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Why a Common Entry Science Degree is a Choice I Thank my Seventeen-Year-Old Self for Making

“I’m grateful to my seventeen-year-old self every day for choosing to venture into a common entry general science degree"

My name is Lauren and I’ll be entering my final year of Environmental Science at University of Limerick this coming September.

I put Biological and Chemical Sciences (LM123) in UL at the top of my CAO as I have always been passionate about biology, with a particular interest in studying medicine somewhere along the line. Being only seventeen when starting out in college, I felt the best choice was to expand my scientific horizons and re-evaluate the medical route afterwards.

LM123 offers a general first year, in which I studied the three core sciences at a taster level, as well as maths, computer science, and a module each dedicated to the four respective degree options. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had this initial year to expand my scientific knowledge, as it opened my eyes to the worlds of chemistry and physics, both of which I have since fallen in love with.

 At the beginning, I had an initial struggle to grasp the basic concepts of chemistry, having no experience of the subject past Junior Cert level. This is where I found the Science Learning Centre’s support tutorials invaluable. Their one-to-one tutorials allow students to have seemingly complex concepts explained in ways that are easier to understand and digest.

With the ultimate career goal in mind, I was always determined to make the course my own and tailor it to my interests as best I could. In the taster modules in first year, I remember Dr. Tom O’ Dwyer delivering us a Careers in Environmental Science lecture and explaining that it was the most general biology and chemistry degree out of the four, which immediately captured my interest.

 In my two years of studying environmental science, I can confirm that this is indeed true, and is my favourite thing about my degree. In second year, my modules opened my eyes to areas of thermodynamics, inorganic and analytical chemistry, soil science, microbiology, ecology, and geographical information systems (GIS), all of which I found incredibly interesting.

My course is small, there are around 27 of us, which means we’re quite a well-bonded group, have a great in-class atmosphere and are on a first-name basis with most of our lecturers – you feel like you’re more than just a student number or a face in the concert hall, as the lectures usually take place in smaller classrooms, and the smaller class size definitely presents better learning opportunities.

Chemistry labs continuously present a challenge and have taught me to be pro-active, we are continuously learning and developing our analytical techniques and being taught how to use impressive technologies such as GC (Gas Chromatography) and HPLC (High-Pressure Liquid Chromatography) equipment. Biology labs are always fun, interesting, and hands-on; I’m a kinaesthetic learner, so being able to hold and examine organisms and perform dissections helped me to learn more effectively.

Our first semester of third year was held remotely, and I can’t commend my lecturers enough for how they adapted to online learning to deliver the modules to us in a way that was still interesting and aided our learning.  Our labs were delivered remotely via pre-recorded demonstrations from the lab in UL, and we were still assessed as normal in the form of a lab report. This semester was more environmentally-focused, but boiled down to the principles of management, analytical chemistry, pollution, and GIS – all invaluable to a well-rounded environmental scientist.

Aside from my course, I chose University of Limerick based on many factors, including the scenic campus, impressive library and gym and its close proximity to everything. I lived on campus in Dromroe for my first two years and I can safely say those were the best two years of my life - my friends who I met on the first day are the friends I hope I’ll stay close to for life.

 

Running is something I took up in college and I found it stood to me massively during lockdown with the gym closures and study being all there was to do. The Plassey River Walk is inarguably my favourite feature of the campus and the best place to clear the head after a long day of lectures or exam prep.
 
Over the years I’ve become involved in UL’s WiSTEM2D Committee, Enactus, MedSoc and Surgical Soc. Societies allowed me to establish long-lasting connections with like-minded peers who share common interests and presented me with opportunities beyond my imagination.

In December 2020 I received the Johnson and Johnson WiSTEM2D Individual Award and Bursary, in which my application focused on my interest in medicine, my experience in the realm of STEM and delved into gender imbalances in our second-level education system and medical specialties here in Ireland. From here I embarked on a five-month programme delivered by Johnson and Johnson, UL and Lero, which served to celebrate what it truly means to be a woman in STEM and provided me with invaluable skills development workshops, networking opportunities and mentorship.

I’m grateful to my seventeen-year-old self every day for choosing to venture into a common entry general science degree with an open mind, the burning desire to learn, to grow, and to put in the groundwork to arrive at a mindset which would allow me to fulfil the lifelong dream to study medicine.

I’m currently preparing for the graduate medicine entrance exams and hope to begin my studies after I graduate in 2022.

About the author

Lauren is a Biological and Chemical Sciences fourth year student who is preparing for a career in medicine.

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