Wednesday, 19 May 2010

First exam done

Pieris in our garden in April
What can I say? I've sat at my desk from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for weeks now doing very little other than reading, making notes, occasionally getting up for breakfast, lunch, supper, cups of tea, a quick bounce on the trampoline, badminton once a week when it isn't a bank holiday. I will attempt to write something about the stuff I've been revising, but it's not easy. There's so much of it, and it's become rather esoteric at this stage of the course. We've almost stopped learning new things that would be of interest to a layman, it's mostly the application of all the stuff that we've learned so far.

The exam on Monday was fine. I was probably most concerned about this one, because not only was it a double module, so twice as much to learn, but we had a pre-exam class where it was made clear that for the best marks we needed to write about a topic in depth. Luckily, we were also given some guidance about which might be the best topics to revise in depth, and my choices turned out to be OK. Just to give an indication of how big this thing was, the separate subjects included nutritional assessment, assessment of physical activity, intervention strategies in public health nutrition, nutritional epidemiology, fertility, periconceptual nutrition, nutrition in pregnancy, lactation, infant feeding, childhood obesity, nutrition in adolescence, nutritional aspects of cancer, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, elderly people and ageing, and nutrition in the developing world (concentrating on vitamin A, iron and iodine).

I particularly focused on male and female fertility, and ageing, but it still isn't interesting enough for me to want to share what I discovered here, except to say that restricting energy intake extends lifespan significantly in nematode worms, Drosophila, rodents and probably non-human primates, but isn't really a great strategy for the human population, despite what the CR Society says. The module has mostly been about drawing conclusions based on the research evidence, and I'm starting to think that I'm not that excited by research after all.

Tomorrow's exam is Molecular Nutrition, which is all about the effect that nutrients such as glucose, amino acids, vitamins and minerals have on gene expression, i.e. how our body works at a molecular level. An obvious example is the effect on gene expression within pancreatic beta cells - glucose directly triggers the cells to synthesise insulin. We have looked at the interaction between molecules of a nutrient, proteins in the cell membrane and messengers within the cell that carry the message to the DNA, and what actually happens there on a molecular level. As we can't see this directly, there are a number of techniques used to interpret what is happening, and it's all jolly complicated (as you will discover if you click the link and watch the animation).

This is another double module, but somehow less daunting because the compulsory section is interpretive rather than a feat of memory. Still, it contains very technical subjects and more vague research results, and I've got to practise some exam questions today. Both Monday's exam and this one are three hours long - a long time to be sitting writing, and requiring very careful timing of fluid intake.

And all the while, the spring weather is taunting me, with blossom and flowers blooming gloriously where I can't see them. I've missed the whole of May for the last three years, and it will happen again next year. Our wisteria is just coming into bloom, and the ceanothus will be next, and they'll both be just finished when I'm free to spend time outside. I should catch the rose flowering in June, so that will be nice. Except I'll be working weekdays...


Studentmum said...

I know what you mean about missing May again. for the last few years, I dread to look back and count but it's probably about 6! I have had an essay due or an exam to revise for in May. It's my twins bithday on the 22nd, and I have one more year to go before I can have a free May! This year I am seriously considering taking a year out before going further.

Anonymous said...

How did you get on with the exam? Got a good feeling?