Semester 2, 2009
This semester was diverse, fascinating, exhausting, exhausting, so tired, must keep going...
As could be surmised from the long list of courses above, I overloaded units this semester to make up for my abortive law degree (embarked when I naively thought I ought to undertake something that reflected my high UAI), taking two extra units on top of the four typical for a double degree. This was officially the most exhausting semester I've ever finished, and I really don't recommend anyone else overload this much unless they too want to spend all tiny scraps of non-study time unable to cobble together a coherent thought. Coherency aside, careful time management (read: borderline obsessive list keeping and timetabling) and a daily thermos of coffee made it possible. Now I'm (nearly) recovered from the exhaustion, stress aches, and caffeine dependency, I wouldn't say I regret overloading (all the courses were great, and I'm confident I did my best), but feel compelled to iterate that nobody should consider following in my figurative footsteps on this point. Take no more than five, stay alive.
Notes from this semester weighed in at... 6.825kg
And now for some art inspired by doodles drawn between units. Click on the thumbnail to view the full image in a new window.
ENVS3007 - Participatory Resource Management: Addressing Environmental Conflict
Phew, they weren't kidding when they said it was an intensive course. Thankfully coffee and biscuits took the edge off the packed content, and the piles... and piles... of readings. Thankfully everything was printed out for us (nobody's print quota could withstand the PILE of readings). It was also great to be able to choose the weightings of specific assessment bits. While I can't help but be slightly suspicious of concepts such as “The triangle of satisfaction”, I found the majority of the content interesting, especially the lecturer and guest lecturer's reflections on their personal experiences while working in the general field of Participatory Resource Management.
Euridice spends most of her time travelling, seeking out every culture's method of holding meat foodstuffs, as she has a particular interest in steak holders. She understands the need to be respectful of people's personal sets of beliefs, and balances this with her need to form a unified, sustainable meat support system. She prefers to rest on top of piles of documents and biscuits, which she is happy to share. The biscuits are replenished from an unknown source (an alternate biscuit dimension is the likeliest source of the food), and she obligingly stocks people's favourite biscuits. With little love of bureaucratisation of truth, Euridice sticks by her values in order to form self-governed systems in which people may hold their steak with impunity.
SCOM3001 - Science, Risk and Ethics
I had no idea what to expect from this unit, given how broad its title seemed. Well, it contained science, risk and ethics all right... It is difficult to really describe the flow of the lectures, but somehow it all cohesively meshed. A large component of the course was group work, facilitated by ample in-tutorial time for group work, and a long timeframe for getting work done. I enjoyed the big block of SCOM it created each Thursday, it was physically relaxing while being intellectually engaging. I think the trick for succes in this unit is to stay engaged and put effort into all the small elements (forum contributions etc), not to simply let them slide.
Noemi grew up in a shack made of asbestos, in the shadow of an under maintained nuclear power plant, downstream of a careless cosmetic company leeching chemicals into the water supply, with constant threat of invasion from neighbouring regions. He favourite food is fugu, and in her spare time she likes to ride a horse on a motor bike on another horse that is wearing roller skates that are on fire. How has she survived? Sturdy bubble wrap body armour, a no-nonsense mallet, and a deep understanding of statistical probabilities.
SCOM3002 - Science in the Media
This unit was a whirlwind tour of news media, and the role of science within it. The guest lecturers working in media organisations provided an intriguing insight into the world of journalism. My suspicion that I wouldn't ever want to work in journalism (science or otherwise) has been resoundingly confirmed – thanks to this course I know I never, ever, ever want to find myself behind a desk in a magazine, newspaper, or even radio news company. Interestingly, the same course inspired several of my classmates to seriously consider journalism as a career path. I think the divergence in opinion is a testament to what a good taste of science journalism this course provided. While I personally find the cut-throat, deadline-centred, word-limited, highly condensed world of news media unbearable (and irreconcilably at odds with my developing scientific writing preferences), this course had just enough fun stuff and communication theory to stop it from becoming overwhelming. The difference between assessment pieces was brilliant, testing a range of skills. Particularly enjoyable was the end-of-semester visit to the Canberra Times to see the presses, and the several occasions where there was leftover cake in the tea room we could snaffle. At times I was a little disturbed at how few of my classmates seemed to regularly attend the lectures and workshops, but hey, their loss. I learned a lot from this course, and hope I'm never required to write in an inverted pyramid format again. I like my pyramids nice and pointy at the top; any pyramid of mine that is inverted is likely to fall over and crush all the tourists in the vicinity.
Nobody is quite sure what Greenlee is. Enthusiastic? Yes. Deadline-conscious? Yes. Perspicacious? Yes. Human? Probably not. Horizontal pupils allow for swifter scanning of press releases, and extra limbs and a second motor cortex allow for manipulation of multiple journalistic tools. Tentacles allow her/it to find purchase on the walls at media events, allowing a viewpoint different from all the ground-based journalists. Perhaps motivated by a deep curiosity as to her/its origin, Greenlee is an avid follower of scientific discovery, and is trusted but all the most tentacle-fearing scientists to accurately represent their work in a manner the layperson can understand. As Greenlee does not require sleep or food (subsisting entirely on pulped newspaper), she/it is an ever vigilant scientific presence in the media.
PSYC3015 - Issues in Cognitive Psychology
I have always enjoyed cognitive psychology, and this unit finally touched on something which I always felt was lacking in earlier courses – language. Aside from dyslexia (which earlier units also cover), learning about the basic properties of language was great. I also enjoyed the fact that the unit on memory included handy advice for exam revision. While I would have preferred more assessment pieces with lower weightings (ideally a mid semester and end of semester exam instead of one big one at the end), this was a well run and interesting unit with quite a lot of Johnny Depp in it, which I guess is a draw for people who appreciate his face.
A haughty noble pirate who knows how to enjoy life, Mina Sophocles enjoys debates between highly contrasting viewpoints. Her pegleg belies her adventurous past, though nowadays she prefers to wear the finest silks. She has excellent memory for faces, and always seems to understand other people's goal-directed behaviour in social situations. Mina delights in flaunting the productive nature of language, and almost exclusively phrases things so that her sentence has never been uttered before.
BIOL2121 - Plants: Genes to Environment
I took this course for the interesting structure rather than a particular interest in the subject matter (I've nothing against plants, but we all know that insects are the choice of all good evil villains when it comes to world domination). Thankfully, the structure worked just as well in practise as it did on paper. The way this course was broken up worked really well. Having a large exam in week 10 really lessened the pressure at the end of the semester, and left room to really work on the final report. While I understand participation in lectures, and practical-work heavy work is not everyone's cup of tea, this is a great unit if you feel like something a little different from the standard biology course structure. My one warning is that you have to have a high tolerance for making the same measurements, and taking the same counts, repeatedly. Going back over my notes, I realised I'd counted 5445 leafs over the weeks, not to mention the plethora of other measurements. It'll be a long time before I could face counting any part of an arabidopsis plant you'd care to mention, but hey, I ended up with a brand new scientific skill set.
Germinating from the same seed, Big and Little sis share a mother, but have different fathers. Big Sis is pretty, smart, and as athletic as an organism rooted in a pot can be. In contrast, Little Sis (who technically germinated first) is happy to lead a sedentary and grumpy life. Though they often argue, as siblings do, Big and Little Sis have a bond that only two plants in one pot can forge. Sharing rhizobium, mycorrhizae and the same hair stylist, this bickering couple are comfortable with jobs involving long-term observation, repeated data recording, and statistical analysis.
BIOL3138 - Special Topics in Evolution, Ecology and Genetics
This was an absolutely fantastic experience. I was lucky enough to find a supervisor who was open to ideas about how best to build the course, and together we created coursework that extended my skills, and was great fun too. Ultimately, I put in more hours for this subject than my other five, but because I could easily work on it during other subject's lectures, it didn't bog me down.
Myfanwy Dotterson is multi-lingual, and has a talent for making complicated scientific processes and concepts easy to understand. She is co-author of a plethora of textbooks and field guides, and has a habit of doodling diagrams on any paper surface available (napkins, the bib at the dentist etc.). Born with mauve skin, she has developed a neutral monochrome fashion style in an attempt to fit in with society at large, with debatable success. Some have speculated she is immortal, and hails from the dawn of humankind, while others believe that the mantle of Myfanwy Dotterson is passed from mother to daughter. Whatever the explanation, Myfanwe has somehow witnessed the development of humankind's scientific endeavours, and takes great delight in chronicling the intellectual progress of our species.