Before I applied to the University of York, I was unsure what the day-to-day life and workload of a Biological Sciences student would be like. Was there loads of free time to join every society on my massive list? Would I be cramming in all my lectures and have no time to spend with my friends? Well, now that I am a 2nd-Year Genetics undergraduate, I have some insight into how to prepare, get involved, and balance your work life during your Biosciences degree.
A typical study week
As a 1st Year, I had five teaching modules per term. This meant that for most modules I had alternate weeks of lecture release and workshops to consolidate learning. My lectures were released online, which gave me enough time to complete them before workshops. It also allowed me to decide when I wanted to do them. In Biology workshops, you’re given example questions to answer in groups, based on the previous week’s lectures. Also, the lecturers are there to help if you have any questions.
Additionally, I had a tutorial module where you’re given a topic or question as a small group, and you write an essay based on it. My tutor and topic changed every term, and we were given a list of options to pick from. This meant that we could write about what interested us, for example, genes and behaviour.
There are also many opportunities for lab work. In 1st Year, practicals are mainly based on key skills that you’ll be using in the future, eg micropipetting and gel electrophoresis. Also taught in the first year is R, a statistics coding programme used to make graphs. And, don’t worry if, like me, you have never coded before. R will be new for everyone, and there are easy step-by-step lectures so that everyone can be confident in using it.
Projects I have been involved in
Since starting my degree, I have been involved in many projects and events, both biology-related and not. Here are some of the biology ones:
In one of my 1st Year assessments, we were tasked with solving a current global issue of our choice. This meant we were able to choose a topic that interested us. We chose the global food crisis as the problem and solved it by hypothetically installing aquaponics in unused office buildings. This would increase both fish and plant produce. We were then able to present our findings through a presentation and a report. This was a fun project as it allowed us to be creative but also challenged our problem-solving abilities.
We had a field trip to a local pond where we went pond-dipping, counting and identifying the different species present. From there, we made a presentation on consumption and production at different trophic levels. Currently, in a 2nd-Year project, my group was able to test a substance of our choice to see whether it affected the chance of developing Huntington’s disease in C elegans.
Balancing work and social life
Believe me, it is definitely possible to balance your social and work life during your degree. Just this week, I rehearsed with Sing Song Society for our winter concert, went Christmas present shopping in town and saw the Christmas markets. I also went to Crochet Society and finished my scarf, decorated the flat Christmas tree and made wreaths. There will be some weeks when it is more difficult to fit in all your social activities alongside lectures and assignments, but it’s nothing a few library study sessions won’t solve. Plus, there are always the holidays to catch up in if you do fall behind.
My application and advice
My application process to study Genetics was very simple. After writing my personal statement based on a genetics book I found interesting, I applied and got an offer within a few days. My transition into 1st Year from sixth form was very easy as a lot of A level knowledge is recapped briefly to refresh everyone, and to teach others who may not have studied that part of the course. So everyone is on a level playing field. My advice for anyone going into 1st Year is that although grades don’t count, still try your hardest because it will pay off in the end. But most importantly, have fun!