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BMSA Podcast: Biochemistry/Medical Cell Biology & Medical Cell Biology


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Interviewer: Ananya

Interviewees: Justin, Pam


Ananya: Hello and welcome to the ITR session with BMSA where we interview senior students in medical science programs to give a better background for your intent to register choices.


My name is Ananya and today we're joined by Justin and Pam to talk about the two cell biology modules, that is medical cell bio and biochemistry and cell bio. Pam and Justin, welcome. Could you tell us a little about yourself, your module, your year and something academic or personal that you would like to share? Pam.


Pam: Yes. Hi, everybody. I'm Pam and I'm in my third year in the honors specialization of biochemistry and cell biology. I'm also the Vice President of events for BMSA, which is the club that is making this podcast.


Justin: Hey, guys, my name is Justin and I'm in the honors specialization of medical cell biology in my third year. Something I guess interesting about me is I work in the military to pay for my tuition.


Ananya: Thank you. Coming into third year, you guys have had a lot of experience now with a full semester of specialized courses. Could you tell me a little about your module? What do you love about it, the overall experience you had in third year compared to second year and yes, how are you doing right now?


Pam: Yes. My module, obviously, being biochemistry and cell biology, combine those two fields of science, which I personally find very enjoyable. I guess compared to second year, third year is just a lot more of a focused stream. In second year, there is very large classes and you're being taught very broad subjects, but in third year, it's a lot more focused and it's with other students who shared those same interests as you, people who actually chose to be in those classes.


I think it's a lot more interesting, definitely different. Also, I found that there's a lot more weekly assessments too that force you to be on top of your schoolwork and keep up with your classes. I do find those really beneficial because in second year, you just have the midterm and then the final and that's all the assessments that make up your grade. I like more of the different assessments that you're given throughout the year.


Justin: Yes, I completely agree with Pam. I think most of my experiences are in much alignment with what she just said. I really like how you're able to-- it's like a process. Every assessment builds up towards the finals or towards a final project. It's all building a good basis for whatever field you want to enter.


Definitely, I think the most enjoyable part of it is that all the classes that I've had so far in first semester were really, a lot of them had a teamwork component. I met a lot of really amazing people. Of course, I met Pam. I also met Ananya. Both of them are-- You guys are in my classes this semester. Compared to second year where most things were individual, that was a big change, a very enjoyable change of course.


Pam: Yes, a lot more collaborative. In second year, everything is like you're on your own, but definitely, in third year it was a lot more fun working with other people and seeing how other people work as well.


Ananya: Did you guys feel that even though it was over Zoom, it was like somebody understands you?


Pam: Yes, definitely.


Justin: Some of the classes with you guys kept me sane on the isolation. That's how fun it is. I think definitely when things get a bit better and things are not virtual anymore, and there's more in-person collaborative work, that will probably even be more enjoyable than what I experienced. I just think overall, that they're really good structure to how they build the classes for our modules.


Pam: Yes, definitely. Even being online, having those groups to do projects with, I still felt very comfortable, I had people that I could reach out to for help if I needed it.


Ananya: What was it about each of your modules that made you choose them? Something in first year or second year and you were like, "This is what I want to do".


Pam: In second year, obviously, there's the second year med side courses, cell biology and biochemistry. When it came time to choose my module for third year, I just reflected on which classes I enjoyed the most. Personally, I couldn't decide on just one class to delve into. I enjoyed that option of having both classes tied into the same module and I could get my feet in both and see what they were about.


Also in second year, just taking the biochemistry class, we learned a lot of real life applications for the field like drug production and stuff like that, sort of things that picked my interest and I was like, "Oh, maybe I could do that in the future." I just was really interested in looking into that further.


Justin: For me, it was kind of the opposite of Pam. I really enjoyed cell biology at that aspect, but biochem, like all those enjoyable, I just wasn't as interested in it as I was in cell biology. That's why I chose to specialize more towards just cell biology and not biochem. Of course, third year a lot of the classes were very pretty much the same as that of the biochem and cell biology module, but of course, fourth year they started introducing some differences.


That's when I looked at both third year and fourth year, the module, I may notice, medical cell biology is more refined to what my tastes are personally. It was still a bit of a difference.


Ananya: The modules are very, very similar. They have almost identical third year courses. The major difference comes in in your fourth year. What are you looking forward to in your thesis? Pam, you have a choice of doing either cell bio or biochem for your honest specialization. Have you thought about what you might want to do having explored one term of both courses?


Pam: I'm still pretty open to both. So far, I've really only had one cell biology course. Definitely I feel like by the end of this year, by the end of my third year, I'll have a better idea, but I do like that option of doing my thesis in one of the two different areas of science. I think that's another perk for someone looking into this module.


Ananya: Is there anything that you wish you'd known before you picked your module?


Pam: Yes, I definitely think that I sort of had an idea of how difficult the biochemistry courses were going to be in third year, but I feel like people should be aware that before going into a biochemistry module that there is quite a large amount of work required for these courses, but I think it's definitely very rewarding if people find this field interesting but just to understand that there is definitely a challenge compared to second year.


Justin: I also think like-- Basically, like Pam said, it's hard. Also, like Pam said, it's rewarding in the sense that it really builds essential skills that you're going to need in this field. I think the way they structured it, and the courses they make you take, they're all around having, actually having knowledge on what you need to know to succeed in whatever career that is based apart of either cell biology or biochemistry and cell biology. All around is just like you get what you put in. I think that's a really good exchange, of course.


Ananya: I think that's really awesome, because there's so many things that you can do, especially in one of our biochemistry drug courses, because you can do as many softwares as you want to learn, and just go crazy.


Pam: Yes, definitely. Sorry, I also think that a lot of the professors in third year are very clearly passionate about what they're teaching compared to some profs in second year. I think in third year, it's very clear that they enjoy what they're teaching, and they try and help you out a bit too.


You get a better idea when you're learning the material of what this can lead to in the future. Whereas sometimes in second year, I was like, "I don't know why I'm learning this or why I'm learning some obscure science course." I think that in third year, it's a lot more focused, which I like. Sorry, yes, you can go on.


Ananya: Do you have any final words to say to first or second years listening who may be confused about the whole process of ITR, and confused about what module they want?


Pam: I would just say, not to stress too much about it. I feel like I was definitely stressed out and I know that all my friends, and everyone I knew, was very stressed out about it. I'd say if you're listening to this podcast right now, you're already like you have a good head on your shoulders, you're trying to figure out what you want to study next year, and I feel like just listening to these sorts of things and reflecting on your experience in second year, and really understanding what you want to do and what you enjoy, and just following that, that's really all you need to do.


Justin: Yes, I definitely think, don't be too, I guess, scared of it or afraid that you'll make a decision that you might not be into. I think the great thing about how Med Sci has arranged the choice of what your honors specialization or double major is, is that third year and fourth year in between, you get a chance to also change and you really don't want to enter that particular module.


It's really just a chance for you to see if something is your cup of tea. Yes. It's just, honestly, just put in what you think you'd enjoy the most and then go from there, because you got a lot of chances to tweak what you're into.


Pam: Yes, nothing is set in stone. Whatever you choose to be your module on third year isn't going to be what you have to study for the rest of your life until you die. It's sort of like just see what interests you and go after it. I think whatever you choose will be great.


Ananya: Well, thank you so much for coming and sharing all your experiences. This is the BMSA ITR session for cell biology modules in Med Sci. Check out our website and social media for ITR Podcast for other modules with new students next week. Thank you for listening and we hope this has been helpful.

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