Many students pick electives in their degree area in order to increase their knowledge on chosen subjects. I however, opted for electives outside of my field of choice in areas that I have an interest in. While I generally remained within the Science building, my electives introduced me to areas I would never encounter studying microbiology alone for four years.

Food Diet and Health was my very first elective as a fresher. Covering topics like Food Science, Food Safety and Public Health Nutrition caught my attention, in keeping with my scientific interest. I am passionate about food. I love to cook and bake and I am constantly experimenting in the kitchen. Along with my sweet tooth, I like to eat healthily but could never get my head around fad diets. This module gave me an insight into the world of the Atkins Diet and other popular crazes, highlighting the results and potential consequences of such slimming plans.

The ‘secret lake’ on UCD campus

The ‘secret lake’ on UCD campus

Outside of college I am an avid gardener so the opportunity to study something in the field of horticulture really appealed to me. Plants and People is an elective that covers the use of plants by humankind. Throughout the module, areas we focused on included the design of private gardens, parks, sports pitches and golf courses. The production of foodstuffs such as mushrooms were traced as well as current and new techniques for better plant production, for example the making of a vertical garden for locations with limited ground space. Plants and People offered a chance to discover some of the hidden gems on campus such as the Millennium Oak Walk, the Lamb Clarke historical Irish Apple Collection and the highly coveted secret lake!

The Millennium Oak Walk as covered on a ‘Plants and People’ field trip.

The Millennium Oak Walk as covered on a ‘Plants and People’ field trip.

In second year I managed to secure a place in the Introduction to Massage module – places are highly sought after among sports fanatics. A core module for physiotherapy students, this elective introduces the student to a range of basic techniques used in sports therapy. I loved the practical aspect. It was so different to my previous practical lab experiences with test tube in hand. Every week for two hours we would spend the afternoon practicing techniques on each other. The class group is split into pairs to practice and towards the end of the semester a practical exam took place, accounting for roughly half of the marks. Theory lectures aided the practicals, teaching about basic functional anatomy, muscles, various trigger points as well as the psychological effects of massage.

UCD Health Science Centre

UCD Health Science Centre

My current elective is the UCD Symphony Orchestra module. Providing a break to students stressed about assignments and text book learning in the library, this module is entirely based on practicals. Orchestra provides such a great opportunity to meet other students from different disciplines as you are constantly mixing with new players. To get into the orchestra you must go through a straightforward audition process. I did my audition at the start of second year playing the Vivaldi Concerto in A minor third movement on my violin and was required to sight read a short orchestral piece too. The level in the orchestra is generally grade seven and above.

Rehearsals from my perspective!

Rehearsals from my perspective!

Essentials for practice

Essentials for practice

When I first joined I played in the UCD Symphony Orchestra as a hobby but realised soon after that I could get credits for playing in it. This was an elective I just had to add to my list of modules. The orchestra regularly go on trips, many of which are abroad. Last March they travelled to Uppsala in Sweden – not something that regularly occurs in microbiology modules! The chance to perform in great Dublin venues such as Christ Church Cathedral, the National Concert Hall not to mention our own Astra Hall really appealed to me as I’m sure it would to fellow musicians. After a long Monday in lectures and labs it’s nice to pick up your instrument and play, sitting beside an arts student, in front of an engineer and behind a radiographer all while earning credits for attendance and participation.

The UCD Symphony Orchestra take a bow having just performed Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture in the National Concert Hall Dublin.

The UCD Symphony Orchestra take a bow having just performed Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture in the National Concert Hall Dublin.

Through the elective programme I’ve learned so much about areas both related and unrelated to science. Most importantly for me the modules with collaborative and practical aspects have allowed me to meet and make friends with a variety of people I would never have met if I didn’t branch outside of the UCD O’Brien Science Centre. I have always wanted to study Microbiology but the opportunity to take electives has really complemented a subject I love.

Back in the lab

Back in the lab

This blog was written by Microbiology graduate Emma Cullen. 

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