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What is my program really like? Life Science Edition

July 28, 2022

Life Sciences to the core are simply the branches of science that encompass the scientific study of life such as microorganisms, plants, animals-including human beings. Life Sciences is an intriguing program offered by Ontario Tech University which earns you a Bachelor of Science degree. It is said to be an excellent basis for completing the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) as well as satisfying course requirements for those interested in applying to professional programs in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, etc. At a glance, this short description was primarily the reason I decided to apply to Life sciences at Ontario Tech University because I knew the program would align with my interests and goals. Having spent almost three years at this school, I have come to learn a lot about the program; here is my perspective!

Long lectures

The courses for the Life Sciences program like many others have lectures that can run as one 3-hour session per week or even 1.5-hour sessions twice a week. These can call for prolonged seated times especially with online delivery and can often be seen as a bore. 

Luckily, what has helped me is consistent engagement and accountability. It is important to pay attention to the words of your professors and acknowledge the details they are mentioning because they are likely to be testable. Attending lectures is an excellent way to consolidate your thoughts and verify important information with your peers and professors. I make sure to actively take notes, ask questions, and even message my friends on the side to ensure they understand, are on the same page, and are engaged. This really helps us all be accountable! After lectures, the professor usually stays behind to discuss concerns, clarify confusion and some will often hold office-hours post-lecture. This is a great way to manage your time wisely and engage with your professor because they are providing you the time to do exactly this! They love it when students are curious, engaged and will go above and beyond to help you out should you reach out, so reach out!

person lecturing

Lab Preparation: The good, the bad, the ugly.

I heard rumours that the laboratory sessions are hardcore. There are certain restrictions mentioned in the respective syllabi and it is imperative students abide by the guidelines! Housekeeping items include completing your pre-lab assignments, and coming into the lab prepared (i.e. having read the procedure/protocol) so you can be efficient with your 3-hour period. It is important to prepare well and use your time in the lab wisely as you do not get time beyond that period! Also do not forget your lab coat, and goggles and be sure to leave beverages, food, and anything that isn’t necessary to the lab within the lockers outside the lab room. Be sure to check in with your teaching assistant (TA) as they take attendance so that they know you are present and you get your marks! Ask questions if there is confusion by simply raising your hand and the TA will respond to you accordingly. I have met some of the kindest TAs who will go above and beyond to assist students so long as they see you are putting forward an honest effort. 

Also, did I mention there are often lab quizzes that a portion of your lab grade depends on? They are timed, hence it truly is a matter of knowing your material and brain-dumping it onto the paper as extra time will not be permitted. This is another reason why you need to read your protocol and prepare ahead of time! 

You can always use the TAs to your advantage when seeking clarification on pre-lab assignments, lab reports, etc. One golden rule is to prepare ahead of time! Seriously. Save yourself the stress, get the pre-lab assignment out of the way maybe even a week ahead at a minimum. This way you will not be panicking or asking the TAs last-minute questions which they may miss due to the time crunch. You can also ask the lab coordinator questions as they are the ones overseeing the lab and the TAs report to them. The professor for the course is not necessarily the best resource for lab-related questions, concerns, etc. as they do not oversee the lab, hence you should direct your attention to the TAs and/or lab coordinators for such matters. 

I don’t mean to scare you with labs but these tips are what helped me be successful. The labs aren’t as scary as the rumours will say. Just do yourself a favour, prepare for them and do what is expected of you to a tee and you will do great!

lab equipment

Passionate Professors 

I have noticed that a lot of professors go off on tangents in their lectures. I have come to understand that this stems from passion. They really do care about the material they are teaching and will often answer queries that are not related to testable material. Why? Because knowledge is power and some of this stuff gets really cool! I always appreciate these tangents; I think they’re cute and provide you as a student with a greater appreciation for the subject at hand!

Enthusiastic TAs 

I truly believe that some of the TAs that I have come across are god-sent! They are so nice, enthusiastic, funny, down-to-earth, and understanding. If you put forward an honest effort, they will surely help you out. There are always jokes, smiles, and laughter within the lab with a lot of the TAs because they lead the labs in a fun manner. It is for these reasons that I can rest assured when going into labs that they will have my back if I need help! 

scientists talking

Ambitious Drive

Personally, I find the workload and general stride of the program to be really uplifting and motivating. At times, I do feel overwhelmed because of the amount of stuff that I have to do but because I have the momentum from the beginning, I feel there’s some normality because you get used to it. Not to mention, the students surrounding you are very like-minded and driven to do well which in turn keeps you motivated! My friends are very encouraging and we stick together through it all, especially during the hard times in academia.    

Office Hour Conversations

I look forward to office hours and did even more so back in the day in pre-covid times. It's so lovely to chat with the professor and have a one-on-one conversation. You come with confusion and leave with clarity as well as an impression. The professor will likely remember you and over time as you venture through the course, the mentorship really solidifies. It’s amazing! I remember laughing away with my Biology professor in my first year as she said, “These days there’s a lot of ambition among students, they come in wanting to do open heart surgery and we start off small with the basics, so I’m not really sure how to explain to them that the surgical skills will surely come later, but only after the basics!” I still chuckle at this statement to this day because it touches upon my perspective in the first year...start with the basics! 

co workers high fiving

Closeness Implies Connection

I love Ontario Tech University for its tight-knit community feel. I feel my experience as a Life Science student is enhanced for this particular reason because there is more room for engagement with professors, peers, TAs, exciting opportunities, etc. I know my professors, TAs, etc., they know me, recognize me, respect me and really help me stay driven towards my goals. For these reasons, I am truly thankful!

Moment of truth: Do I regret my decision? 

I absolutely regret... just kidding! I am happy with the decision I made and with each and every day I find a new reason to be grateful for selecting this school. The friendships I’ve made, connections I’ve fostered, and opportunities I’ve found truly leave me humbled. I want to finish off by saying what is meant for you will find you. So the best thing you can do is do what you love and let the rest take care of itself!