At a Glance
Hi! My name is Jordan and I just completed my first year of the Integrated Science (WISc) program here at Western. I am currently pursuing a Honours Specialization in Medical Biophysics with a Minor in Women’s Studies starting this fall. I have a lot of advice for incoming first year students, and hopefully they can help inform your decisions! I entered undergrad with one thing on my mind: medical school. This mentality constantly made me stressed, and caused me to perform terribly in all my courses. Once I got out of it though, I was able to figure out what I am truly passionate about and this allowed me to perform better all around. Hopefully through my advice, you will be able to see that there is more to education than marks and professional program admissions. Coming to Western was a great decision and I hope to share any wisdom I have with you so that you can have the same great first year experience I did!
WHY MEDICAL BIOPHYSICS?
Being a previous WISc student, I have always been interested in the intersections of all sciences. This Medical Biophysics program appealed the most to me as it incorporated all the aspects of Biology, Physics, and even some Chemistry that I really enjoy! I also really like learning about radiobiology and tumour imaging. This program allows me to study these concepts, and more, in a very interdisciplinary way.
MY FIRST YEAR COURSES
Like I mentioned before, I entered Western in the Integrated Science (WISc) program. For this program, the first semester was like that of a typically first year science student. These courses are: Calculus 1000A, Physics 1301A, and Chemistry 1301A, and sometimes Biology 1001A. Each specialization in WISc, and any science module in general, has unique requirements. I took the requirements that allowed me to enter the most amount of modules I could, so that I would have options for my module later one!
Calculus 1000A (0.5) was probably the hardest course for me in my first year. I typically struggle in calculus so I had a bad foundation to start off with. It was also a struggle since my class was at 8:30, for four days a week. The course content focused on limits, derivatives, and integrations. It is essentially grade 12 review up until integrals. With that being said, do NOT think that you don’t need to practice and review concepts. This is my biggest mistake and I suffered for it, as this course ended up being my lowest grade in first year. When picking this course, try and pick a more engaging professor because it would make the course more bearable. Also try to pick a class later than 8:30am, it doesn’t sound bad right now but trust me it is!
As I was planning to major in Integrated Science with Genetics, I was also required to take Biology 1001A (0.5). This course taught us a lot about ecology, evolution, and genetics. I found it so interesting, I ended up taking ecology (Biology 2483A/B) this past summer! I really enjoyed how they tried to link every topic that we learned throughout the semester. The exams also emphasized application-based learning as opposed to the usual memory-based learning I was used to. The labs for this class helped to develop lots of foundational methods skills. We were also able to perform lots of cool experiments like protein electrophoresis that allowed us to practically apply our knowledge. This course definitely pushed me to figure out proper study habits that have helped me with all my other courses since.
We were required to take the “mega” course Integrated Science 1001X (2.0) in the second semester as part of the WISc program. This course covered the second semester equivalent of biology (Biology 1002B), chemistry (Chemistry 1302B), physics (Physics 1302B), and calculus (Calculus 1301B). We also went beyond the curriculum and learned computer science, statistics, earth science, and astronomy. This course was different from any typical first year science course because all 4 main sciences were very combined in every topic we discussed - which is why it ended up being my favourite course in first year. For example, in our “Universe” unit, we started with astronomy and the big bang, then switched to earth science to study the formation of Earth, then moved to the chemistry of the atmosphere, and finally we discussed the great oxygenation event from a biological perspective. In my opinion, this is what makes WISc so unique and interdisciplinary and caused me to search for modules like this. The labs were undoubtedly my favorite part of the course. We took the concepts of first year labs but amplified them to the level of third year labs. We also had lots of labs and tutorials that integrated different topics. For example, using computer science, earth science, and physics to study earthquakes and seismic refraction. It is very easy to do well in this course and the profs, for the most part, engaging and fun! They are always willing to stay late and book one-on-one tutoring sessions to help you succeed. There are lots of assignments in this course which can be both good and bad. It was stressful at first to keep up with the sheer amount of work, but it also gives you more opportunities to bring up your marks. If you love and have a great appreciation for all the sciences, this is the course for you! I cannot stop talking about how much I loved this course so if you want to know more about it, please reach out to me!
Physics 1301A (0.5) was all about basic concepts in physics. Since I had never taken a physics course before this class, this was truly my introduction to physics. Unlike more general or medical science students, I did not get the chance to choose between Physics 1028A and this course. Integrated Science required that I take Physics 1301A or 1501A. Factoring in the fact that I had never taken physics, I thought it was a smart choice to take the “easier” of the two. I enjoyed the content in the class a lot more than I thought I would - especially fluid mechanics. The labs for this course were very simple and easy but the pre-labs were a bit longer and more difficult than expected. This course also has mandatory tutorials, which is different from Physics 1028A and 1501A. The tutorials aren’t hard but contain quizzes worth 5% of your grade each so it’s good to keep up with the content. I don’t think that it’s hard to do well in the course but I would definitely recommend doing as many of the textbook questions as you can to apply the concepts you learn in class. (Also, a lot of questions similar to the textbook questions tend to show up on exams)
Chemistry 1301A (0.5) was based around the structure of molecules. The best thing about this course is probably the workbook. The workbook contains all the notes for each lecture but leaves room for you to write specific points and examples from class. The actual content itself is all review from grade 11 and 12, so I didn’t find it to be quite difficult. The labs from this class were what you would expect from a first year lab. Definitely fast-paced and the reactions are pretty interesting. Only thing to be careful of is making sure your ankles are always covered!
Another required course for the WISc program is Integrated Science 1000Z (0.5). In this course, we learned about the evolution of the scientific process and the meaning of a scientific revolution. Additionally, we discussed how science affects and influences society. This class heavily emphasized discussion and each topic was quite interesting and up for lots of debate. In every class, we ended with a huge debate on a particular topic we discussed during the lecture. It gets super passionate and it’s a great place to express your opinions on a specific topic! The main content of the course revolves around two books and the discussions are based on topics of these books, so it’s a good idea to read and understand all the chapters. Attendance and participation is marked, so reading the book will also make for a better discussion.
For my elective, I decided to take Psychology 1000 (1.0). I have also been interested in the brain and I never had the opportunity to take it in high school. This course didn’t have any labs or tutorials but since lots of people took this course, it was easy to find friends to study with. This course is purely memorization of theories and experiments, so studying with friends helped me to memorize the concepts in creative ways, such as funny mnemonics. I had Dr. Fazakas-DeHoog and it was not really enjoyable to be honest. She just read off the slides/textbook during lectures and didn’t have any passion for the content in the course. Definitely would recommend another professor if you want to be engaged in this course. This course also allowed me to fulfill my Category A requirement, which is great for fulfilling my breadth requirements sooner.
KEY BUILDINGS ON CAMPUS
There are a few key buildings for WISc students on campus. The first is the WISc Lounge, located in the open space between the Western Science Centre and the Biological and Geological Sciences Building. This area - only available to WISc students - is usually filled with WISc students of all years, which allows us to foster relationships with the entire program.
The next key building is the Physics and Astronomy Building (or as we call it, Panda). This building is where the majority of your WISc classes will be, so you will definitely be spending lots of time here.
PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY BUILDING🐼
1151 Richmond St, London, ON N6G 2V4
The last key building is the Natural Science Building. This building, located directly across from the Physics and Astronomy Building, is a great place to go between breaks during IS 1001X. They also have lots of good food places such as Einsteins and Teriyaki Express for when you’re hungry and don’t want to go all the way to the UCC.
UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY CENTRE
1151 Richmond St, London, ON N6A 3K7
This building (UCC) is essentially the hub of student life on campus. It’s a nice place for all your basic needs. The campus pharmacy, doctor’s office, and bookstore (just to name a few) are all located in this building. One of the best places in this building would have to be the Spoke. It’s my favourite place to go get a bagel (specifically a jalapeno and cheese bagel with herb cream cheese, thank me later!) and iced coffee. The atmosphere is great for grabbing a bite to eat with friends in between classes!
NATURAL SCIENCE CENTRE
1151 Richmond St, London, ON N6A 5B7
MY FAVOURITE STUDY SPOTS ON CAMPUS
My favourite spot to study during my first year on campus was at Ivey Business School. Living at Ontario Hall, this building was within a very close proximity to me. This was great because it meant that I didn’t have to trek all the way to Weldon in the snow! This building’s atmosphere was very “studious” and allowed me to get into the mode as well and study for hours without getting tired or distracted. The tables were huge which was great to lay our all my notes for finals. The only downside to this was that since the table sizes are greater, there are less seats overall and they get filled up fast. Also, there was a Starbucks at the front of the building which takes Student Card - this was where most of my money went if you couldn’t tell!
The “Western University Class of ___ “ group is a great place to meet new people your age that are in your program.
A key group - and the one I personally recommend the most - is “Must Knows”. This group tells you everything you need to know about courses and beyond. If you are unsure of what courses to take, this group is the way to go.
Finally, Used Textbooks for Sale (UWO) is a great place to find textbooks for cheap, that’s where I got the majority of my textbooks in first year!
FINAL WORDS OF WISDOM
First year is a great time to truly explore yourself and your interests. Take advantage of Western’s plethora of resources and get involved. There are so many cool clubs and activities for you to join so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Even if you’re unsure about the club, attend the first meeting and decide if you like it or not. In my first year I was involved in Western iGEM, Debate Society, various Intramurals, HOSA, Pre-Medical Society, and more! It’s your chance to make a mark and this is a great way to do it.
Another thing to mention is that first year - at least for me - was a huge learning curve. There are lots of resources at Western focused on studying that can help you if you are having trouble. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Another great resource if you're struggling is your professor’s/TA’s office hours. This was personally how I was able to grasp a lot of the harder concepts and I would definitely recommend it.
Finally, be open to change! I remember coming into Western only focusing on going into genetics. Throughout my first year, I grew and really started to understand my purpose in life, and switched to what I thought was best to prepare for that. High school is very different from university and you’re going to grow so much as a person through your first year here. Be open to change and learn how to adapt to it when it comes along!
I wish you all the best during your first year here! Please feel free to reach out to me if you ever want to talk more about my program or about my first year experience!