Cast your [electronic] ballot!

Don’t forget to vote this week!  There are many different positions that students are running for, and for different faculties as well.

In the case that you don’t feel that you are well informed enough to vote for the candidates running for their respective positions, do take the time to vote for the current referendum regarding building private housing on campus.  This is your opportunity to voice your opinions about what happens on your campus!

How do you vote?  Log into your SSC, and select “Webvote” from the main page (it’s at the bottom of the list where you access your course schedule).  Click on “cast vote” and then  find the referendum or positions that you would like to vote for.  It only takes a few seconds to do!

Past, Present, and Future

What a whirlwind of weeks it has been!  But we must keep up to date with the important dates and events!

SUMMER REGISTRATION: Registration for summer courses happened this past week!  Did you choose to continue studying while the sun is out or did you opt for other fruitful activities (travelling, work, volunteer, etc.)?  Summer courses both have their benefits and their downsides.  On the plus side, summer courses are easier because you are only studying 1 or 2 courses at a time (and you could therefore score a higher grade than if you did the course during the year).  A disadvantage though, is that the material is very condensed, and the classes are long hours.  Has this little blurb made you reconsider registering for summer courses, but now you’re worried that you won’t get in?  Don’t worry!  If the course is full, keep checking, even up to the day that the course starts.  Many people drop out after the first couple of lectures, or they drop out because they only registered for the Upass benefits (ahem!).  I hope things work out the way you want them to!

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS: Time change happened this morning at 2 a.m.!  This is the sleep (and study) unfriendly time change, because you lose 1 hour of precious time.  Let me guess…we’re all going to be on Facebook and Twitter writing about how our schedule is messed up…a very good way to make up the lost time indeed! 😉

JOB FAIR: Looking for a job for the summer?  Check out the Job Fair in the SUB concourse on March 13 & 14th (this Tuesday and Wednesday!!!).  Make sure to keep a couple of copies of your resume handy; you don’t know when you might need it.

VOLUNTEER FAIR: Sometimes the best thing to do is to give back to your own community.  Following the job fair this week, there will be a host of volunteer opportunities advertised in, again, the SUB concourse.  Make sure to check out the booths on March 15 &16th!

“Good enough”…not

Surprisingly, it wasn’t too difficult for me to get back into study mode after the break!  Hope you had the same ease of becoming textbook savvy again! (did I just imply that we shouldn’t have studied over the break? *cough, cough*)

Since yesterday, my professors have welcomed us back with are our midterm grades and the schedules for exam viewing.  Whether you are able to keep your midterm with you, or if you are only allowed to see it under your professor/TA’s supervision, it’s super important to go back and review your midterm, and really understand why and how you lost marks.  To me, there are 3 reasons why one wouldn’t go to review their exam:

1) “I got above class average”: So what?  Don’t get me wrong here, even I am motivated to do well on my exams by perceiving that I’m just a little smarter than most of my peers.  But just because you got above class average, it doesn’t mean that you did the best you could.  Don’t settle for “good enough”.

2) “The final exam is non-cumulative”: I’m sure you can still hear your class breathing a collective sigh of relief on the first day of class when the professor announced this uber-awesome thing.  BUT…just because the exam isn’t cumulative, it doesn’t mean that you’re not expected to understand concepts from the first part of the course.  Of course, the final exam will not directly test you on previous material, but you will be expected to know terminology and big ideas from the first half of the course.  Think about it in terms of your future career…whether it be medicine, dentistry, law, teaching, your success will always depend on cumulative knowledge.  I certainly don’t want to go to an ear, nose, and throat specialist who pokes me in the eye because he couldn’t be bothered to remember anatomy outside of his specialty.

3) “I did SUPER well (A+)!”: Congrats!  I have my personal rule-of-thumb for this one: if you aren’t allowed to keep the exam and the viewing time fits your schedule, go to see you exam.  There is always room for improvement.  If the exam is yours to keep, definitely look over it.  Personally, there tends to be at least 1 question that I wasn’t 100% sure about during the exam.  If I miraculously got it right, I’ll still review the concept and go through examples to make sure that I’m fully confident to tackle a similar exam question.

Remember, be proactive!  You’re paying for your education and you shouldn’t settle for being an average student. 🙂


Today was one of the busiest days I’ve had in a while.  I started off by waking up at 5:30am and commuting to UBC.  Sat in class for 1.5 hours, tutored a student for an hour, then jumped on the bus again to travel to BC Children’s Hospital, where I volunteer.  I had one of the best shifts ever at BCCH today, because I got to cuddle an infant and rock him back and forth, which is something I’ve been wanting to do since I started volunteering.  After 3 hours, I hopped onto the bus again, traveled back to UBC, and got ready to right my MICB 202 midterm at 7pm.

In total, I commuted using 6 buses and 1 Canada Line train.  But what fascinates me more about my day was my stress level the throughout all my activities (or lack thereof, should I say).  Despite having a midterm worth 33% in the evening, I wasn’t the slightest bit hesitant to attend my volunteering shift, nor was I frazzled by the number of hours I “wasted” in transit.  Today, I realized the true essence of studying ahead of time and truly being prepared for an exam.

Since the weekend, I had planned my studying in such a way that I could cater for my busy schedule.  I promised myself that I would not leave any studying (except for some review) for today, Tuesday, because I didn’t expect to have any time to cram.  Combining all this with my fascination for the immunology section that we were being tested on, I was able to maintain minimal stress levels.  I didn’t know that it was possible to juggle my exam schedule with my other commitments…I usually cancel all my appointments and volunteering shifts during exam time.  I always pride myself with having superb time-management skills, but I think I just upgraded myself to the next level!

P.s. Might I add that I also managed to find time to write this blog post at the end of my busy day!  Where there is a will, there is a way! 🙂

It’s that time of year again…

Sorry for being MIA for the last little while!  I’ve been meaning to write, but the task was always shoved to the bottom of the pile.

My midterms start tomorrow!  I’m sure some of you have already suffered the banes of university life.  Luckily, my schedule is treating me well…1 tomorrow, 1 on Tuesday, 2 the following Wednesday, and then the last one of Thursday!

I know I’m lucky, because I’ve heard of some pretty harsh exam pile ups.  Which begs the question, why can’t we apply for hardship during midterms, and only during finals?

I could write a whole persuasive essay on the practicality of why midterms can’t be moved, but I think Dr. Shelley Reid, my CLST 301 prof, sums it up really nicely:

“Your bachelor’s degree is worth much more than the sum total of your knowledge of biochemistry, organic chemistry, or even the meaning of the root term for the belly-button*.  It is instead evidence to society at large (including those who decide whom to admit to medical/dental/nursing school, if that is your goal) that you have developed particular skills, such as the ability to cope with the stress of competing—and possibly even conflicting—demands, and to cope with grace and finesse.  Partly it is a matter of time management, but it is also a mental activity: we all know that the weeks around midterms and final exams are stressful, and by surviving them you show your ability to handle both your time and the stress of competing demands.”

* [Editor Note: in CLST 301, we learn the Greek and Latin roots of medical and biological terms]

To me, this is a really inspiring way to look at our stressful situations.  I’m constantly reflecting back on the instances when I was so fixated on achieving something, a detail which now seems irrelevant and almost pathetic.  We need to look at the bigger picture, and not get rooted in that one stressful day, that one hectic week, or that once-in-a-lifetime horrendous exam schedule.  Even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time, there is always a small skill to be learnt out of every experience.

Good luck with your exams!

Science Week 2012!!!

Jello Wrestling!


Prof Pageant!

Paralympic athlete Andrea Holmes!

And Much More!!!

What: The most exciting week for science students!

When: January 23-27 (this week!)

Where: Mostly at Abdul Ladha and the SUB…check out for exact times and locations.

What you can get out of Science Week:

  • $20 gift card prizes for the most creative or most nerdy photo from Science Week 2012!
  • Get entered in a draw for a $20 UBC Bookstore gift card when you use the #SciWeek2012 hash tag on Twitter – the more times you use it, the better your chances!
  • Be one of the first 100 people to answer the daily SUS trivia question (posted on the blog the night before) and win a prize!
  • And you’ll get even more prizes and free SUS swag if you participate in the events!!!

I know there are a lot of exclamation marks in this post, but I’m just sooo excited about the week ahead!!! 🙂

CHEM 123 Tutoring

Are you or your friends feeling your anxiety levels rise at the mention of chemistry?  Are you worried that your GPA will drop because of *shudder* o-chem?  If you need help with CHEM 123, I might just be the person you’re looking for…

  • I received an A+ in CHEM 123
  • I have completed CHEM 233 (2nd year organic chemistry)
  • I have previous tutoring experience
All this great experience for only $15/hour!!!
Contact me (Zahra) by emailing

Term 2 – First Impressions

I hope that you’ve all had an awesome jump start to Term 2.  I certainly have!  Here are my thoughts so far…

MICB 202 – Introduction to Medical Microbiology and Immunology

The professor I have for Immunology is a little dry when it comes to lecturing, but she’s still good.  And I find the content really interesting, so that’s keeping me tuned in.  I like how there are course notes – it helps consolidate the readings.  Definitely don’t want to fall behind in this course, since I’ve heard the exam is BIOL 112-esque.

BIOL 201 – Introduction to Biochemistry

So far the material is not thoroughly difficult and not too interesting.  The prof’s okay and the class seems to be the longest 50 minutes of my life, but the lecture notes are really thorough.  Again, there are specific course notes, which is lovely.

CHEM 205 – Physical Chemistry

I’ve only had one class so far, so not too many thoughts on the course material itself.  The prof is a little hard to understand.

FNH 250 – Nutrition Concepts and Controversies

I have this once a week, for 3 hours all together.  It’s tiring, and the prof is pretty boring.  The material seems like it will be interesting though.

CLST 301 – The Technical Terms of Medicine and Biological Science

I’ve also only had one class for this course, so I have no idea what the quality of lectures will be.  We’ve gotten our first vocab list to learn – it’s harder to learn suffixes and prefixes which can’t be said out loud (because they don’t form a coherent sounding word).


Happy New Year!!!  I hope you’ve all had a restful break.

Enjoy the last few days of the holidays!  Reality Check: Term 2 starts on Wednesday…

Try to prepare your bookstore shopping list for the week by checking out your personalized booklist:

Course and Prof Reviews

As promised!  I thought I’d share my views about the courses I took this past term and the professors I had.  I’ll review each course and its professor separately, since I found that even though the two are related, there are also distinct qualities that define a course, or a professor.  Here I go!

BIOL 200 – Fundamentals of Cell Biology

This is a tough course.  The material itself is pretty straightforward, but the exams test application of knowledge, and data analysis, which is quite difficult.  Buying the textbook was optional, since there were online notes provided.  After some indecisiveness, I used the textbook (since I got it free) and did pre-readings instead of the reading the online notes.  We were supposed to choose one and supplement our knowledge with the other.  I made the mistake of forgetting that the online notes existed, until the very end.  I would advise, if you’re reading the textbook, that you always browse the online notes, since there are some details that are not in the textbook.  Would I only read the online notes?  Not necessarily – the textbook is quite clear, and the online notes can be confusing to use.  On the other hand, it would be easy to make notes specifically for the learning objectives if you read the online notes.  I don’t know which is better, but I think it’s easier to supplement the textbook with the online notes, than the other way around.  For practice, there were online questions for every section, but there were annoyingly no answers provided, so I was never inclined to do them.

Prof: Robin Young

Awesome prof!  She really loves cell biology, and knows her stuff really well.  She mostly uploaded the slides the night before the class.  She would always ask us to tell her about what we learned in the previous class, and encouraged us to think of exam-type questions.  I really admired how she persevered to keep us interested even though everyone was half-asleep for the 3:30-5pm class.

CHEM 233 – Organic Chemistry for the Biological Sciences

This is a tough course.  It is almost as nightmarish as everyone claims it to be.  I LOVED organic chemistry before this course, and I came out of it nearly hating O-chem.  I think 2 aspects were hard: 1) The number of different mechanisms and their conditions that you need to know, and 2) Having a lousy prof (see below).  When you are doing this course though, make sure you buy the Sapling access code and do the exercises.  The system isn’t the most user-friendly, but the assignments are worth the same as a midterm, and it really helps boost your mark.  Also, make cue cards for the mechanisms/conditions of reactions.  I debated the whole term about the practicality of these, and never made them until the week before the exam.  It helped A LOT.  The textbook we had was amazing, so if you have the Klein textbook, use it!  Other than that, try to be in a good prof’s class 🙂  As for the exams, time was an issue for both midterms.   The first midterm went horribly because we didn’t expect such a long exam.  You need to know your stuff REALLY well.

Prof: Steve Withers

I usually like to sugar-coat things and sound polite, but I’m going to be blunt about this one: Horrible Professor.  I didn’t find his lectures helpful; more often than not, I would be more confused than if I had just self-taught myself the material from the textbook.  He would say something and write something else, and usually confuse not only us, but also himself.  He’s fluent in the material, but can’t communicate it effectively. The majority of his power point slides had mechanism diagrams copied from the textbook and he would upload his slides in pdf format, with the slides super teeny-tiny.  The result: mechanisms that were too tiny to read.  Overall, I would recommend avoiding his class for CHEM 233.

CHEM 235 – Organic Chemistry Laboratory

You’ll probably only take this course if you need to, along with CHEM 233.  But don’t worry, it’s a really easy lab.  The setup was such that we didn’t have to do any post-lab write-ups until our 7th lab experiment.  The experiments themselves were pretty cool, and I really liked how I could actually troubleshoot problems and confidently make my own decisions by the end.  Aside from the course itself, having a really good TA makes or breaks this lab.

CHEM 211 – Analytical Chemistry

Decent course.  I think the only reason you would do this course would be if you are in chemistry, or majoring in Physiology or Pharmocology.  The material wasn’t too intense, but I didn’t do fantastically on the exams.  I should have paid more attention to the learning objectives, and made summary notes of the lecture notes.  I think I also would have done better if I had really understood the concepts, rather than memorizing how to do different kinds of questions.  Make sure you always do the problem sets and practice exams (you’ll never be able to complain about a lack of practice questions, that’s for sure).


Horrendous lab!  The labs were hard to understand and post-lab write-ups would take hours.  Luckily I was fluent in using Excel, or it would have taken even longer.  I had a horrible TA, which I think contributed some to the lab experience.  The lab director himself (Dr. Stoodley) is really nice though, so if you ever have a problem with your mark, you should go talk to him.

Prof: Anka Lekhi

Another awesome prof!  I was a little worried when I found out she was teaching, because I hadn’t liked her for CHEM 121 at all.  Completely opposite to my expectations, she turned out to be a great prof for 2nd year chemistry.  Her lecture notes were really thorough, and she went through lots of examples in class.  She empathized that everyone hated attending class at 8 a.m. and would always try to get us to give her our answers to the examples even though she knew no one would answer.  Despite little quirks (which every prof has), I was very impressed with this course, prof-wise.

STAT 200 – Elementary Statistics for Applications

A really easy course.  I don’t know why someone would take this course unless it’s a requirement for their degree, but I do know that it won’t be too large a burden to take on.  My prof recommended that we buy the textbook, even though he had his own lecture notes (see below).  I did buy the textbook (and used it!), and I was glad I did.  My prof’s lectures were a regurgitation of his lecture notes, so it was good to have my textbook as an alternate reference.  On the flip side, the lecture notes were helpful if the textbook was confusing.  There were 4 homework assignments, which were relatively easy.  Labs were every week – a pain to go to, but a really easy part of the course.  As for the exams, the midterms was section-specific, but the final was common for all sections.

Prof: Lang Wu

Good prof.  He loves statistics, and even though he is very knowledgeable, he recognizes that this is a beginner’s stats course, and makes everything super easy and babyish.  He had his own lecture notes, which turned out to be identical to what he teaches in class.  He was a little hard to understand and he would spend half the class reviewing what we learnt in the previous class, but we got through all the material and had time to review before the midterm and the final.  He would make summary notes for us for the review sessions, which helped to consolidate and organize all the material.  Overall, he’s a good prof and also a friendly person to ask questions to about the course material.

PSYC 314 – Health Psychology

This is a hard course.  I registered in it hoping for a GPA booster, but ended up with the complete opposite.  I think there are 2 reasons why the course was so hard.  Firstly, I found the material really boring and common sense.  We learnt about health behaviours, social support, death and dying, and patients in a health care setting.  I found it trivial to learn that exercise is good and smoking is harmful and that people are less stressed if they have more social support.  Secondly, because I found the material so boring, I couldn’t push myself to read 40-page chapters about it.  And you would expect that the exams would be easy, right?  Wrong.  If you didn’t remember details from the textbook or lecture notes and only relied on common sense, you wouldn’t do very well.  I wouldn’t recommend taking this course as an elective/GPA booster.

Prof: Christiane Hoppmann

I didn’t really like this prof.  She really loves health psychology and always had cool videos and example case studies to share, but there was something about her that didn’t make lectures satisfying.  What that something is, I still haven’t figured out.  She definitely isn’t the best public speaker (stutters a lot) and can get very opinionated about topics which she can relate to, since she has two children of her own.  Also, I didn’t like how she wouldn’t connect the course material to specific sections of the textbook.  It wasn’t too difficult to find the appropriate chapters, but I always felt like the lectures and the textbook were 2 separate entities.  At first I thought this is how 3rd year courses are, but I don’t think this is entirely possible.


Note: The above reviews are only my opinions; in no way did I intend to be rude or offend anyone.


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