Posted by: idm04 | 2015/01/12

January 12th, 2014


This term, I’m taking four courses again: CPSC 210, MICB 425, MEDG 421, and STAT 302.

I was originally in MATH 302 but switched out in order to balance my schedule, and because Eugenia is teaching STAT 302. I’m taking it because I hear it’s useful for CS… and it’s kind of interesting.

CPSC 210 is software construction, a mandatory course for CS students. Looking forward to learning how to program in Java, and class seems good so far. The noon section is really full though, and some people had to sit in the aisle last time lol. It seems kind of strange that a core CS course would have limited seats (limited relative to demand).

MICB 425 is ecological microbial genomics. I’m taking it as an elective, and so far it seems fine. I do think our physical classroom format is quite poor for group discussions and group work because as it is everyone is in really long rows facing one direction.

MEDG 421 is cancer genetics. There seems to be a lot of work in this class, but at least it isn’t really memorization based, according to the instructors. For example, the exams will be open book and will supposedly emphasize problem solving.

PHIL 432 is metaethics. I have some interest in taking this course, but it conflicts with STAT 302, plus I’m not fond of the three consecutive hours class format.


Unfortunately, my schedule has a lot of breaks: 10 hours of break/week, but I’m not minding it that much yet. I haven’t been able to go to the gym much due to injuries, but I eventually may during my breaks.

UBC REC Intramurals

Last term, our team was disqualified from the basketball league because my team showed up an hour late (I couldn’t attend myself, but my teammates did). Turns out the REC originally scheduled us for 11 AM, but at some point suddenly switched it to 10 AM without notifying us, and so when my team showed up at 11 AM, they were told that we had been disqualified lol. If I remember correctly, both our team and our opponent were disqualified! Alas, another reason for me to dislike the REC.


I’m selling the CS121 textbook: Discrete Mathematics with Applications 4/E.




  1. Unfortunately I dont have any of my notes for Biol 335, but I could tell you about the course, like the instructor, work load, etc, if you want.

    For MICB 425, I took it last year with Dr.Hallam. The course had no midterm or final as most of the mark came from assignments, essays and participation.

    Essays: For your essays, some will be answering a question, which they want a lot of scientific evidence and work cited, others will be creating your own step by step experiment process, heavily detailed of course. All the essays will be more or less based on the papers he assigns to read. This was the lowest mark for most people seeing as Dr.Hallam really doesn’t say what he is looking for in the essay. Details are key to doing well in essays. Prepare to spend a lot of time on these.

    Participation: This will come from a presentation that you will do with a group on a specific paper given out and group discussion/attendance. There is no explicit attendance but considering the size of the class he knows when you are there and not. Also for the group discussions it is important, because some of the papers are quite difficult to understand and the discussions will help clarify different points and help answer assignments.

    Assignments: You will receive a binder to keep all your assignments in for when they check around mid term and at the end of them, these are marked based on completion. The mid term check is mainly to make sure you finished them while the final check they will actually grade assignments. This is the bulk of the work in the course. Assignments will usually come 1 per paper. However, the pace in which Dr.Hallam gives out assignments vary. For the first month or so of the course the pace is relatively slow, maybe an assignment or two per week based on papers covered. Come the last few weeks ago, the assignments come in bunches and are much longer because they are marked. The longer assignments are based on papers and tools explained in class, such as MEGAN. For all assignments, when they ask for images, always make sure these images are labeled and as detailed as possible explaining any results or classifications. Dr.Hallam spends a fair number of classes explaining how the programs you will use work, I recommend bringing a laptop to class to work on them.

    General Difficulty/Coursework: The way this course is marked allows for an extremely easy 80+ considering the assignments are done properly and your essays are decent. The lowest mark for the class when I was in it was 78, and I believe the person who got it only went to roughly half the classes and only did half of the last 2 assignments for the class according to his friend. The course gets a bit more difficulty in the second half when Dr.Hallam piles on the papers and assignments, which can take a few days to complete properly. I took approximately 4 days to finish the later assignments and prep my binder for marking. To do well, simply read the papers a few times, they will be discussed in class. Anything you dont understand mark down and ask the prof. If you understand the papers and the experiments they do, then the course is fairly straight forward. The papers can get quite dull depending on your interests but I found some papers more interesting than others. I do not recommend skipping any of the lectures, but it is not difficult to catch up if some classes have to be skipped.

    I dont know if you wanted/needed a course review, but since you helped me with some courses I needed to take I figured I would return the favour, I can do this for biol 335 if you want also.

    • Thanks for the detailed info Eric. I won’t ask you to do the same for BIOL 335, but I was curious if you know of the syllabus, especially for the latter half of the course? I have the textbook readings for the first half, but it’s unclear what portions of the textbook is covered in the second half.

  2. Unfortunately I know much more about the first half taught by Dr.Berezowsky. Second half is taught by Dr.Zhang I believe and he is a fairly poor lecturer but he used exclusively powerpoint slides for notes and clickers from time to time. This probably explains the lack of textbook reference as it is followed loosely in the second half and it is more examples and main ideas rather than particular textbook details. Usually if there is a topic he mentions in class, it can be found in the textbook via glossary but he never explicitly says to use the textbook for reading.

    • Ah I see. Thanks anyway!

  3. Hi,
    I’ve been reading your blog since my first year at UBC and I’ve always appreciated the time you take to write detailed explanations of courses you’ve previously taken and their general difficulty/preparation etc. It’s been a great help to me, specially in my first two years at UBC. I decided to check your site out in case you had mentioned anything about MEDG 421 (which I’m taking this term) and to my great surprise, you’re taking it too! I don’t know why but that totally surprised me. =) Good luck with the class! It sounds difficulty but hopefully it’ll turn out well in the end. Oh and also, if you’re still looking for information on BIOL 335, I took that last term with Dr. Berezowsky and Dr. Zhang. Is there something specific you want to know? Cheers!

    • That’s cool! Good luck to you as well :) We do have more work than I would like…

      Well, if you’ve been following my blog, you probably know that I haven’t taken BIOL 335. Craig does a good job of documenting what sections of the textbook are covered in the syllabus (which I have), but not so much for Dr. Zhang and the development section. I am curious as to exactly what material I am missing out on.

  4. Oh, I have a pdf of Dr. Zhang’s schedule from when I took the class. It includes lecture topics and some assigned reading. I can send it to your email, if you’d like. =)

  5. Hi, I was wondering how you liked MEDG 421? I thought it would be a really interesting class to take, but I got warned by a few people that it was extremely difficult to get a good mark in the course. How did you find the course load and grading to be?
    I’m a third year microbio student at UBC and your blog really help me when I’m choosing courses!! Thanks for taking the time to be so detailed! :)

    • I did enjoy MEDG 421, and gained a deeper understanding of how cancer arises and current efforts to treat it.

      This depends on what one defines as a good grade. In my opinion, it is very difficult to obtain a grade in the 90s. Looking at the grades statistics from 2013W, three of 32 students (~9%) achieved 90+. In 2012W, one of 39 students did.

      However, at least 50% of students in the past two years (2013W, 2012W) achieved at least 80% in the course, and the mean is around 80%. I think it is fairly easy to obtain 80% or higher in the course, assuming you put in the work. If you are interested in the course, and are okay with obtaining a grade in the 80s, I would recommend it.

      The course load was lighter than I expected. The assessment consisted of a midterm, final, five one-page paper summaries, one book report, editing of an online textbook (e-book), and writing a 750-word report on a topic to be added to the e-book. This seemed like a lot of work to me at first, but it was spread throughout the term, and I spent approximately three hours a week on average on this course outside of class time. We were initially supposed to edit each other’s 750-word reports as well, but fortunately that requirement was removed.

      In my opinion, the reason why it is so difficult to obtain a mark in the 90s in this course is because of the marking. It seemed impossible to get a perfect mark on any of the assignments. Marks could be taken off for any reason, like if certain sections of the summary were “too short/long”, some sentences were “not specific enough”, etc. The mean and median of the midterm was only ~68% with a high of 84%. The questions were open-ended, yet the grading rubric was looking for very specific answers. To give an example (there are many) of the strangeness of the grading, one question asked us to supply a hypothesis for some scenario, but at least two hypotheses were required to obtain full marks for the question. The grades for the midterm were lower than what the instructors expected as well, and they said they would adjust the final grade accordingly.

      Overall, I still think it was a worthwhile course because of what I learned. My advice would be not to get too caught up in maximizing your grade in the course, and be satisfied in putting in effort and getting something in the 80s. Otherwise, you may not enjoy it!

      • Thank you so much for such a detailed reply! I really appreciate it! I’m super interested in the field of cancer and oncology and I’m actually getting so excited to take this class! I hope all your exams went well! :)

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