Imperial College, University of London Study Courses
Medicine At Imperial College, University of London
Take one step back, gather your thoughts and let me ask you one question: Are you sure that you want to be a doctor? Did you say 'yes' instantaneously, wave your hand in the air as high as you could tripping over yourself in the race for the front of the line? Yes? Then you are either: (a) Convinced by your ... life-time sense of vocation and by your need to help fellow men (/women).
(b) Completely nuts.
Why? Because medicine is not a subject decision to be taken lightly. You probably haven't yet lived two decades of the few that you have in life and are effectively going to be signing the rest away. If it sounds like I’m trying to put you off then you’ve guessed right, but that’s no reflection of the institution that I’m writing about, rather a caution over the subject as a whole. If you really think medicine is the subject for you then you’re not going to be put off by some random article on an internet site, but if you’re undecided I’d really consider doing lots of research into what you’re diving into. Go to open days and ask questions, and make sure you’ve done the work experience.
Make sure you’ve heard first hand what it’s like to have been up for 24 hours on call earning peanuts working within a pressured NHS environment whilst your old university buddies are earning buckloads in the city. Right now I’m a fourth year medic on the six-year MBBS/BSc course, and I’ll be graduating in 2004 with a realistic debt of over £25,000 (student loan and bank overdraft). Meanwhile two of my non-medic flatmates from last year are now working in the city for over £30,000 a year. You go figure.
And then there’s the good side. This is the bit that all those people that got turned off about 10 lines down won’t be reading. The good side consists mainly of this: human compassion. It’s that nice feeling in your bones to know that your life is going to be worth something on a humanitarian level. The feeling that hundreds of people are going to have lives touched by you. And of course being challenged in your daily work and being a generally nice rounded human being. Ahhh.
So enough about the subject, what about the course? Imperial College School of Medicine is one of the new merged medical schools in London consisting of the former St Mary’s medical school and the former Charing Cross & Westminster medical school. As such it finds itself located across the most part of west London which is where most teaching and hospital rotations will take place. In common with most medical schools other than the Oxbridge faculties, the course is no longer divided into a “pre-clinical” phase followed by a “clinical” phase. This older system relied on academic teaching in the basic sciences such as anatomy, physiology and biochemistry during the first preclinical phase (usually two years) followed by hospital based clinical teaching on the wards in the clinical phase (usually three years). Some students would do an intercalated BSc in between. On the whole only Oxford and Cambridge still teach in this traditional format, with a focus on the pure science. Many on these courses move to London or other cities to study their clinical phase.
At most London colleges now, the courses have been restructured but still remain similar to the old preclinical/clinical design to a greater or lesser degree. At Imperial, for example, the first two years are still in the basic sciences, but not taught by subject (anatomy, physiology etc), but by body system (cardiovascular system, neurological system, gastrointestinal system etc). This difference reflects the fact that in hospital, medical teams are based around these same divisions (cardiologists, neurologists, gastroenterologists etc) so that when you do your hospital rotations things make more sense. This teaching is basica lly in the form of lectures, which take place in the Sir Alexander Fleming building at South Kensington and at Charing Cross Hospital, Hammersmith. The lectures are supplemented by practicals, tutorials and new fangled inventions like PBL (problem based learning) and SDL (self directed learning) which are the mainstay of some other medical school courses. In addition there is some patient contact in the appropriately named Patient Contact Course whereby you’ll get to meet people like those you’ll see on the wards. Assessment during these two years of lectures is by end of year written exams and practical communication skills assessment (which will be videotaped...!)
The two years of lectures is then followed by the real thing on the wards. This bit is common to all medical schools wherever you are and basically follows the same pattern. You’ll do about one year of general medicine and surgery, which is about four attachments. In hospital, the consultant is boss and all those under him are referred to as his “firm”. Next down are the specialist registrars (SpR), then senior house officers (SHO), then house officers (HO) and then you as students. You will be expected to see patients, ask them questions and examine them (known as “clerking”) and then present your findings to one of the more senior members of the firm. Teaching will be variable depending on how willing doctors on your firm are prepared to teach. The basic tenet is that you are there to experience the conditions you read about in real life and to learn some basics about whatever the firm does (eg medicine, surgery, whatever). Each firm will have some form of assessment. After having experienced the basic medicine and surgery and worked out which bit of the stethoscope goes in your ears you’ll be unleashed on the specialties (like psychiatry, neurology, obstetrics & gynaecology, A&E etc). This is the more complex stuff and assessments in these firms will count toward your overall degree.
The other big difference in the Imperial course is that all students must read for a BSc degree in addition to the MBBS degree. This means that the Imperial course is six years instead of five. The BSc is modular and work for it continues throughout the course culminating in a year out from medical teaching either in the fifth or sixth year. This means taking a year out during the “specialty” rotations but means something nice to put on your CV (especially if you get a first, since the MBBS is an unclassified degree so your BSc may be the only indicator of your intellectual prowess). Finally having completed this you’ll be in the sixth year with final exams. During this you will have written as well as clinical exams in a hospital setting with real patients... And then you’ll be able to call yourself doctor. Easy.
So what about Imperial as a place? Well if you want to come to a nice area of London it doesn’t really get much better than Kensington and Chelsea, although your student budget might not stretch very long... The medical school tends to segregate itself from the rest of the college and can really be considered as a separate entity although the benefits of the main college societies and union are all available to medics. On the social side, Imperial doesn’t have a particularly good reputation due to the 70:30 M:F statistic, but looking wider, London is one of the best cities in the world whatever you’re into – from high culture to hedonistic pleasure. Academically Imperial has an excellent research reputation and has arguably the best postgraduate centre in London which helps when you’re looking for training post once qualified. It also has a huge hospital base headed by three big London hospitals: St Mary’s, Paddington; Charing Cross, Hammersmith; and Chelsea & Westminster, Fulham.
On the down side the wide hospital base means lots of travelling around, and a decentralised medical school community. The merger has left the medical school without a single focus, although has opened it to the wider environment of Imperial College. The course itself is also still evolving as we speak since I joined in the first year of the new merged school. Things change year to year, but not really very significantly. The major problems had in our first year have generally been sorted for successive years below.
So, I’ve ended my little spiel. Let me say this to you again: Think hard about medicine before you apply. On a more profound scale, work out what you want from life. Take a year out. Do whatever it takes, but think about it seriously. As for Imperial, it’s a nice place to be – but not the only nice place you could be to study medicine. But don’t take my word for it. If you’re serious about medicine do the open day, see what it’s like, make up your own mind...
And myself? Well, when I grow up I’m going to be a lawyer...
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Engineering At Imperial College, University of London
Chemical Engineering at Imperial College Imperial usually ranks in the top 4 Higher Education Institutions in the coutry usually fluctuating between 2nd, 3rd and 4th (The other three are Cambridge, Oxford and LSE). For Chemical Engineering it is usually ranked 1st or 2nd depending on the year by The Times newspaper. ...
The course is very labour intensive, generally 9-1 Lectures/Tutorials and 2-5 Lab except Wednesday when the day finishes at 12 or 12:30 to allow society or sport participation.
One of the harshest things is having to be in at 9 ‘o’ Clock every morning. Most courses even at imperial (which is all Science based courses with fairly long hours) not many courses start this early every day. Despite this I would highly recommend this course because as long as you are genuinely interested in the subject matter you can begin to enjoy it and will go on to do well.
What is Chemical Engineering?
Point 1 – It is not like Genetic Engineering, it is not ‘Engineering’ of Chemicals, that is what Chemists do on a Chemistry degree.
Point 2 – It is an Engineering degree with a speciality in the Chemical Industry. Many students enrol each year, under the impression that the course will have a high Chemistry component. This is simply not true, the first year has the largest quotient of Chemistry and it reduces steadily after that. Even in the first year it only contributes around 15% of the marks
Point 3 – It is apparently the best paid engineering discipline based on comparing average wages provided by the various institutes (In the case of Chem Eng the IChemE – Institute of Chemical Engineers).
Point 4 – Despite being specialised, due to the dwindling number of graduates each year there are plenty of jobs about and graduate employment is very high. ChemEng was one of the few industries not to suffer pay cuts followin g the US manufacturing recession. In addition high paid Finance positions are also available if after 4 years you are sick to death of the subject.
The Course at Imperial
I am only about to start my second year so this will cover the first year I have done and I can add to it as time passes.
Lots of Maths 2-3 lectures a week plus a tutorial. Problem sheets are given out regularly to be completed during tutorials and out of hours. Help can be sort in Tutorials and Answers are handed out in lectures. The main parts of this year I found were pretty much covered in A-Level Maths as well As Further Maths. Do NOT panic however if you have forgotten over the 4 month holiday or didn’t do Further Maths, because this is realised and they start from the basics again Differentiation etc… from the beginning
Probably the easiest subject of the year. 2 Lectures a week with a Tutorial every second week. Basically composed of how to design the basic structure of a chemical plant and calculate pressures, temperatures etc… throughout the whole plant.
Properties of Matter
2 Lectures a week in the first and beginning of the third term. Tutorial every second week. Despite its name this is essentially a Physical Chemistry class and counts towards the Chemistry grade.
Predominantly Inorganic but parts of Organic are covered. In the first week a little questionnaire was handed out to do if you wanted to. From these they worked out what had or had not been covered at A-level and made a course up to fit that. Ties together various aspects of A-Level with some new Concepts.
2 Lectures a week, Tutorial every 2nd week for the first term and beginning of the third. This is a basic Chem Eng class revolving around how fluids (mainly liquids) behave under various situations. Quite Hard < br>
Heat and Mass Transfer
Basically explains in detail formula for calculating convection and conduction of heat (Radiation in the 2nd year). Mass Transfer is a few lectures at the end relating similar mathematical equations to mass rather than heat.
2-3 Lectures a week, Tutorial every 2nd week
Explains how energy is transferred as work and heat and relates it to various machines to help understanding of the applications. Builds on A-Level Chemistry and a Little on A-Level Physics.
Basic Biochemistry on cells and bacteria. Only a short 12 lecture course with 6 tutorials. Most students find it very interesting as it provided a diversion from Normal Chem Eng.
Have around 7 normal exams (5 of 3 hours and 2 of 1.5 hours) along with 2 mastery examinations. Mastery examinations are based on the basic concepts of Chemical Engieering. For the first year this is the basics of Thermo, Fluid mech, heat and mass and Process Analysis. Students are prepared for these exams with constant Mastery practice papers which are marked, returned and gone over in class. In addition help can be sort in scheduled after class sessions with PhD students. These Mastery examinations have a prohibitive 80% pass mark on them but due to their nature as only the simple parts of a course this is a fair mark.
Generally very good. Constant progress tests enable then to gauge your current progress. In my experience the lecturers will bend over backwards to help any student who asks. One lecturer last year held classes between 5 and 6 to take any questions students have. They are generally very fast at responding to E-mail questions and also are very responsive to any requests but to the first year student representatives (elected by the year) to help make their lectures more accessible. The same applies for the tutors who will usually make themselves available to help.
A hard course but one which it is really up to you how much you make of it. Plenty of help is available to the struggling student so it just becomes a question of resolve and application.
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Environmental and Earth Resources Engineering At Imperial College, University of London
I am currently in the third year of the four year MEng course in Environmental and Earth Resources Engineering at The T.H.Huxley School at Imperial College. The course is a slight offshoot of the traditional mining engineering course that the department is internationally renowned for. Hence the course encompasses a lot of geology ... and petroleum and mining disciplines as well as the basic engineering subjects such as maths, thermodynamics and mechanics (fluid, structural etc.).
For the first two years, the focus is mainly on a broad outline to engineering and the extraction of economic resources. This involves a roughly 9-5 timetable (except Wednesdays) including laboratory work and some field work. The courses are taught alongside mining and petroleum engineering students. Although there are a couple of nominal environmental courses in these two years, the environmental engineering students may feel increasingly frustrated towards the end of the second year as they feel their field is being poorly represented.
In the third year, the three engineering groups are split into separate classes which allows for more concentration on the environmental aspect. It is understood that the main bulk of the environmental course is covered in the fourth year where courses such as waste management and recycling are covered.
The lecture courses are all taught to a high standard by experienced professionals. This does also mean an expectation to produce coursework of a high, professional calibre. The work requirement throughout the course is very demanding with the student often being expected to complete various assignments on different subjects simultaneously. In general, this can be very rewarding.
The only major criticism of the course is the lack of organisation and student support. Each term starts with timetabling chaos which can take a few weeks to sort out. Although very strict deadlines are set for coursework assignments, feedback can take months, if given at all. This could all be down to a lack of understanding of the students' needs.
In summary, the course is hard work some of which may seem arbitrary at times and there are some issues regarding organisation, although it is envisaged that by the end of the four years a graduated student will have a huge understanding of the concept of environmental engineering.
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