At a Glance
Hi there! My name is Adam and I’m in my second year of the Integrated Science (with Biology specialization) program here at Western (WISc).
WHY INTEGRATED SCIENCE?
As a fellow Mac Health Sci reject (represent🤪), naturally and ignorantly, I decided to settle for the next statistically best undergraduate-to-medical school turnover rate program: Western Medical Sciences. Aside from this foolishness, my overarching decision to join Western was essentially twofold: a quest for gaining the best possible education, and the challenge of thriving and growing in a completely new environment.
Western sciences has a great reputation – and rightfully so. In my first semester in med sci, course material was presented in a way to really make you reflect on the bigger picture, and examinations challenged you to apply these concepts to expansive problems. With my motto of “you get out of it what you put into it”, Western really motivated me to pursue what I preach and go all in with this whole “challenging myself” thing. I started thinking more and more about how I can manifest these ideas into innovation and creativity in the midst of exploring a greater scope of science. It was around this time a close friend of mine suggested I look into a new program that would allow me to exactly that: Western Integrated Science (WISc). Upon fascination of hearing about the 1001X course (see under My First Year Courses) and general structure of the program, I made the switch for what is a decision I KNOW I will never look back at in regret.
This program is one for students looking to really put in their all, and gain the most from their efforts. WISc is nothing short from the ultimate grind, but the hard work becomes so worth it in retrospection. Thanks to a wholeheartedly caring group of WISc professors, super supportive network of WISc upper years, several amenities (including our own lounge, laboratory, classes, etc.), invaluable outdoor lab experience, and exclusive research and internship opportunities, this program provides us with the highest level of education, experience, and foundation for success.
I went from just another student “tunnel-visioned” on med school to a student with a developed genuine passion for what they are learning. With the right mentality, you WILL become a smarter person and you WILL discover a new, integrative approach to science. Welcome, fellow WIScers, for you will soon become powerful scientific nerds – whether you like it or not😊
MY FIRST YEAR COURSES
As I have alluded to earlier, I am not the most conventional WISc student and, consequently, neither is my schedule. Seen below will be the schedule of a fellow WISc student who planned on pursuing a Biology Specialization in second year (like myself). Keep in mind that there are required prerequisite courses for advancement to each of the specializations in second year, so make sure you take a look at this link under “Year 1 Courses” prior to selecting your electives.
1001A & 1002B
This was definitely among my favourite first year courses, and the one that really got me thinking about the bigger picture when studying concepts. Biology often gets shade for being “a mEMorIzATioN cOuRSe”, but at least at Western, it is far from it. Professors urge you not to memorize, but rather, be able to coherently understand the concepts and be able to apply your knowledge to deep, big picture problems.
Most students come from high schools where memorization is a sufficient approach to success, but that is not the case for university. This means you may have to think about changing your study habits if you tend to rewrite notes several times and bank on memorizing everything. Personally, most of my studying techniques were developed through this course, evident by my 10% grade increase from pre-exam to post-exam. These were some valuable study habits I gained through my experience:
No matter how confident you think you are with the material, take a bit of time to skim through the textbook prior to attending the lecture (online I guess lol) and quickly jot down things you found interesting, or material you think you would easily forget. During lecture, you will be able to review this material and catch more details the professor adds.
Use a technique called “Active Recall” (1). Since you will have been familiar with the material going into the lecture, you have more time to think broadly about what types of questions the professor could ask. Professors love “what-if” questions, such as “what would be the effect to this mechanism if there was a mutation on this gene?”. During lectures or reviewing lecture notes, constantly be asking yourself questions like these, and jot them down. You will be reinforcing your knowledge and practicing thinking the way you should be for an exam, and research suggests you should see an improvement in your exams as a result.
Download lecture slides prior to lectures to annotate (preferably written with some sort of tablet or printed and handwritten as research shows it is more effective than typing (2), but typing works fine too if that’s your style) as the professor is speaking. This gives you more time to expand on the material instead of anxiously trying to get all the info down (this would be passive learning rather than the active learning we are aiming for).
Discuss course material with your friends!!!! I cannot stress this enough. You are all smart people, and you can learn something from everyone. Especially for biology, each person has their own schema on how mechanisms and principles work, and by discussing with others, you can fill holes in your understanding in some concepts or fill those holes for others. Further, research shows that teaching concepts to others improves your retention on the material (3).
Go back and review your notes actively and regularly, rather than passively cramming before exams.
These study techniques were developed through this course, but were really solidified through 1001X (if you are going to read anything at all, please read that section), but is not limited to biology, and you can use the same general approach to essentially any course.
This course is a good idea to take in first year if you are planning to write the MCAT. Psychology is really interesting to some, and dreadful for others. Personally, this was my favourite course to attend because of how much I loved the professor, Dr. Mike Atkinson. I’ve never seen a prof care so much about his lectures, and you often feel like an audience member to a game show. Because of this, I was able to easily retain lecture information, and since examinations were more memorization based, I was able to perform well on tests. Unfortunately, once I switched into WISc, I had to switch professors as well since Dr. Atkinson’s schedule didn’t work with WISc’s. After 5 minutes into the lecture with the new professor, I got up and left and never attended another lecture. This made psych a LOT more difficult to do well on, and I could really see how important it is to be engaged with lecture content. Main point being: take Atkinson and study well and you should be fine.
1301: In all honesty, we were cursed with a poor year for physics professors, and most students didn’t attend the lectures. My best advice would be to learn through the textbook, do the practice problems (more problems if you feel unconfident), and reach out to Teaching Assistants (TA’s) if you have problems with questions. TA’s are super helpful, and are a major reason why I felt confident with this course. If you prefer lectures, make sure to at least skim through the textbook beforehand to have a better grasp of the lecture concepts, as the 1301 professors (at least this past year) are honestly just way too smart or way too ~antonym of smart~ to teach the course.
1302: As for second semester, our physics professor (Rob Cockcroft) is the literal GOAT and goes through problems during class and tutorials while implementing his style called “Learning Catalytics”. He will be happy to answer any questions in extreme detail, and so WISc students tend to perform better in 1302 physics than most other students despite writing the same exams. Concepts can get heavy when we begin integrating fields, but again, Rob is such an amazing professor that he will make it seem easy. This man literally made me love physics from previously envying it from such a poorly structured first semester. After Rob’s tutorial sessions and lecture questions, make sure to regularly practice those same concepts as well as the assigned homework and this course (which has an extremely scary reputation) becomes manageable and, honestly, enjoyable.
I haven’t taken this course yet, unfortunately, so I can’t really speak on it. From speaking with my peers, I hear this course can get a little tedious at times, but is extremely easy to do well on and gets you woke about the reality of science in our community that we often take for granted. Nonetheless, we will learn about this course together next year:)
Both first semester and second semester chemistry courses are, for most people, generally a review of grade 11 and 12 chemistry respectively with some added concepts. The biggest advice I can provide for these courses are to do the practice problems if you feel hesitant on the material, or at least a few to ensure you understand the material. Practicing past exams are CRUTIAL for this course, as the assessments focus on little tricks that can mess up your whole flow. Don’t be cocky like I was – I walked out of the midterm genuinely thinking I got perfect (after very minimal studying) to open my OWL account and seeing that I had gotten a 67%. Again, with the studying habits I gained and actually using my resources, I was still able to finish with a +90%, so don’t stress if you make ~donkey~ mistakes like me; just make sure you learn and progress from these mistakes. With implementing active recall (see under BIO 1001A/1002B), you should be confident with all the tricks and easily identify them when writing the exam.
At the beginning of the semester you purchase a workbook with all the course content in it. All your notes can be taken within this workbook.
1000A: Again, our year got cursed with a difficult midterm/exam, and so I took a slap to the face in this course as my lowest grade first year. Being the cocky med sci kid I was, I hardly attended class and rarely practiced problems. Even after improving my study habits, I still performed subpar on the exam due to being so behind on material. If your exams were anything like mine, I would advise you stay on top of the course work, and do a good chunk of the practice problems until you’re confident that you can approach any question. Also, make sure to practice the past exams well ahead of your exams dates as they give you a good idea of what to expect.
1301A: Objectively way more taxing and difficult than calc 1000 – yet I performed WAY better. I learned from my mistakes first semester and really prioritized this course. You will start doing math in a way you’ve never thought of before, and it honestly gave me more of an appreciation for calculus and its applications in statistics, research, and everyday problems/ideas. Definitely stay on top of your work, as falling behind for this course would not be fun.
If you’ve stayed until this – I love you. This is where things get real juicy. This is the reason why WISc is so hot.
The idea of this course is to gain a genuine understanding of the role science plays in explaining everything in its entirety, how the 8 major scientific disciplines (biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, earth sciences, astronomy, computer sciences, statistics) interplay and interconnect to explain the simplest processes to abstract questions and everyday questions like “how does my cell phone work?”. We begin by studying the formation of the universe through a physics approach, then the chemistry professor tags in and explain the chemistry behind the formation of stars, and the biology professor may step in and explain how the elements created by the stars are the same atoms that make us all up today, then the earth sciences prof may tag in and explain how Earth actually held onto these atoms and how we can use geophysics to discover the composition of the Earth, then the chem prof may step back in and discuss the kinetic-molecular theory and why, due to Earth’s mass and proximity to the sun, we were able to hold on to water and why our atmosphere is composed the way it is, then the biology professor may step back in and speak about how the great oxidation event occurred as a result to be the onset of “life”, etc. For the labs, we are given the opportunity to do really cool experiments such as exploring ways we can use a technique called “spectroscopy” or “The Doppler Effect” to discover exoplanets (planets outside of our Solar System), or sending seismic waves into the ground and measuring those waves’ velocity over time to use our knowledge of rocks and identify what types of rocks these waves are passing through, or directly testing out modern energy sources and hypothesizing solutions for alternate energy sources, or using a technique to measure and directly prove Earth’s everchanging magnetic field. The data for these labs are presented through statistics and computer science techniques, and we get first hand experience in presenting this information through formal lab reports or in person presentations.
This thiccc course comes with thiccc dedication and thiccc effort. Like I said: you get out of it what you put into it. Some people will just copy someone else’s comp sci code and submit it as their own…. but what did you gain? Why are you in this program if you aren’t ready to put in 100%? I’m guilty of giving up on a couple assignments here and there, but I’m literally going through them again during the summer because there is so much to gain from every single assessment in this course. I was not able to go in the most detail for the course components above for the sake of time, but the reason I am able to retain essentially everything from the course is because of how much more interesting science becomes when you learn how they work together to explain the fundamental nature of everything we know. Take advantage of your time in this course. It changed me, and I know it can change you, too.
Mentally prepare for this course – it will get tough, and a lot is expected of you. Use your classmates and work together; WISc is all about interdisciplinary learning and collaboration, and that is one of this program’s largest assets. You are all your biggest resources and will need each other more than ever. Discuss material, test each other, help each other, and support each other. You got this, I believe in you.
KEY BUILDINGS ON CAMPUS
NATURAL SCIENCE CENTRE
1151 Richmond St, London, ON N6A 5B7
PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY BUILDING🐼
1151 Richmond St, London, ON N6G 2V4
NORTH CAMPUS BUILDING
2004 Perth Dr, London, ON
MATERIAL SCIENCE ADDITION
1151 Richmond St, London, ON N6A 3K7
MY FAVOURITE STUDY SPOTS ON CAMPUS
Weldon – social floor (floor 2)
Taylor LG (for extreme focus)
On a log that spans across part of the river near NCB (won’t tell you exactly where, kinda my own spot, but you can look for me if you want I guess)
I honestly like to switch it up and try new places – all buildings across campus are beautiful and will have a unique spot to study. Figure out through trial and error whether you are someone who gets tired of studying in the same place all the time and need variety, or work better when in a consistent environment.
Western Integrated Science
WISc Society (Tentatively)
LAMP (ask for me as your mentor:))
Office hours for professors (often give hints for tests)
OneNote (if possible, any tablet or hybrid device that you can digitally write on is a pretty significant asset)
Frosh DropBox (we are in the process of finishing this up)
Intramurals/clubs you are interested in!!! You can easily make friends who share interests and goals.
FINAL WORDS OF WISDOM
YOU GET OUT OF IT WHAT YOU PUT INTO IT
Aside from course work, Western is a lot of fun. This community is way better than I could
have ever imagined, and I made many loving friends and invaluable memories. From the very beginning with Orientation Week, I quickly became extremely comfortable and felt at home. The sophs connect you with your community, and you find yourself with a whole support network that you didn’t even have the intent of developing. This program will get tough and when it gets tough, make sure to reach out to your network for support. There are myriad resources put out for your success, wellbeing, and academic assistance, and remember to help each other out.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to me for any further help with anything, I am happy to help! As WISc Department Representative under the SSC, a member of the WISc Society, LAMP Science Mentor, and Science Soph, I have been and will continue to work hard to raise our program higher through more internship opportunities, bonding events, and constituent advocacy, and I am dedicated to help you all in whatever way I can:) You can reach me through email at firstname.lastname@example.org (if you’re trying to practice your formal email etiquette) or you can slide in my insta dms @adam.shedeed if that’s how you ride.
If there is anything to be gained from reading all this, it’s this: You get out of it what you put into it. So, put in your everything – whether that be in a social setting or an academic setting – and you will find yourself loving every moment of your first year experience.
(1) Glenn, David. (2009). Close the Book. Recall. Write It Down. The Chronicle of
Higher Education, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 1 May 2009, www.chronicle.com/article/Close-the-Book-Recall-Write/31819.
(2) MD, C. L. (2019). The Science of Notetaking: Writing vs Typing. Retrieved
(3) Jarrett, Christian. (2018) Learning by teaching others is extremely effective – a new
study tested a key reason why. Retrieved from https://digest.bps.org.uk/2018/05/04/learning-by-teaching-others-is-extremely-effective-a-new-study-tested-a-key-reason-why/
*NOTE: Try to cite articles or pages with “.org” or “.gov” instead of “.com” – I just didn’t
want to bore you with research papers in case you wanted to read up on the research. Get into the habit of navigating the references of .com websites and reading the original research for yourself. Peace✌