly smaller. So you’re in a small group and will probably know everyone fairly soon – even if you’re like me and really struggle with names! You also tend to end up working with almost everyone over the first year or so between labs, core deliverables, and other group work. However, if you want a large teaching group this is not the course for you.

What’s your personal experience with the course?

Firstly, it’s very hard work. There are a lot of hand-ins (usually three or four a week), and the material presented can be very challenging if it’s outside your scientific background. That said, it has been very inspiring and enriching. The variety of topics covered, and the quality of the teaching, has really kept my love for science alive. While this course may not appeal to those who want to specialise between two sciences rather than a full interdisciplinary approach, it’s suited me down to the ground and I love attending the various workshops and lectures just to discover more about the amazing universe that we live in. So in conclusion, I would definitely recommend it!

Part 2 – Course Structure

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About Leah

Leah has now retired from blogging. Hi, I’m Leah. My interests cross the breadths of science from theoretical physics to xenobiology, so where would I go but the Natural Sciences degree at Leicester? I’m now in my third year and loving the material. In my spare time I enjoy writing and reading science fiction/fantasy and playing video games.

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