Posted by: idm04 | 2014/05/12

Fifth-year courses in UBC Sciences!

Courses listed here were taken between September 2013 and April 2014. The more I think about it, the sillier my naming system for these posts seems…

Other posts of potential interest:

First-year Courses in UBC Sciences!
Second-year Courses in UBC Sciences!
Third-year Courses in UBC Sciences!
Fourth-year Courses in UBC Sciences!

Courses in this post:
MICB 405
MICB 421




MICB 405

Prof: Drs. Hirst, Hallam, Gardy

I took this class because I needed another upper-level MICB course to graduate and I thought I’d learn something interesting/different than in typical MICB courses.

Grading Scheme

Research project 15%
Midterm 35%
Final 50%

We had the option of not writing the midterm, and having our final count for 85% of the final grade. Interestingly, nothing was mentioned about what would happen to the grading scheme if you were to write the midterm, but perform better on the final.


The course covers a variety of topics in bioinformatics at an introductory level:

-Sequence databases, DNA sequencing
-Sequence alignment & assembly
-Phylogenetic trees
-Genome browsing
-Genomics in public health
-Functional genomics, transcriptomics
-Protein families and function, protein structure, proteomics

There was no textbook for the course.

In-class activity

For the most part, ‘regular’ lectures were given with the Powerpoint shown on the screen. Sometimes there would be demonstrations of tools (e.g. using BLAST) in class. Dr. Hallam sometimes made activities that lasted the whole class (e.g. de novo genome assembly by hand orz), and he did give some handouts that counted for a few bonus points.

There was a weekly tutorial in which the TA (Sarah Perez) went over some of the class material that week, or we would do some sort of learning activity like using BLAST.


The workload for the course is light — there aren’t any regular assignments or readings; just the project and exams.

For the project, you’re basically given a dataset (everyone is given the same dataset) and asked to perform some sort of bioinformatic analyses on it (up to you what you want to look at). This was a group project (groups of 4 people) and we were able to choose our group members. We were given the genomic sequence data of two newly sequenced Bordetella strains, and our group decided to look at a particular virulence factor in Bordetella pertussis and see if we could find homologs in the other two strains, which are non-pathogenic. Since there’s no rubric for the project, I recommend starting early and meeting regularly with the instructor/TA to make sure you’re on the right track and get feedback.


The average in 2013W for this course was 80%, and I managed to get an A-.

I did not do as well as I thought I would on the midterm. I based my studying for the midterm solely on the “learning outcomes” which were given at the beginning of class, and skimmed over everything else. Unfortunately, this was a bad idea, as the midterm question were based on the class material, but definitely not solely on the learning outcomes. There were also questions I got wrong because of keywords that I had missing. For example, I had marks taken off for using ‘contiguous sequences’ instead of ‘contig’.

My advice would basically be to understand and remember everything, but focus on what is emphasized in class (don’t use the learning outcomes to narrow your studying). Taking good notes is also recommended because many slides are just pictures that don’t have an accompanying caption explaining it. Also, try to use ‘keywords’ to answer the questions on the exam.

In terms of practice questions, no practice midterm was given out, but the questions at the end of each lecture were meant to be examples of possible exam questions. The final was similar in style to the midterm, with heavy focus on post-midterm material.

Overall impressions

This course was interesting to me in the sense that it was much different than the more traditional MICB courses, and introduced me to the computational tools used in biological research. The course covered a broad spectrum of topics in bioinformatics and as such, I felt that sometimes we skimmed the surface and didn’t really go into detail enough for us to be able to use the tool. Other times, the details about some computational tools were confusing given our lack of knowledge about bioinformatics, and at these times I felt there wasn’t enough background info. I also felt unsure about what we actually needed to know for the exams and what was just extra info.

I did however, learn how to use some basic tools (the different variants of BLAST, MUSCLE for multiple sequence alignment, etc). Overall, I think the course is good for those interested in getting an overview of what bioinformatics tools are used for in research.











In progress, to be updated by July.

MICB 421/447 is a research project based experimental microbiology course. The project lasts most of the term and is done in groups of 4 (sometimes 3).

You can take MICB 421 or 447 to graduate in the MBIM program. From what I heard, there was no midterm nor final nor “first lab” in 447, whereas there was a (optional) MT and mandatory final in 421, plus a lab (project 1 — it was on RNA accumulation in E. coli). I have no recommendations about which course to take — there are advantages and disadvantages of not having a final. Most people choose between 421 and 447 based on (1) their course schedule, and (2) what their friends are taking.

If you know the group of 4 (includes yourself, so 3 others) that you want to work with, register in the same section (e.g. Tues or Wed or Thurs). Choose your teammates wisely — choose people you’d work well with, and not necessarily people you’re friends with. Note that teams of friends in 447/421 are no longer friends by the end of the course. (I’m kidding…. kind of….)

MICB 421

Drs. Ramey, Oliver

Grading Scheme


In-class activity






Took this class in political philosophy because I needed another upper-level course and it sounded cool.

Prof: Dr. Bedke

Grading Scheme

Clicker questions – 10% (half participation, half correctness)
3 short papers – 10% each
Final paper – 30%
Exam – 30%


The following topics were covered:

Utilitarianism (2 classes)
Rawls (10 classes)
Liberal egalitarianism ie. Dworkin/Cohen/Anderson (5 classes)
Libertarianism (4 classes)
Marxism (2 classes)
Communitarianism (2 classes)

In-class activity

The day would usually start off with a quick clicker question or two at the very beginning of class, probably meant to encourage arrival on time and therefore, attendance. The clicker question was usually based off the readings and if you read them, you’d get the question right.

For the rest of the class, we went through the slides with plenty of discussion.

Unfortunately, the slides weren’t posted in advance and I found it quite difficult to copy down notes while listening to the prof.


There were five opportunities to write a short (2-3 page double spaced) paper throughout the course, and out of those 5, we were to pick 3 to write on, worth 10% each. The paper topics were given the week before the due date, and sometimes there were more than one question to choose from. There was an opportunity to write a short paper every 2 weeks ish.

The final paper, worth 30%, was 6-8 pages long, double spaced, and could have either been an expansion of one of the 3 short papers already written or a brand new one on any of the potential paper topics. I think formulating your own paper topic was possible with permission.

I got plenty of constructive feedback on my papers, which was useful, and my mark for the my 3rd paper was significantly higher than my 1st.


The main source of readings came from Kymlicka’s Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (2nd ed, with the grey cover) which I generally liked reading. I bought a used copy from for $25.30 before tax/S&H, but had to pick it up from my US mailbox.

For the section on Rawls, we were expected to read Rawls’ Theory of Justice (Revised ed). I borrowed it from my friend who had used it for PHIL 230A. We only read 2 chapters of the book…

We also did readings on other people like Cohen/Dworkin/Anderson but those were supplied through Connect.


The short papers took me on average about 10 hours total from start to finish, although you could probably write one faster than me if you have better notes (my notes weren’t that great…)

The readings took quite a while (40-60 pages on average per week, ~5 hours of readings per week), especially for the section on Rawls — I highly dislike reading his book. The Kymlicka readings seemed difficult to understand at first but I got used to it pretty quickly and it helped going through the more ‘difficult’ sections more than once.

The material is kind of difficult — the prof said we might want to reconsider taking the course if we hadn’t taken PHIL 230A, and near the beginning of the course (the beginning of Rawls), I felt a little overwhelmed by the material because some parts were difficult to understand. However, I chose to stick with the course and it turned out fine. The PHIL courses I took before this course were PHIL 220A and PHIL 433A, which honestly didn’t seem to help too much anyway, except maybe 433A helped with essay writing and for introductions to Kant, Rawls, and utilitarianism in the context of ethics.


The average was 68% and I managed to get an A-.

As with any course that involves reading works and writing essays, I highly recommend using sticky notes while you’re reading so you can easily reference or make notes on important sections or sections you want to re-read so that’s it’s easier to find them when you write your essays.

Reviewing your notes regularly helps a lot for the essays because then you don’t need to go re-read the textbook when it’s time to write the essay like I did…

We were given a list of potential exam questions a few (4?) days before the final exam. The questions involved a combination of at least two of the topics, for example Rawls and libertarianism, or perhaps Rawls and communitarianism, etc. I would expect to be tested on two of any of the topics except utilitarianism and Marxism. I didn’t start studying until we received the potential exam questions, but I could have started reviewing Rawls/libertarianism/liberalism/communitarianism.

Overall impressions

Interesting (and somewhat challenging) course and a refreshing break from Sciences, plus Dr. Bedke is awesome.





Posted by: idm04 | 2014/05/05

May 5th, 2014

Woot done school forever. Just kidding, will be back this September, although I don’t know what I’ll be doing.


The exam was alright — we got the 3 potential exam questions in advance, and Dr. Bedke just picked one of them to test us on the exam. The exam itself only lasted an hour, and I left early. As of writing this post, the mark for this course hasn’t been released on the SSC.

MICB 421

The exam was pretty easy, or so I found, although there were a few questions I didn’t know because I am bad at memorizing things. I said that casamino acids were the result of the enzymatic digestion of casein, a protein found in milk, but it’s actually the acid-hydrolyzed product, and there is no enzymatic digestion as far as I know. I wonder if I should view my exam for funsies :3

Ended up with a 89% in the course. Good enough…

Read More…

Posted by: idm04 | 2014/05/04

Involvement & Extracurriculars

My posts are generally quite heavy on academics, so I thought I should talk about my non-academic UBC activities to let other students know what kinds of opportunities are out there. For each position I’ve held I try to mention things I liked/disliked, and what I would’ve done differently.

If you have any specific questions, please comment below or e-mail me (idm04wordpress(at)


Being involved on campus is a great way to develop skills, meet other people, diversify your experience at university, and have fun.

See Get Involved for a fairly comprehensive list of things you can do to get involved. I recommend joining a club or two that interests you. From that list, I myself have been involved with my Faculty, Athletics, Clubs, Orientations, Peer Programs, Research, Service Learning, Work/Volunteer.

EDIT: Unfortunately, the above link is no longer a list and you’ll have to explore several pages to learn about all the different involvement opportunities.

The UBC Birdcoop is a fitness facility available to students for $25/term. It is subsidized by your student fees; and unfortunately it is often crowded (but better than nothing). UBC REC is also a place you can go to exercise — they have free drop-in basketball/badminton/volleyball and they have classes (martial arts, yoga, etc). They also have competitive leagues (different levels) for those sports and others, including soccer and ultimate. The UBC Aquatic Centre also has a fitness centre and pools obviously, and they are both free for student use. If you look at the list of AMS clubs, you’ll see that some of them are dedicated to exercise related activities, such as the Quidditch club (lol), Weightlifting/Powerlifting Club, Fencing club, Tennis club, etc.

There are several ways to get a job on UBC. For starters, I recommend looking at CareersOnline and Student Services – Build my career.

1. Co-op
2. Work
3. Campus Engagement
4. Physical activity

Read More…

Posted by: idm04 | 2014/04/09

April 9th, 2014

Despite the last day of classes being yesterday, it was quite a stressful day, especially towards the end.

Read More…

Read More…

Posted by: idm04 | 2014/03/28

March 28th, 2014

Read More…

Posted by: idm04 | 2014/03/15

11 Reasons Why I Don’t Like UBC REC

This post is long overdue, but at last, here it is! 11 reasons why I don’t like UBC REC — you know, the organization that you, and each of the rest of the UBC student population are paying $200 (yes, two hundred dollars) of your student fees to. Every. Single. Year.

This list is in no particular order.

1. They get their dates (and other information) wrong on their website.

For many webpages for their events/schedules, the UBC REC often has misinformation or wrong dates. Taking Day of the Longboat as an example, the UBC REC page had, at some point, THREE different dates for the Day of the Longboat start of races day! And the wrong year as well.

Many other things were confusing on the Day of the Longboat webpage: in one section, it said 8 people needed to attend the mandatory practice clinic — and yet in another, it said only 7 people were needed. Confusion galore.

2. Broken links

Broken links everywhere. Nuff said.

3. Navigating their website can be a slow and painful process.

Sometimes, the layout simply makes no logical sense. Sort of like my blog layout.

4. Drop-in hours for sports are occasionally inaccurate!

I have come into the Rec centre several times looking to play badminton or basketball, commuting all the way from Richmond, just to find out that the gymnasiums upstairs were booked by some external party or by UBC Varsity. Why not update the drop-in schedule on your website so that it actually REFLECTS the real schedule? Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

5. Drop-in sports sometimes closes early without notice.

Great, I came all the way here to play for 30 minutes.

6. The wait at the front desk can take up to 15 minutes during peak hours.

Sometimes, there’s no one at the front desk at all. Or even worse, sometimes I see Rec staff casually stroll by behind the front desk, but they don’t help anyone because they’re not on front desk duty. Even though they’re so clearly not doing anything except chilling in the back.

7. The (new) locker system sucks.

Before, you could just bring your own lock to use at the Rec centre. If you didn’t have your own lock, you could borrow one from the front desk. But now? You HAVE to use their lock, which means sometimes, you have to wait 15 minutes for it. Congratulations, things are now 50% less efficient.

8. Drop-in is crowded.

Waaay too crowded.

9. Birdcoop is crowded.

…And there are only two full squat racks. WHY ARE THERE ONLY TWO FULL SQUAT RACKS. And, the sign-up process at the beginning of term takes forever because of the gigantic line. If there was an online registration system, things would be much smoother (if there is one, it hasn’t been advertised at the Birdcoop centre.)

10. Terrible campaigns, like Build the Walls.

I appreciate the frequent e-mail spamming campaign and the accompanying heartfelt messages, such as:“By putting your name to the new walls, you can help inspire future generations of UBC students to come together as a community and do the same.”

But if you think that will persuade me to pay between $100 and $2500 just so I can have my name in tiny font on the new walls that are being built, you are insane. (Their default donation options have a minimum amount of $100). I mean, didn’t you get the $200 from my student fees every year? Yes, you have other crap to pay for, but how much does it cost to build two 12 foot wooden walls that you’re going to be reusing for the next 30+ years?

11. Terrible planning, and terrible coordination.

Back to Day of the Longboat. It was an absolute nightmare changing my practice clinic day. I went in person, so the process would be expedited — sadly, they said it was NOT possible to change it in person, and I had to go home and e-mail them. Great. So I did. And then they didn’t get back to me for a few days. So then I went back to the front desk (my practice clinic was in a few days), and they said they would try to get it sorted out. And then they actually did! But then a while later, the person who I e-mailed a couple days back changed it to some other date/time, and chaos ensued.

Most UBC REC intramural games are announced approximately a week in advance. However, our FIRST playoff game was announced literally the night before. No one was expecting a game, and UBC REC had e-mailed captains saying that games wouldn’t start until the following week. And then suddenly NOPE, THEY START TOMORROW. And no e-mail notifications either, it was only by chance that someone on my team was checking the website the day before, and then saw we had a game the next day. Needless to say, most teams didn’t show up at all, and UBC REC was forced to reschedule the games (and hopefully reflect on their foolishness).

And those are the 11 reasons why I dislike UBC REC.




Posted by: idm04 | 2014/03/09

March 9th, 2014

Wow, it’s been several weeks since I last blogged…

MICB 421

Overall, it’s going fairly well so far. Our media has a lot of weird white specks floating around in it, which is suspicious, and we threw it out. However, when we made new media, the new media also had the same specks as soon as we had made it T_T so iunno we’ll see if anything grows up lol.

There were a couple days where I had to stay really late in the lab, for example last week my group was supposed to finish doing some prep by 2 pm or so; however when I was done my work at 3 pm, apparently they hadn’t done anything or it had failed T_T so I came in and stayed with them until 9 or so to finish it.

I’m planning to forego the optional midterm on Tuesday, because there are a lot of other things I’d rather take care of. Furthermore, it’s kind of late to start studying (although not impossibly late).


There’s an essay due Wednesday… technically, it’s optional, but I skipped the last one so I should really do this one. We’re talking about egalitarianism, and different interpretations of it such as equality of resources, or equality of welfare, or equality of opportunity of welfare, or equal access to “advantage”. It’s fairly interesting, but the readings are quite difficult for me :(

Post grad plans

I am planning to pursue further education.  One of the two programs I have applied to is the 2 year Bachelor of Computer Science program. If I don’t get into any programs, I’ll probably just start working somewhere, but who knows..


Posted by: idm04 | 2014/02/19

February 19th, 2014

My final exam schedule consists of the following:

1) Saturday, April 26th at 8:30AM
2) Monday, April 28th at 3:30PM

Given that the last day of classes is April 8th, I wish my exams were a little earlier >_>; like maybe 2 weeks earlier… I wonder what I’ll be doing until my first exam!


We’re finally done reading Rawls. Now we’re moving on to Dworkin and something to do with equality. The prof emailed us over the break saying we should get a head start on readings because there was a lot to do D:

MICB 421

Nothing really new here. I have a feeling I may have failed the safety quiz (we need 80% to pass), but no word yet. There’s a midterm on March 11th, but that’s still a while away… Judging by the first sample midterm posted on Connect, there will be more memorization than I expected.


Posted by: idm04 | 2014/02/13

Exam schedule for 2013WT2 is out!

Exam schedule

Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 57 other followers

%d bloggers like this: