Thursday, 9 October 2008

I'm working quite hard now

Blog posts are taking a few days more than usual to mature, because I'm actually doing quite a lot of school work already - this time last year we were just finding our feet, and it was quite an achievement to work out where to go at what time with what equipment. Obviously we're expected to know the ropes by now and there's lots to get through this term.

One of the new first year mature students grabbed me in the library yesterday. The panic in her voice was quite disturbing, and I did my best to reassure her. She was going through what most of the older students in my year endured in the first term, wondering whether they had made the right decision, would they actually be able to get through the work, was it all a big mistake? In her case, the questions were presenting themselves a little early.

One difference I've noticed this term is that there is a lot more competition for library books. Last year, the students living on campus used to disappear back to their rooms at the end of lectures, because the library was only a minute away and open until 8pm. Now most of them aren't living locally - some in Kegworth, some in Nottingham - so they have to be a bit more organised about what they will need. I get the feeling that they are taking the work a bit more seriously too. When I'm after a library book, as often as not all copies are already on loan. I still have the option to request a recall, so that the person who has currently borrowed it has a week to return it to the library. But it's not as good.

Stuff we've covered so far:
  • Nutrition, Metabolism and Disease: we've looked at how we store/burn carbs, fat and protein in normal circumstances and in starvation conditions. One interesting thing I learned was that for the first couple of days without eating the body uses protein as fuel, but then conserves protein by switching over to burning fat. The trouble is that the brain can't use fat (other organs can), and we can't convert fat to glucose, so we make ketone bodies instead. I expect that I'll understand the physiology and the pros and cons of the Atkins diet once we get a bit further into this subject.
  • Psychology, Sociology and Nutrition: much better than I was anticipating. This week we talked about the social networks that provide people with support - not directly related to food, but important when we start to think about changing eating habits and the counselling role of dietitians.
  • Biochemistry: not actually done any yet. It's the first time the module has been run in this configuration, and a bit too much time has been spent setting it up. This week all that happened was that the coursework was explained, when we'll be tested on our comprehension of a proper grown up scientific paper published in a journal. We have to go away and read it, following up references and citations, and make sure we understand it - much more difficult than you might imagine, with subjects undergoing "hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamps for 6 hours with iv infusion of either saline or a 20% intralipid emulsion."
  • Immunology: Second load of lectures today, three full hours of rather complicated stuff about blood proteins, inflammation and haemostasis (blood clotting). Luckily it was all delivered by one of the best lecturers, unlike last week's and next week's lectures, which are delivered by one of the worst.
  • Molecular Pharming: second lecture is tomorrow. The first one was just an introduction, describing different types of genetic modification - for insect, herbicide, bacterial or virus resistance, nutritional supplementation, improved processing qualities, to remove allergens or toxins, and for salt, drought or cold tolerance. There was also a bit of discussion about whether we felt that GM technology was a good thing or not. I suspect that most of the module will focus on the details of the methods used to create transgenic plants and animals, rather than the ethics of it. But I don't know for sure.
  • Endocrinology and Metabolism: still hasn't started, although the timetable has been posted. Lectures are on Friday afternoons, sometimes starting at 2 pm, but in the worst weeks there's just an hour from 4 to 5 pm, and I have no idea why it should be like that. Perhaps we'll find out tomorrow. Talk about the worst time for me to travel 50 miles on the motorways to get home.
On the bright side, I had lunch with three friends today after the marathon Immunology lecture, and it put me in a surprisingly good mood. But it also meant I got home later than planned, and it didn't seem worth starting any difficult work, so I blogged instead. My loss is your gain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds like very exciting material. Do they have an upper age limit?
Books: unfortunately, I haven't got anything relevant that I could give you.