Happy Birthday Alyssa

Photo Credits to Veena Lin who has such a great eye for pictures!

We played board games and ate pizza to celebrate Alyssa’s birthday tonight. Alyssa is incredibly sweet, focused and committed to her career goal, creative, organized, and is awesome in so many ways that this list could go on for pages. Happy Birthday girl!!!

My first MCAT full length

I did my first full-length MCAT yesterday!

For those of you also looking to write the MCAT, I used the unscored AAMC sample test.I purchased the AAMC practice bundle that includes 3 practice exams and questions banks. My wallet cried but I think the investment will be worth it.

  • Fighting fatigue during a 7.5 hour exam is really hard! I need to train my endurance. I had an interruption halfway so I  took a longer break midway than I supposed, which I regret doing because It would have been better to do the exam straight through to get the most accurate representation of my abilities. So I think my actual score would have been lower than it was.
    • To be honest, it felt brutal mentally and physically.
  • The chemical and physical section was my worst section so I need to prioritize improving this section. I need to review content for this section
    • I need to review a lot of general chemistry that I vaguely recall from 11th grade chemistry
    • I also need to learn fluids
    • I also need to learn electricity
  • CARS felt alright. Not too rushed.
  • I was surprised at how well I did on the Biology section. I had to draw on knowledge from MICB 202, BIOL 200, and BIOC 202.
  • Psych/Socio section: I need more content review.

UBC thankfully has a long weekend this weekend so I was able to spend the majority yesterday writing the full length (as well as working on our upcoming club event. Hooray!) , and a chunk of today reviewing what I got wrong.

You might be wondering why I am taking a full length so early. I think it’s important to get a feel for the exam early on rather than wait until you’ve finished all your content review first before taking an exam. I’m a first time MCAT taker so I don’t know whether this is the right philosophy. I’ll let you now after I write the real test and see my score (eek!).

I have to be productive the rest of today because I’m going with my friend Veena to the Japanese design exhibition downtown tomorrow.

Do you have any tips for writing standardized tests? Any advice about the MCAT? I’d love to hear you from you!



Studying Miscellaneous

My posts get more and more boring, eh? But I’m determined to post consistently this semester.  This is NOT an advice post because I’m not qualified to give study advice. This is more me reflecting on how my study experimenting has been going – what I liked and didn’t like. This is also a poorly written post. I really should take this post done and wait until I make it nice and pretty. BUT I know I might not get around it for here’s my messy collection of thoughts for you to giggle at.

The point of those of us part of the UBC Blog Squad is to show you what the real life of a UBC student looks like. Part of it is being very unexciting during midterm season and not written eloquent sentences because you’re too used to written in point form.

Is group studying a good idea?

  • It is if you’re with the right people who are focused and can explain what you don’t know and ask you good quiz questions.
  • You feel happy because you’re not lonely trapped in some cold library cubicle.
  • Not everyone is a good study partner for you. Be warned
  • Keep the group small.

Where to study?

  • Quiet
  • Quiet
  • Quiet
  • Not Ladha’s Silent Study Space. I studied there yesterday and morning. For a silent study space, it is surprisingly not very silent (haha)
  • If I’m trying to memorize, then I have to study in isolation.

Music or no music?

  • I’m still doing both.
  • Not to do: avoid more distracting types of music while memorizing. for me, no Martin Garrix or Mamamoo or BlackPink while memorizing
  • Yes do: pump up the fun high tempo music while doing practice problems
  • Yes do for reading lectures notes and other learning phase: Piano music in the background can help focus! I swear piano music has been my study companion while studying for a long time.

Night before morning midterm?

  • Review everything briefly. Well my Sociology and Psychology midterms are tomorrow morning. I don’t usually review all my notes but since I have no practice questions, I went through ALL the lectures slides for both classes.
  • Have a hard cutoff is nice e.g. all the slides. No rereading the same 5 pages 10 times if you already got it. Chill
  • Go home early. Eat dinner
  • I had a nice long phone call with one of my long-time best friends from across the continent. Lovely treat for focused studying today.
  • Work on club stuff – SUPER excited about our Diversity Fair coming up in March!!!!!!!! If you’re a UBC student, come drop by!

Share practice questions, flashcards, pdfs of whatever?

  • Sharing is caring. Collaborate not compete. Be kind and help when you can.

Cool electives?

  • Psychology!
  • Sociology!
  • Physics!! Yes physics is my elective
  • If this is not required for your major, I’m enjoying biochemistry.
  • Microbiology and immunology was one of my favourite electives
  • Physiology is super fun too

Time to stop rambling and get some sleep.

Have a good week!

Study Tool: Anki

I’m cringing right now after spending $35 to purchase the Anki mobile app. I’m a digital flashcard fanatic and I started to use flashcards to do the bulk of my studying for particular classes such as microbiology and immunology, and pharmacology. Flashcards don’t work for studying physics or chemistry unfortunately.

I’ve been using Quizlet since high school. I’m actually a beta tester for Quizlet – yes, I’m such an obsessed Quizlet user. Quizlet’s been making some much-needed updates to flashcard review that are not available to the general public. I’ve testing these new releases and have to say I like them. Even without the new features, Quizlet itself is easy to use and has great options such as creating practice tests. However, the spaced repetition is still far from what I would like so I’m splurging on the mobile app for Anki.

While using Quizlet all along, I’ve tested out other flashcards including memrise, memorang, ankiapp (different from AnkiMobile), studyblue, flashcards +, and others that I tried so long ago that I don’t remember their names. I have to say I found memrise really helpful for learning Chinese vocabulary, especially since I’m a pretty visual learner. I can’t remember why I didn’t use memrise for other subjects but there is probably some reason. I also really love how memorang coverts your flashcards into multiple choice questions easily. Memorang does not function without internet connection so I only used to study for our anesthesia unit and then stopped using it.

I’ve chosen to purchase Anki after a lot of internet research and agonizing over whether I want to spend that much money. I’m justifying my purchase like this: if buying a new MCAT review book can cost $54.99, spending $35 on Anki which I plan to use for multiple courses in school and for the MCAT is worth it because I could be saving on study time. I already anticipate that I’m going to miss the audio play function of Quizlet so it is possible that I’ll return to Quizlet in the future.

I plan to use Anki as my exclusive study tool for my Psychology class. I hope I’ll have a positive review of Anki to write for you all in the future.

Anyways, if you haven’t tried digital flashcards yet and want to, I highly recommend Quizlet as a free platform to start out (**I do NOT get paid to promote Quizlet **). Anki desktop is free as well if you start your Anki adventure along with me.

Now you tell me: Do you use flashcards, digital or paper? If so, what platforms do you recommend? Does anyone have any Anki advice for me?

Happy studying!


Biochemistry: Amino Acids

I prefer understanding over pure memorization but I have to memorize my amino acids. Let’s make little bios for 20 amino acids! wooooo science wooo being a nerd to the max. Seriously thought, before I wrote this post, I was passively redrawing the amino acids in hopes that I would remember. Making up these weird stories helps me remember the amino acids a bit more.


First, let’s talk about the nonpolar aliphatic group.

  • Nonpolar aa are not fans of water. They’re too chic for water – they only drink organic mountain goat fat. nonpolar – fats, water hating.
  • Aliphathic compounds are non-aromatic. They don’t like their perfume. It makes them sneeze
  • hydrophobic chains like to cluster together. they befriend each other to eat organic fat.
  • often in the centre/core of proteins, as far way from water as possible
  • usually not reactive.

Glycine, Gly, G

  • the smallest baby protein
  • Its R group is H
  • fun fact: it’s the only achiral molecule that there is a plane of symmetry
  • the h group is so small that glycine isn’t really hydrophobic. (baby glycine is not a fan of that organic mountain goat fat)


  • The CH3 = methyl group
  • Ala, A. It’s A. It’s as simple as ABC. Don’t overthink Alanine. It’s just a good ol’ CH3 group


  • Val, V
  • Vaaaalllineee nothing witty to say. It’s got two CH3 groups so it looks like a V. Whoever named Valine was kind to future biochemistry students. CH3 CH3 CH NH3CO=

Leucine, Leu, L

  • CH2 CH CH3 CH3
  • Leucine is valine with Ch2 extension. think leucine has CH inch heels. or leucine has CH neck extension and still has ch ch3 ch3 at the end

Isoleucine, Ile, I

  • It’s weird. add ch3 to one side of the valine and boom, isoleucine. some social inequality going on because one side is longer than the other. how could you make isoleucine like this. uncool!
  • has TWO chiral centres. that’s right TWO ! TWO! Two!

Proline, Pro, P

  • ring structure ITS A PENTAGON. I like pentagons. Pros hang out in pentagons -> are boxing rings
  • the end of the r group is bonded to the nitrogen


  • THIOETHER.  SO SPECIAL.  Ch3-S -ch2-ch2.   the end is ch3, S (YAY) and two peaks
  • I like methionine. It’s so special. I like S. sorrynotsorry



  • aromatic means has phenyl ring
  • anticipate hydrophobic interactions

Phenylalanine, Phe, F

  • It’s F because proline already took P. sorry phenylalanine.
  • hydrophobic phneyl ring
  • NOTE: there is one peak before phenyl ring

tyrosine, tyr, Y

  • note Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y yyyyyyyy is this not T? Threonine has T so tyrosine had to be y
  • still hydrophobic due to the phenyl ring
  • but it’s also polar due to the OH at the tip of the phenyl ring
  • Less hydrophobic than phenylalanine
  • NOTE: there is one peak before the phenyl ring

Tryptophan, Trp, W

  • So I don’t know Trp has to Trp instead of try. Someone tripped and spilled ink so the y became P. must be. so now trp is trp.
  • W. tryptophan is found in turkey meat – W wobble wobble.
  • Trp, W
  • It has TWO rings. both are aromatic. the closer ring has nitrogen, the other is all carbon. There are 5 visible double bond
  • Note there is ch2 neck extension before the two rings aka one peak


BASIC (positively charged)

  • higher pKa
  • long chain with ionizable gropus
    • amino group in Lys
    • guanidinium gropu Arg

Lysine, lys, K

  • It’s lying down which why we got 4 ch2 and nh3+ end.
  • Nh3+ end is important. NH3+ so there is are two Nh3+ in lysine’
  • Lysine is two-faced ? a liar -< lysine? the two face is both the two peaks, and the double nh3+

Arginine, Arg, R

  • argggg – think pirates.
  • nh3 nh2 nh2 and two peaks
  • the nh3 nh2 nh2 looks pretty cool. A pirate flag instead of skull, has the nitrogen

Histidine, His, H

  • Draw one peak, then ring with two nitrogens, double bonds
  • pka close to 7 so it switches back and forth.
  • If asked to try at ph 7, draw its neutral form. the neutral form is dominant at pH 7
  • imidazole ring
  • uncharged or charged, depending on its location
  • often in active site of enzymes

ACIDIC aa (negatively charged aa)

  • ate indicates coo- gropu
  • found on surface of proteins. generally, acidic and basic aa are found on the surfaces because they have favourable interactions with water


  • contains carboxylic acid in r gropu
  • negatively charged at ph 7 because its pka is less than 4
  • one neck extension, coo-


  • glu is the bigger sister of D so its E
  • ch2 ch2 – TWO neck extension. coo-


  • not charged but these can hydrogen bond ( hydrophilic)
  • ser and thr contain aliphatic hydroxyl groups
  • OH often gets phosphorylated in proteins
  • Cys contains thiol. SH is polar group.


  • Serine is interesting. I think of Serine as Lilin. In the story, Lilin and the other runaways lived by a river at the bottom of a mountain -> one CH2 Peak with OH
  • The OH group makes serine polar



  • Threonine is Lala, Lilin’s younger sister. Lala survived longer than Lilian did. The main difference between Lala (threonine) and Serine is the Threonine stands up for herself and has an extra CH3 spike at the top of the CH peak.
  • Remember the threonine is the one that comes after serine
  • The OH makes Thr polar

Cysteine, Cys, C

  • thiol group (SH) -> cysteine is the quiet one shhhh
  • polar
  • can weakly hydrogen bond, reactive
  • two cysteine residues form disulfide bonds to link 2 seperate chains together

Asparagine, Asn, N

  • Ch2 neck, C=O, NH2 ending
  • This looks the same as aspartate but inside of o-, nh2 –
  • “N” possess N.
  • Asian New drivers must carry the N and drive while eating asparagus (asparagine, Asn, N)

Glutamine, Glu, Q

  • Q – do you have a question about gluttony?
  • Is the NH2 equiv of glutamic acid.
  • Gln (q) , unlike Glu (E), has NH2. It has two peaks

Remember that the amino groups in N and Q stay uncharged

And that’s 20 amino acids!


What second semester Physics feels like

I love the PHYS 118 lectures given by Dr. Rieger so much because he explains concepts clearly and we spend most of our classes solving problems which is great because I enjoy active learning. The structure of the class is similar to Physics 117 except instead of Learning Catalytics, we use regulars Clickers.

In lecture, I feel super excited to learn about electricity, to solve equations and work out my brain.  THEN today we did some integration which made sense for rods. Then I was totally lost after we moved on to infinite lines of charge, rings of charge, disks of charge…. Yup, I’m lost.

No lie, as fun as learning new things is most of the time, it’s not always fun.

I’ve missed office hours for today but that’s fine because I still want to give more time to figure out things myself. I’m trying but I definitely do battle the temptation to give up. I’ve bribed myself with an Chai Latte so I have to keep going.

I’m trying to tell myself that there is nothing that I can’t learn. I might take me a ton of time because I’m not physics-gifted but I’ll get there eventually.

So if you’re also struggling with a particular course, you can also remind yourself that there is nothing that is impossible to learn. You can do it friend!!!

Good luck!


CHEM 235 Exam Prep – Organic Chemistry Lab Techniques

Here are the Flashcards I made – Glossary of terms https://quizlet.com/148816707/chem-235-glossary-flash-cards/

Laboratory maintenance

  • Do not put chemical back into original containers
  • Measure out hazardous chemicals at the fumehoods and transport them in closed containers
  • Clean your glassware with soap & multiple rinses with water at the end of each lab so it’s clean for the next lab ( video on proper cleaning)


Intro Video 1- Personal Protective Equipment

  • No sandals or open toed shoes. Wear leather closed toes shoes
  • Cover legs. no shorts
  • wear long sleeved shirt to cover your arms
  • wear knee length lab coat
  • do not wear hat
  • tie up your long hair. you might have to tuck your hair under the collar
  • wear protective safety goggles or normal prescription eyeglasses that are at 4 cm wide and tall. Wear glasses at all times while in the lab

Intro video 2 – Cleaning glassware

  • the successful outcome of experiments can be affected by how clean the glassware are.
  • sponges for cleaning the benchtops
  • begin cleaning by eliminating as much solid waste as you can. choose the appropriate size brush to clean. Add small amount of detergent and hot tap water and then scrub with brush. rinse with tap water thoroughly. If still dirty, use Comet.
  • be very careful when cleaning the inner tube of the condenser. It is not necessary to clean the outer jacket or outlets
  • do not put a brush into the tip of a separatory funnel
  • shake out water after rinsing
  • put the glassware in your locker on its bottom. the opening must be exposed to air
  •  do not use paper towel to dry
  • In some cases, use acetone at the acetone washing station
  • If you need to dry quickly to use again, use acetone. If it will be in contact with water based solution, acetone is not necessary.

Introductory video 3- waste disposal

  • there’s a solid waste container in a large fumehood. don’t put glass there.
  • glassware such as capillary tubes should go to the glass waste container.
  • flush water based solutions down the sink e.g. the hcl, h2so4, naoh, nahco3 (inorganic acids and bases). flush with running water for at least a minute
  • put organic solvents into the red cans labelled liquid organic waste e.g. diethyl ether, methylene chloride. the container is next to the solid waste.
  • acetone has its own special disposal can beside the glass waste.

What to do in case of a fire

  • turn off the heat source
  • place a watchglass over the top of the vessel
  • try to remove solvent bottles and equipment away from fire
  • fires involving small amounts of solvent will burn out harmlessly
  • dry chemical or co2 fire extinguisher for bigger fires

What to do for spills

  • flush, safety shower
  • get rid of clothes with chemical spills
  • sweep off floor, wipe up with wet sponge if inorganic. if organic, use paper towel
  • eye- flush with water for 15- 30 minutes


  • class a = compressed gas
  • class b = flammable and combustible material
  • class c = oxidizing material
  • CLASS D 1 =  poisonous and infectious
  • class d = materials causing other toxic effects
  • class d3 = biohazardous
  • class e= corrosive
  • class f= dangerously reactive material


  • do prep work
  • do homework questions due at the start of lab
  • the quality of your product matters
  • there will be quizzes
  • **remember that you must always use ink



  • water Based solution
  • Immiscible organic solvent e.g. ether
  • Separatory funnel
  • Dissolve compounds in the ether solution
  • Split the aqueous solution into 3. Use a graduated cylinder
  • Funnel never more than 2/3 full
  • Fix and invert and release pressure
  • No whoosh sound is good
  • A bit that is mix, do its own beaker
  • Pour out the top of funnel and cork it up
  • Cork and ground glass joint
  • Boiling chip
  • Container with water
  •  Put in the flash, add boiling chip
  • Add just enough solvent to cover the compound
  • Wes condenser to the outlets, wet the ends of the tubing first
  • Put the whole apparatus.
  • Two sided clamp LOOSELY around body of wes condenser
  • Put the tubing over the metal thing to keep it out of the way.
  • Attach the lower out to the water source and let the other one spill out into the sink. Be gentle when you turn it on.
  • Boil at high heat
  • Use a paper, folded, thick strip around the top of the flash to stir the flask
  • If not dissolve when boil, dropper some solvent until dissolves
  • Remove flash from hot plate USING A CLAMP around the flash.
  • Remove from the wes condenser and clamp at an angle to the bench. Do not disturb in any way.
  • Evaporate away solvent, add incompatible solvent ( compound does not dissolve in this solvent), ice water bath
Simple distillation
  • 100 ml Rb
  • Still head adaptor
  • thermometer
  • Collection vessel

Filtering Unwanted solids

  • Gravity filtration using filter paper
  • Erlenmeyer flask large enough that solvent occurs no more than 1/2 its volume
  • Glass filter funnel
  • You want to keep the solvent but not the solids
  • Use the small ring clap with a gap
  • Hot filtration – preheat in oven
  • Pour solution down a rod to avoid splash
  • Rinse flash with ice cold solvent to get rid of bits
  • If flow slows, push the filter paper down
Filtering wanted solids – suction filtration
  • Suction trap = the big one
  • Use three pronged clamp for the filter flash
  • Temporarily disconnect the vacuum before you add the crystals so you don’t break your crystals
  • Press down on funnel for better seal
  • Use ice cold solvent or use the MOTHER LIQUOR, pour down the stirring rod
  • Do suction for several minutes to dry the crystals
  • Use spatula to flip onto a watch glass and let it dry
  • Cover with weighing paper to protect
  • It’s easier to take crystals off the filter paper when dry
Preparing a sample for melting points
  • Micro cover glasses
  • Capillary tubes
  • Drop tube
  • Fischer Johns or mel temp
  • Grind the solid into fine particle -> crush on watch glass using a test tube
  • Fischer john -> all crystals touching it each, none too close to edge, use copper cooled in ice bath to cool
  • 3 -4 mm in capillary tube, drop tube more than once, firmly packed no more than 2-3 mm
Taking melting points
  • Heating block/sample well
  • If known, raise temp to max until 15-20 below expected melting point. Reduce the rate so rate rises 2 degrees per minute.
  • First drop of liquid amongst the crystals. 2nd temp – whole solid mass turns to liquid. The melting point is both of these numbers
  • If unknown, max until melting is noticed. The observed temp is lower than the true melting point because lag between thermometer reading and actual temperature of heating block. Allow cooling until 20 degrees lower than observed melting point
  • Plastic beaker with ice -> wipe off moisture. Use hot hands device.
  • All used in glass waste container
  • Calibration equation – CORRECT THE TEMP READING USING CALIBRATION EQUATION. Y = true mp. x.= observed mp
  • Use hair dryer to cool. If known, heat until 10 degrees below known mp. Preliminary reading will be lower than true. Let cool until 20 degrees lower than preliminary reading. Heat at 2 deg increase per minute.
Calibrating a thermometer
  • Ice bath in 400 ml beaker glass.
  • Immersion line is covered by water. Stir ice bath gently to ensure even distribution of temperature. If not exactly 0, adjust your readings. For distillations, glycerol at tip, insert into stilled adaptor until immersion line is completely covered.
Thin layer chromatography-
  • Rapid separation and qualitative analysis of small amount of material
  • Cannot be used for volatile compounds
  • Partition of compounds between moving liquid phase and solid stationary phase
  • 100 ml beaker
  • 1/2 moon paper
  • Silica gel plate
  • Pencil and ruler
  • Spotting solvent
  • Dissolve your compound in a volatile solvent, spot onto your plate, the volatile solvent evaporates and the compound gets absorbed onto solid plate.
  • Dip plate into developing solvent, capillary action
  • Compound attracted to moving liquid phase (the developing solvent that moves by capillary action) and moves with it. Different substances attracted to moving phase differently so moves different amounts.
  • ** LEAST POLAR SUBSTANCE MOVES FURTHER since liquid phase is less polar than the solid phase. **
  • Rf = distance traveled by compound/ distance traveled by the solvent from t
What to do if there’s a fire
  • Turn off the heat
  • Put a watch glass on top to smother the flames
  • Remove solvents and equipment from area
  • Most fires will burn out by themselves but if not, use fire extinguisher


How to succeed in Organic Chemistry CHEM 233

So, I bought my CHEM 233 textbook on Craigslist and the seller turned out to be Sarah who I went to high school. Sarah is a year ahead of me but has always been very kind and friendly. She’s also highly intelligent and will be attending UT Pharmacy school this fall. I wish her best of luck! Her tips for succeeding in CHEM 233 are:

  • You should get a textbook for this class.
  • Invest in the Carbonless Copy paper. You need it.
  •  Do practice questions. There’s no way you can do all the questions in the book but make sure you do some.
  • Do not freak out if you fail a midterm, especially midterm 2. Fail as in under 50%, not under 90%. Failure happens. Apparently the final is really easy so you’ll be okay.
  • That said, do not freak about failing CHEM 233 the course. Loads and loads of students pass CHEM 233. You’ll also pass as along as you don’t play Pokemon Go all day every day this semester.