Posts Tagged ‘Rhiannon’

Greetings all our Real Science Experience minions,

As you will know if you have been here from the start or if you have checked out out info page, we have been conducting this blog as part of a group assignment for a subject teaching us all about how to communicate science to both our colleagues and the public.

Last Thursday we presented to our class, our mentors and our assessors what we’ve done and how effective our task was.

In under two months we’ve accumulated 2780 hits, as well as getting some really valuable insight into how you, the readers of this blog, engaged with us through both your insightful comments and activity on the blog.

Our blog was received really well by everyone: they were impressed not only with the blog itself, but with the readership we have gained in such a small time. So, from all four of us here at The Real Science Experience: thank you! We absolutely could not have done it without you! Sincerely. We would have looked pretty silly reporting that we had no comments and minimal hits. We don’t know our grade yet, but the written feedback we got later was similarly positive.

One question we got asked by many was; would we continue this blog?

We think that should be up to you guys!

You’ve given us the impression that this has really helped some of you, so we feel compelled to continue. But we’ll only do it if the interest is there. So let us know! If you can’t be bothered commenting, we’ve made it really easy for you:

Of course, we’d love to hear from you in the comments, too.

You might be wondering how we celebrated the end of our projects after a semester of hard work. With pizza and cake, of course! Check out some of our pictures from our final seminar!

Two other groups presenting their projects

Cutting cake

Join us as we talk to Nicole about her life as a post graduate student and her love of Zoology!

1. How did you become interested in Science?

I was interested in science from the time I bought my very first guinea pigs and they had 3 little babies. The mum was a scruffy guinea pig, dad was smooth haired, yet all the children were scruffy like mum: I remember I found that so fascinating that they inherited their scruffiness from their mum. Over the years I had a zillion pets and baby animals, and learnt I could mix breeds of guinea pigs I liked together to get the traits I wanted in their kids. It was my first taste of what zoology and genetics would be like.

2. What are you currently studying?

I first did my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Melbourne, majoring in Genetics and Zoology. Then, I decided to do a postgraduate degree and enrolled in the Masters of Science research course, majoring in Zoology.

3. Why did you choose a Zoology degree?

I have loved animals for as long as I remember. I had as many pets as I could growing up, and loved playing with all my friend’s pets and finding out interesting facts about animal behaviour. What I also love about Zoology is the field work component, as you really get to hands on with nature and animals, all in the name of science!

4. What was the hardest part about jumping from VCE to Uni?

The hardest thing about the switch to uni from school was probably the cultural aspect of it. You’re in a small, tight-knit community at school, and your friends are with you every step of the way. At uni, there are different people in each of your subjects, and your forced to make new friends in each one, which can be quite challenging if you’re shy and nervous. But once you make the effort to get to know a range of people, from your subjects, clubs and societies, uni life is great fun and you’ll treasure the friends you make here for the rest of your life.

5. What has been the highlight of your tertiary studies so far?

My Masters research project has definitely been the most challenging aspect of my degree, but also the most rewarding. It’s so fulfilling to develop a whole project from an idea, design experiments to test a theory, and potentially answer biological questions nobody has ever been able to answer before. I’ve learnt so many skills from it as well such as how to manage my time effectively, communicate with different audiences, and how to work proactively and independently.

6. Throughout your course has there been anyone who has inspired you?

I’m most inspired by my peers every day! The most comforting part of a Zoology Masters is that there are 20 other students going through exactly what you are going through. Whether if your research methods are not working as planned, you have no significant results, or you have so much work that you’re scared you won’t meet a deadline, you can be guaranteed someone else has gone through it before and can offer some words of comfort and encourage you to persevere!

7. What place around Uni is your second home?

The Zoology department is most definitely my second home now. As a postgraduate, we’re privileged enough to get our own desk spaces, as well as access to a computer room and printing privileges. The tea room is a great place to meet up with fellow students and catch up, and friday drinks are a tradition. What else could you want as a postgraduate?

8. Where do you plan your course will take you?

There are a few careers I have in mind. One would be a research career, starting with a PhD degree. I’m also looking at entering government where I can work on state or national policy regarding wildlife and biodiversity. Another avenue I may take is in Environment Impact Assessment, where I’d survey land for any wildlife present before construction companies decide to build there.

9. What does an average day at Uni consist of for you?

During semesters, I do my subjects, which are run by the zoology department and business departments. As I’m allowed to take electives in my Masters course, it’s been great to try some business subjects to see if I like the idea of entering the business world sometime in my career. Between semesters is where I undertake my research, and my study site is in rural Victoria, out near Geelong. I have a bird banding license, and I catch superb blue fairy-wrens for my project where I am looking at female mate choice.

10. If you could give one piece of advice to a budding Science student, what would it be?

The Bachelor of Science is a great degree to see what you really enjoy and find out what you’d like to do afterwards. You get to take such a variety of subjects, that it really gives you a chance to experience subjects you’d never thought to take before. I thought I would follow a career in genetics when I first started science, but then found I loved zoology much more, and changed my career path entirely. Broad degrees are the best to take if you’re still a little unsure and want to dabble around. Also, science kids are the best friends you’ll ever make. So get excited, and study science at the University of Melbourne!

Andi on the set of Einstein Factor ABC TV :: photo provided complimets of Andi

Meet Dr. Andi Horvath as she tells us all about her love of science, her career in science and gives us some tips for your blossoming science career!

1. How did you become interested in Science?
My year 2 teacher performed a class science demo where she stuffed a student’s hankie (mine!) into the bottom of a glass. She then turned it upside down into a deep bowl of water held it there and pulled it out again. I was astounded, my hankie remained dry! I was even more astounded to learn why: the air in the glass takes up space and the water can’t get to the hankie. From that moment on I was hooked on Science!

2. What is your current job?
I am “Dr Andi” a Science radio broadcasters on 3RRR and a Science podcaster at Museum Victoria. My job title is ‘Senior curator, Science communication’, I also develop exhibitions like the House Secrets at Scienceworks. I have really cool ‘to-do-lists’, example: Find out about microwave ovens for a blog, interview an invertebrate palaeontologist about their findings, etc.

3. Why did you choose this field?
So I studied Human Biology at University. As a post grad student I got a job tutoring Biology and then I realised I actually liked talking about science more than doing it. So when I finished my post grad, I ran away and joined a Science circus to learn about how to present Science to public audiences. Many years later and few jobs later, I ended up here at the Museum.

4. What was the hardest part about jumping from VCE to Uni?
Having even more pimples, I thought they were supposed to stop before you got to Uni. The other thing is you have to set your own homework otherwise you cram for exams and that never ends well. Trust me.

5. What was the highlight of your tertiary studies?
I’ll never forget my pharmacology lecturer (the late Struan Sutherland); his lectures were unforgettable because they were so memorable. He knew how to synthesise and communicate scientific information.

6. Throughout your career, who has been your greatest inspiration?
My high school biology teacher was enthusiastic about biology and that shear ‘enthusiasm’ for getting into a subject no matter how hard or tricky was inspiring. It helped me get motivated to really get my head around complex theories in Science.
There were a couple of ‘professors’ that were very inspirational too. I was always impressed they were so ‘knowledgeable’ in not just their Science but also in history, philosophy, and wonderfully mundane but important things like coffee beans.

7. What was your favourite subject?
My favourite subject was Pharmacology; it’s a great way to understand more about Human Biology.

8. What do you think your science career holds in store for you?
I have no idea (seriously it’s such an unpredictable world) but I rather talk about ‘you’ the reader. Your teachers (like my old teachers) are busy preparing you for careers that may not exist yet. No one had heard of ‘Science communication’ when I was school and now there are courses everywhere.

9. What are the must-dos to achieve a career in science?
Be inspired and be inspirational.

10. If you could give one piece of advice to a budding Science student, what would it be?
When studying for exams pretend you are teaching it someone else (even a teddy bear or action figure will do). Seriously I think I only learnt how fascinating the Science was when I had to teach it as a post-grad! I wish someone had told me that earlier I wouldn’t have had to cram for exams.


Thanks Andi!

Your exams are coming up. You’ve probably got several assignments all due in the last week of semester. You have more work to do than there is time in the day.

Yet you just spent three hours on Facebook looking at photos of people you’ve never even met just because they randomly popped up on the sidebar.


Why do we procrastinate?

I’m procrastinating right now by writing this article. Why? Because the pile of assignments I have is just too draining, and so this seems easier, more enjoyable. Yet in fact it involves me doing the same thing I would be doing otherwise: sitting here and typing. The thing is, knowing you have to do something automatically kills the intrinsic interest you have in a topic. How many subjects have you absolutely loved the content matter of, yet found yourself hating it when the chore of having to do a major assignment or exam stresses you out? Which brings me to the next point:

Other times, it’s a way of dealing with stress. No matter how maladaptive procrastination is, it helps you leave behind the stress of the task at hand for a moment.


What type of procrastinator are you?

There are four distinct types of procrastination:

Self-Doubters:  Self-doubting procrastinators feel that they cannot live up to the standard of how something should be done. They second-guess everything and in doing so delay action.

Discomfort Dodging: That assignment is hard, that job is far too difficult, best I do the easy task first! Dodging the discomfort feels much better, so we put it off until later. Ironically, this just increases the level of discomfort when we have to face up to it!

Guilt-Driven: You feel an overwhelming sense of guilt for a task undone, but rather than correct the original lack of action, you procrastinate to not have to face up to the feelings of guilt.

Habitual: You’re just so used to procrastinating, you don’t even think about it, it’s just an ingrained response. The task becomes difficult, your concentration wavers and then you automatically decide to “just quickly check Facebook”.


So how do we beat procrastination?

The first sign, as always, is acceptance! Understand that you are procrastinating, why you are procrastinating and make it better. Then try these on for size:

o1 :: Eat An Elephant :: How do you eat an elephant? Chunk it down! Break up an overwhelming task into smaller pieces. Don’t have a break until you have finished the goal you set.

o2 :: Denounce Your Robotic Race :: If you are one of these people who stress over perfection: don’t! Accept you are only human, not a machine. Perfection is rarely attainable (if ever) and is even more rarely ever necessary. Use the 80/20 rule wherever appropriate!

o3 :: Free The Mind :: Minimise distractions: Turn off email notifications, find a quiet room, resist the urge to take breaks, unplug your internet if necessary!

o4 :: Cleanliness is next to Godliness :: Perfect your organisational skills. Have a clean work area. Have all stationary, notes, tools,  utensils etc in a proper place so you can find them when you need them. This will not only aid efficiency, but stop the urge to clean as a procrastination tool!

05 :: Schedule your priorities :: Distinguish obligations from options. Know what has to be done and estimate how long it will take to do it. List and prioritise (your student diary is perfect for that!). Set deadlines for decisions. Ask a parent/friend/sibling/partner to hold you accountable for sticking to your self-set deadline!

o6 :: Use the fork, Luke :: Stay healthy! Eats healthily and regularly, maintain a regular sleep routine, exercise for a break and always have breakfast

o7 :: Play Mum :: Remind yourself of the consequences of your actions. being lazy is going to end up with so-and-so happening to me. Only you will suffer the consequences!

08 :: Curing 3:30itis :: Do you lag in the afternoon? In the morning? After lunch? Use the lag time to make a list of things your want to achieve, so you can hit the ground running when you dive back into your work.

o9 :: Throw it into Reverse :: Take your excuse and turn it back onto itself. You’ll do it tomorrow because you’re too tired after work? Well take a 20 minute nap and then get started on that task! Make a solution task out of every excuse!

1o :: Play Santa :: Don’t forget to reward yourself for hard work done well! If you set yourself goals and achieve them, reward yourself by taking time off study to do something you want, something you put off to do the work

And with that, it’s time for me to return to my studies! Just after I make myself a coffee first…

With end of semester exams on the way, it’s time for a few exam hints to get you through the study period so you don’t have to resort to this:

There are many ways to tackle an exam: this is not one of them!

Here’s a few that have helped us through the years:

o1 :: Write notes in your own handwriting: it sounds simple, but this is a fantastic way of facilitating your memory. For some people, re-writing out your entire compliment of notes (combining lecture notes, your notes and extra tid bits) is the best way to remember everything. For others, you may want to try something less extreme.

o2 :: If repeatedly writing something over and over again won’t help, write your notes in a new format. You may need to do something more engaging e.g. write an acronym.

o3 :: Are you a visual learner? Take over the kitchen and bathroom with hand-made posters. If you make them yourself you will remember the content better e.g. write out things like the process of photosynthesis and stick it up on your kitchen wall. That way you’ll revise it every morning over breakfast.

o4 ::  Make your own flashcards.

o5 :: Get together with a friend and each of you draw a diagram but leave the labels out. Swap with your friend and see which areas you can fill in.

o6 :: Colour your notes: Relating information to colours will help you remembering.

o7 :: Take short breaks for exercising or doing something fun. When you are relaxing your give your brain some time to encode what you just learned and put it into your long-term memory.

o8 ::  Before you start, clean up your room so that you wont be distracted  (the only time it’s almost fun to clean your room is when you have to study if you don’t)

o9 ::  Utilise your lecturers – they are there to help if you do not understand something. But approach them with organised questions. They will be unable to help you if turn up saying you need help understanding a whole topic.

1o ::  Bouncing ideas off friends can be a great way to learn – but know your strengths. If group work distracts you, work alone.

11 :: Answer lots of practise questions. The only way to truly test your understanding of concepts is to utilise practise exams and questions. The best way to learn is by getting the questions wrong and having to investigate where you made a mistake – so celebrate incorrect answers!

12 :: Don’t forget to revise your prac book – most exams will test you on practical knowledge, or even prac procedures (e.g. what to clean a pipette out with if you are using X chemical).

13 :: Prepare the night before: get all your exam equipment, student card and seat number ready. Arrive nice and early to double-check your seat number and ensure you’re there for reading time. You don’t need the added stress of things going wrong on the day of your exam.

14 :: Sleep! Some people will pull all-nighters the night before the exam. Sleeping and dreaming is actually critical for converting short-term memory into long-term. You will recall more facts after a decent night’s sleep, believe it or not!

15 :: On that note, eat lots, too. Your brain won’t function without food. You may not feel hungry (the adrenaline produced during study will quell your appetite), but your brain won’t power as well on empty.

16 :: Previous themes will give you an idea of what questions will be asked – look out for these in past exams!

Here at The Real Science Experience, we like to give as much as we receive.

So, to our loyal readers we’re offering a prize: a cinema double pass!

How do you get your hands on one?

We’ll be offering the prize to our top contributer at the conclusion of our assessment on this blog (26th May).

The winner will be chosen based on quality – not just quantity (so spam comments or “good post”-type comments won’t count!).

Bonus points go to anyone who can tell us how they found the blog, what they found useful and what you hoped to see but didn’t!

Be sure to comment with your name and email address so we can keep track of who comments the most!

Cinema by m4tik

*** Disclaimer: Winners will have to be living in Australia – apologies to our international readers!

Back in my day, we didn’t have this fancy Melbourne Model whatchamacall it. We also had to walk 30 miles to get from one lecture to the next. In the snow. Without shoes on. Backwards.

I’m an old school undergrad. Or, at least, that’s what we call ourselves to pretend we’re all young and hip (perhaps half the problem is referring to ourselves as ‘hip’).

I completed my Bachelor Degree under the old model. So I profess my ignorance to many of the intricacies of the Melbourne Model. But one thing I remember was the controversy. I remember a lot of the ‘old school’ people complaining about the breadth component. It took me a while before I bothered to find out what breadth was.

Each year, a student is required to take two breadth subjects; this means a subject from a faculty besides your own (or inter-disciplinary).

“What?” I hear you say. “I’m here to do a Science degree, not to take non-science subjects!” At least, this is what I heard the masses complaining about a few years ago.

To take a Science degree, in fact any degree, with the notion that you should only take those subjects is – I feel – to miss out on a truly amazing opportunity.

Under my degree, we didn’t have any such requirements. But in first year, I took two History and Philosophy of Science [HPS] subjects. It was perhaps the best decision I ever made. One subject in particular was perhaps the best subject I did in my degree, taught by one of the most revered lecturers at The University of Melbourne. He retired that year, and the turn out to his last Science, Philosophy and History lecturer was phenomenal: people were crowding the hallway to hear it.

I was amazed. I was inspired. I had to find out more.

So I continued taking HPS subjects: I believed that in order to use science, to be a scientist and to move forward within science, I ought to know where we’d come from.

But more than that, I loved the classes. So much I ended up co-majoring in HPS. Like any faculty, a few of the subjects were so-so. But many of them were the most rewarding subjects I ever had the pleasure of taking. HPS was called the hidden secret of The University of Melbourne. I quickly understood why.

What’s more, it was something entirely different from my other classes. The assessment was different, too. Essays rather than exams. Tutorials of philosophising, rather than calculations. It made my brain tick in an entirely different manner. Not to mention that, without HPS, my essay writing skills would have atrophied by the time they were finally called upon again in my 3rd year Science subjects.

It changed me as a scientist. It’s amazing how many misconceptions I hear on a daily basis about science and science history from scientists and non-scientists alike – even academics. I can recount several occasions when I was sitting in a lecture silently glad for what HPS gave me as I listened to some incorrect account of the Trial of Galileo, or of Darwin’s apparent ‘eureka’ moments. Without it, I wouldn’t have the knowledge, nor the skills to critically analyse what I was exposed to.

Breadth may or may not teach you any subject matter that you think you will use in your career. But it will teach you to think in a whole new manner. It will expose you to another way of learning and another way of thinking. Something that you will use in whatever career you pursue.

So whether you go to Melbourne University or not, I urge you to take that bull by the horns. There’s plenty of time to specialise in post-grad. Embrace the opportunity for all it’s worth: take subjects that sound fun, that interest you purely for the subject matter, not because it’s a prerequisite to something else.

It may just be one of the best things you ever do in your undergraduate life.