R for research

Well it has been more than 2 months since the start of the toxicology program and I am already getting a taste of research. No we haven’t started anything in a research lab yet. But we are doing a lot of PBLs which stands for Problem based learning. The students are divided into groups and each group is given a case. The cases are more like stories where one or more subjects are exposed to different compounds and suffer from specific conditions. The group has to look up for information and try to connect the dots. Then they need to write a report and make a presentation about it. If you are rolling your eyes and thinking “how hard can it be”, well it’s not that easy. And with every PBL it gets harder. It also depends on different factors- group dynamics, how you find that one clue and boom! you are done with your part and sometimes you just don’t know what to look up because it can be so complicated. I found the idea of PBLs clever, it makes a student practice four things with one single case:

1. Scientific writing: you have to write a report and it has to be within 2 pages. The 2 pages need to have the physiology and the anatomy of the specific organ the PBL is about, the justifications and a conclusion.

2. Working in a group: Yes group works can get annoying when you don’t think you belong to the right group, “psst, How’s your group? umm yeah, they are ok, I guess” *Awkward silence*. And if you don’t think you belong to the right group, you can just do your part, pack your suitcase and get out of that room. But you do need to know and practice communicating within a group and coming down with a good report. And knowing how to work in a group is one of the most important qualities, if you want to do great in your field.

3. Presentations: I get so nervous and start losing out words during presentations. But then again, how can one not improve when they give you PBLs almost every two weeks.

4. Looking for the right information or mechanism, this includes looking up for the right journals and at one point you stop counting how many papers or abstracts you read within an hour.

Currently we are doing a PBL which involves endocrine disrupting compounds and this was harder than the previous PBLs. I hope this post gave a better understanding of what the toxicology students are up to. Do not get all scared after reading this post, after all that hard work it feels great when you are done with the presentation and get some good compliments from the tutor. I will stop writing now, oh and have a lovely weekend!

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