Third year optional modules: Communicating Science
I’ve mentioned it plenty of times before so there’s no point denying it – third year chemistry at Warwick is stressful. Our exams are in term 2, meaning we don’t have the Easter holidays to revise, and our term 1 timetable was jam-packed with lectures to make sure that we had time to cover enough content. But the third year of Warwick’s chemistry course is also great, (not that I’m biased) and ironically this is partly for a similar reason. Because our exams are so early, we get to spend all of term 3 in labs, giving us chance to really get stuck into longer experiments, and experience real research.
Third year is also the first year I’ve been able to pick optional modules – something I’ve been looking forward to. It’s been a chance to learn more about the topics closely related to chemistry, such as medicine and biology, and through my ‘Communicating Science’ module I think I’ve improved on my presentation skills.
Communicating Science is currently a mandatory module for 3 year physicists, but it has also been made available as an option for chemistry students. Weighing 15 CATS, it’s the same size as my other modules, but unlike the others which are primarily exam-based, Comm Sci was 100% coursework assessed. Not only this, but it took place completely in term 1, meaning I have one less exam to revise for this term! And as I mentioned in my last blog, it’s comforting to know I have a good grade in one module already, and this has also given me even more motivation to work hard so that my other modules marks are to the same standard.
The Comm Sci module (this year at least) was made up of a two-hour long weekly seminar, and 5 pieces of unequally weighted assessed work. For me, this included a scientific fact sheet aimed at school children, a critique of a popular science article, an oral presentation, a poster presentation, and a long essay. As far as I can remember, the long essay was most highly weighted, followed by the two presentations. The seminars were there to give instructions and advice on how to approach each task, but were not assessed.
For me, picking Comm Sci felt like an obvious choice. I’ve been part of The Boar’s science and tech section for two years (as a deputy editor and now the editor) so science communication has already been a big part of my university experience. And most importantly, the module sounded like something I would enjoy – and would of course take a bit of pressure off in term 2! I would definitely recommend this option to anyone interested in applying their science knowledge and improving transferable skills, as it was refreshing to try out something so unlike any module I’d had the opportunity to study previously.
That being said, it did take a lot of work. For me, this wasn’t down to the difficulty of the assignments so to speak, but the intensity of the workload itself. First term was already so busy with lectures, so having assessed work to hand in every couple of weeks did get stressful. Especially in week 10, when we had a poster to design and print, a presentation to prepare for, and the final essay to complete, things were busy to say the least. I would therefore say that if you’re thinking of taking this module, make sure you make plenty of effort to keep on top of lectures as much as you can. This will make it so much easier when it gets to the end of term, and revision starts looming! But overall, I found Comm Sci to be a great module, and can see it definitely helping me in the future, especially as it has increased my confidence in presenting my work.