Archive for the ‘Chemistry’ Category

Grabbing books for free while you can

One of the things that’s quite handy about the Open University is the library.

Since the OU is a distance learning university, the library, for most people, is fully online. It’s got subscriptions to hundreds of journals, mainly aimed at the various courses that they run and, usually, they’re downloadable as PDFs. What you can’t, usually, do is to download a complete issue of one of the journals unless you do it article by article but then, most of the time, you wouldn’t want to do that.

However, it also has a whole lot of books and many of these are available as PDF downloads. Although the OU online library doesn’t generally stock the OU course books it does hold those that are co-published. So, for example, you can download all the course books for the main chemistry course, S205, and for the oceanography course, S330, because those were co-published with the Royal Society of Chemistry and the equivalent earth sciences society.

In addition to those there are heaps of books that are referred to in various courses. Of those, for me, the interesting ones are those referred to by the Metals and Life (S347) course as several of them are quite closely related to the medicinal chemistry masters that I’m thinking of doing.

What’s key is, of course, to do the downloading whilst still a student. One former student is now realising that looking a bit further ahead would have saved a small fortune in books.

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

Course plans for the next couple of years

Finishing the Life Sciences degree means that I’ve a number of quite different options at this point. To add flexibility to my future plans, first off I’m going to top-up my “miscellaneous interesting courses” degree to the point where I can claim it and thereby avoid losing the points should I not get to fully complete it by 2019. I have several options for doing this which basically involve doing one course in October 2014 and another in 2015. At the moment, I’m planning on October E102 Introduction to childhood studies and child psychology, the new 60 pointer that would restart my psychology degree that’s been on hold since I got going with the life sciences. For the 2015 slot, there’s really only S345 Chemical change and environmental applications as it fills the 20 point hole that stops me from claiming the degree.

As a side-line, I’m also planning on gradually increasing the number of courses within the miscellaneous degree with November S283 Planetary science and the search for life,  the second 30 pointer for my Certificate in Astronomy and Planetary Science, being the top of my short list, though I have several 10 and 15 pointers in my sights too, notably S155 Scientific Investigations (on its final run this year) and D171 Counselling. Further down the road is A326 Empires: 1492-1975, the 60 point follow-on from the World Archaeology course that I did a few years back and A200 Medieval to modern history with the Creative Arts degree from the OU’s sister university, the Open College of the Arts remaining in my thoughts.

That done, the following year I’d really like to get going on the masters where I’m looking at:

  • Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at Queen’s, one year full-time or two part-time;
  • Structural Molecular Biology at Birkbeck, two or three years distance learning;
  • Molecular Biology at Staffordshire, two years distance learning but with two summer schools; or
  • Medicinal Chemistry with the OU, three or four years distance learning

The “only” problem with the masters is that I’ve not, yet, worked out how to fit it in with real-life.

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.

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

The medicinal chemistry option

As well as the molecular biology masters at Queen’s, there’s also the medicinal chemistry masters at the Open University to think about.

I’ve been toying with that off and on for the past couple of years as a possible next step. In practical terms, it’s just over the fence from molecular biology, looking at similar topics but from the chemistry angle.

As always, there’s a research skills module Developing research skills in science (S825) which is used by many of the OU science masters qualifications ie isn’t really directly related to medicinal chemistry.

Molecules in medicine (S807) is the main taught module and covers infectious diseases (bacterial and viral), cancer, heart disease, inflammation and neuropharmacology which reads like a biology module but presumably looks at things from the chemistry angle.

Concept to clinic (S827) is a smaller module which looks at the drug discovery and development process from a modern and historical perspective and introduces you to a range of issues in drug discovery. So it’s got some similarities to my current Drug Design (S346) module but with more of an emphasis on the design rather than synthesis.

Finally, there’s the MSc project module for MSc in Medicinal Chemistry (SXM810) which is based in the areas of the Molecules in Medicine and/or Concept to Clinic modules.

Plus points of the medicinal chemistry masters are that it’s going to be easy to fit around real life and it seems a lot simpler to get into (no need to gather together references etc.). On the downside, it doesn’t seem to offer quite such an easy route into the doctorate and has none of the lab work either.

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

Drug design (S346) getting easier towards the end

The workload on S346 seems to be over the hump now with no more tutorials scheduled and only the end of module assessment (EMA) to be done.

For a change, the EMA is pretty much the same format as the normal assessments albeit with more, but shorter, questions. The nine questions cover pretty much all of the course in sequence so the first three questions are on the first, mainly biological, book, then there are several on the various chemical syntheses, one on retrosynthetic analysis and it finishes off with a question on a protein synthesis and one to get you to analyse a research paper.

The net effect of that is that some are more difficult than others. For me the first three biological questions and the research paper seem particularly easy so I’ve those completed. The fourth question seems to have been one that’s floored a number of people but, once the method is found, it seems relatively doable.

Easy doesn’t mean quick to do though. As usual for me, chemistry questions take me ages to do – for the EMA something like an hour or two seems about right for me.

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