Quick advice on the main elements of a first year chemist’s life
Everything mentioned in this post is the ideal way to do things and how I wish I had done things. I’m not saying I was the best student but this advice is more like what I am planning to do in my second year. You have it for your first year so make the most of it!
Be prepared to have a lot of new faces bombarding new information at you every lecture during the first few weeks. The key is to listen and note down any deadlines, any online forms you need to sign, any equipment you need to purchase/ collect from the department/ book shop (most likely a labcoat and textbooks). Otherwise, most slides are often emailed/ uploaded on Moodle therefore you can always go back to them. There is also a handbook on Moodle that provides extensive information on almost all aspects of you degree course.
Timetables aren’t the same every week. This means that not only do you must keep yourself up-to-date with lecture times but also plan your other activities accordingly. It will no longer be a case of having one timetable to stick to. You should aim to be flexible and plan your days, and weekends (!), as you go.
Attend your lectures regardless of how you feel about the content (If I am smiling in a lecture, I am either loving the wonders of chemistry or have no idea what’s going on). Some topics will take longer than others to sink in purely because this will be your first year ever hearing about some of the aspects of chemistry (here is an old blog of mine on how to deal with such lectures). Make use of lecture capture – listen to the lectures again and add any missed points to your notes. Focus primarily on understanding everything that is taught in the lectures. Then, do further reading to build on what is taught by the academics.
You do the questions in the workshops and are provided the answers at the end. Find out the focus of the workshop and read ahead so you’re able to give the questions a real try rather than using your notes.
The assignments are designed such that you often find yourself unable to do some questions. Rewatch the lectures to begin with. Research into the topics further and try your best. What you don’t understand, note it down and ask your tutors. Tutorials are more like chemistry based discussions and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to ask questions.
There are three stages to doing labs at Warwick – pre-labs, conducting the experiment on the day, postlabs.
Prelabs – quizzes (sometimes with maths calculations) to confirm you’ve read the protocol for the upcoming experiment. It is marked as pass/ fail where you get three attempts to pass it. If you fail, you are not permitted to do the lab unless if you have a vaild reason to explain the outcome. Read the protocol thoroughly before you go into the lab so you know what you’re doing.
Experiment – listen to the demonstrator’s brief talk before the experiment especially if there was something in the protocol that you didn’t understand. This will also help with doing the post-labs. This is your first time therefore you’ll find that most of the equipment you’ve never used before. Explore labs – learn to become comfortable in the environment. You will build the confidence over time.
Post labs – these are the assignments based on your experiment that get graded. The questions for the post-labs are always on Moodle before you do the experiment therefore have a good look at the assignment beforehand and ask you demonstrators in the lab if there’s anything unclear. Often demonstrators also know the postlab content therefore will guide you regardless, especially when it comes to calculations.
Not that I attended many socials but regardless, a night-out every week sounds like too much. I’d imagine using socials more like treating yourself or perhaps once a fortnight? Sorry if this is just not right. Ask someone else. With regards to societies, how many you join is up to you. Whether you visit some events with many societies or decide to fully commit to one or two, just make sure your work is not being compromised. Provided you’re able to do the above-mentioned things, you’re good. It is, however, important that you get involved to ensure you develop skills that will help you to boost your CV as well as assisting with personal growth and development. You’ll find opportunities on campus that you’ll probably not find elsewhere therefore make the most of your time.
University is where you grow as an individual but it is also designed to push you in order to bring the best out of you. The key here is time management and taking action if anything is not right and you’ll be fine.