Module choices for October 2014

Since I’ll have completed my Life Sciences degree, the focus moves temporarily to my “miscellaneous interesting courses” degree which I’d like to top up to the point where I could claim it which means adding at least 20 points at level 3 and 80 points overall.

I’d originally had Geology (S276) on the list but now that I’ve read through the pre-course material for it, I don’t really find it that interesting so, at the moment, it’s off the list of possibles for October.

Other options include The physical world (S207) for which the first book is available online free, so I’m going to work my way through that and see what I think of it. Upsides are that it sounds really interesting and presumably would make my Planetary Science course easier going when I get around to it. Downside for this is that it’s one of the courses that are billed as a major undertaking. It’s a 60 pointer so that would take me to 280 points by itself.

Then there’s the new Introduction to childhood studies and child psychology (E102) which is one of the options for my proposed psychology degree and thus moves that along. Upsides are that it’s level 1, four TMAs and an end of course assessment ie it sounds easy going. Downside is that it’s a first run of the course and the OU have a bad reputation with first-run courses. It’s a 60 pointer too so that also takes me to 280 points.

I’m also considering Empires 1492-1975 (A326) which is essentially the follow-on from my Archaeology course from a few years ago. Downside of this is that the OH is also planning to do this and as our approaches to study are totally different, that sounds like a recipe for some conflict.

Coupled with one of those I plan to do Chemical change and environmental applications (S345) which is 30 points at level 3 and thus gets me to the required 60 points at level 3.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Finally the Drug Design (S346) EMA is away

Chemistry assignments always take me ages to do, so I thought it best to make an early start on the end of module assignment and avoid last minute rushes.

Since the external examiner required that the assignment was issues three weeks before the cut-off date, that meant that it turned up on March 21st this year with the cut-off date being April 10th. So, three weekends to work on it as I keep weekends for assignments.

At nine questions, it was pretty much the same as a normal assignment, albeit with more questions and covering the entire course pretty much in sequence. So there were three questions on the first, mainly biology, book, around 6 or 7 from the second, mainly chemistry, book and several from sections of the course presented as separate texts (i.e. unit 4 and the McMurray book extracts).

In practice, finding the information to answer some of the questions proved rather time-consuming as there’s no overall course index and unit 4 and the McMurray extracts are easy to forget about after you’ve worked through them. So this year one particularly easy question took a number of people ages to find the relevant information and some were even talking about not answering it at all.

Overall, it covered the course quite thoroughly and helped what was previously fairly unconnected information to make sense as a whole. Unfortunately, as this is an examinable component we won’t get any feedback on our answers which seems a shame as it’s the one piece of work where the course really came together.

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Birkbeck Structural Molecular Biology

This is basically a distance learning version of the Queen’s molecular biology masters so similar amount of theory but no practical work and the project would be literature based too.

It’s structured as a choice of two out of three certificate courses and you can do it part-time over two or three years.

The first (effectively compulsory) certificate is Principles of protein structure. This covers “the structure of proteins, and how that structure is related to both a protein’s sequence and its function. It provides a background to the discipline of structural molecular biology. That is: how protein structures are built up, how the structure of proteins contributes to functions that are common to all living things, as well as differences between them, how knowledge of protein structure has led to the development of drugs against diseases such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, how to use software to manipulate and explore 3D, models of protein structure, and to view models of molecules in motion.” ie pretty much as you’d expect from a molecular biology masters.

In theory, you have a choice of one from the remaining two programmes but Protein Crystallography is really a specialist course and in reality I suspect that most people actually do Techniques in Structural Molecular Biology which runs through the various techniques used including protein expression, purification and crystallisation, protein bioinformatics, X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance, and electron microscopy.

You do two projects, one tied to each of the certificate programmes that you’ve done so I imagine that you could either do those following the certificate or leave them both to the end (hence two or three years to do the masters).

Cost-wise, the Birkbeck masters is £3975/year over two years or £2700/year over three years compared to the £4900 for the Queens molecular biology & biotechnology masters over one year and about £4600 for the Open University medicinal chemistry masters over about three years.

One thing that strikes me when I looked at the detailed course content that Birkbeck describe is that with doing both biology and chemistry, I’ve covered a lot of the ground eg protein structure, molecular modelling and a number of the analysis tools like NMR and microscopy. Whilst presumably the masters courses will cover such things in somewhat more detail, my pre-existing knowledge should make it an easier ride than it would have been otherwise. It also strikes me that at masters level, molecular biology seems to become a whole lot closer to chemistry which in turn is making the medicinal chemistry masters more attractive.


Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.