Year 2 Summer holidays
Preparing for exams was a unique challenge this year for both students and staff as they had to be open book this year! Despite the stressful experience I was glad to be back home in Singapore with family, with plenty of outlets to de-stress ranging from brushing up on my knitting, showing off the cooking skills I picked up while feeding myself in the UK, or tending to the plants I can't grow in British weather. Due to COVID restrictions I also spent some time video calling with friends, including Chandra, Iffah and Hayati to lament about final examinations or catch up on postgraduate life.
Ironically, my cooking skills in Asian food in particular were honed primarily during my time in the UK.
Portulaca flowers - one of my favourite plants to grow which unfortunately requires the bright sun and warmth of Singapore.
I also took advantage of many summer school programmes becoming free and virtual this year, allowing me to attend a wide range of programmes to diversify my skills.
One of my favourites was the Centre for the Physics of Biological Function's Biophysics Summer School, hosted by Princeton University. Through the weekly lectures and insightful discussions, I was able to study Biology from the perspective of Physicists, giving me a whole new appreciation for my subject and reinforcing my goals of pursuing interdisciplinary Biological learning and work in the future.
Example lecture from the CPBF Summer School on wrinkling - such as on our fingertips when submerged in water or of our brains. Previously I had learned of the biological basis behind such phenomena, but exploring the physical triggers and processes occuring "behind the scenes" gave me a deeper appreciation.
It was also an interesting experience celebrating my 21st birthday during COVID restrictions - I was happy to take a day off exam preparations and relaxing at home with my family, however my wonderful friends coordinated a birthday surprise for me from across the UK and Singapore! It was times like this that really made me grateful for the technology we have to connect with others even while unable to meet in person.
Video calls will never be the same as meeting friends in-person, however the surprise cake delivery and gifts were more than I could have asked for! It was also great being able to celebrate with my friends from both Singapore and the UK at the same time via video call.
Aside from all this, most of my Summer holidays were spent working on the Warwick iGEM project, which I spoke about in my last blog post. Though it was disappointing not being able to carry out our project in the lab like initially planned, I still learned valuable skills in the "dry" aspects of scientific research which I'm sure will be very useful in my future.
One great aspect of doing iGEM was learning how to do science in a more hands-on manner - such as studying and rewriting genetic coding sequences rather than simply learning the theory of it in lectures.
In the BioSoc realm, myself and the rest of the exec focused greatly on engagement and welcoming of the new freshers who would join us in October, as the amazing experience of beginning university life was unfortunately derailed. Finding myself with more free time while staying in at home, I decided to give website creation a try and initiated the brand-new BioSoc website, hoping to create an integrated resource for new students to navigate University virtually.
Wishing to give an idea of "normal" first year for incoming freshers, I collated blog posts from current students about their experiences on each of the Life Science courses, before getting a bit carried away and creating a 43-page pdf document as a Guide to Life (Sciences) with information ranging from structing lab reports to choosing where to rent off-campus housing after first year. As always, I was grateful for a supportive BioSoc exec who were willing to help out and feedback on my ideas, despite my piling on of more work for them!
We also focused stronger than in previous years on fostering connections between current and incoming BioSoc members, hoping to at least slightly overcome the barrier of virtual interaction. I was able to dust off my training from SOTA to create some promotional/publicity material for the Society, such as these visuals for introduction posts of exec members:
Engagement with students also included various virtual social events, such as a start of year Quiz hosted in collaboration with the Department of Life Sciences who kindly sponsored prizes for quiz winners.
Singapore Society also got in touch to ask me to design their new Society hoodie, which I gladly took up and worked on over the holidays:
I also "engaged" with other prospective Warwick students via some work I did for the British Council's Study UK!
This was once again an interesting challenge as I'm not great in front of cameras... something which I've definitely had to get over in the past year doing online learning, meetings and seminars! Still, I enjoyed the opportunity to promote the benefits for other Singaporeans to consider studying in the UK - I especially wanted to acknowledge the work of Warwick Life Sciences Department in particular, as they've been incredibly supportive and understanding towards students throughout the pandemic, despite the uncertainty and unpredictabiliity of the global pandemic.
As I looked towards the beginning of my final year in October, it was definitely a bittersweet feeling knowing that I'd be soon moving on to the next stage of my life. My time living and learning in Warwick has given me many memories I'll treasure for life.
Hope that all are doing well despite the pandemic, and I will report back on how Term 1 went in the next update!