Sem 2 Paper Run

As we approach exams, its time to start reviewing the content from this semester. Oooor watching Netflix while pretending to study. I have loved most of the content this semester, but revision is tedious. I thought while I was looking over all the content, I thought I’d give you a run down of the papers this semester so you can be prepared for everything to come in part II.

Biomeng 241 – Instrumentation and Design

This is probably the hardest paper this semester. We get split into groups of 4-6 people at the start of the semester and got given a project brief. The past two years, 241 has centred around designing and assembling a colorimeter – a device used to measure skin colour. The lectures focus on the design process from conception of ideas and brainstorming specifications through to electronic components and how to use them together. The three-hour labs are introductions to each of these processes. When we were in person, it was quite fun using all the big machines to measure resistors, capacitors and battery values, and soldering circuits together. We learned how to use programmes such as LabVIEW, Altium and LTspice which are all used for user interface, circuitry design and circuit testing. There was a little bit of disconnect between the content we learnt and what we had to achieve to complete our projects. This meant quite a few long zoom calls with my group trying to figure out how to work Altium to wire our circuits, and how LabVIEW works so we could manipulate the values coming in. Consequently, we got to know each other quite well within our group and with the rest of the class as we helped each other out. Usually, we’d all get to see the printed circuit boards and 3D printed case and work on them on campus, but lockdowns meant one person got delivered them to test and assemble. This created a myriad of new challenges but gave us a lot to write about in that section of the final report. The lecturers and TAs are helpful, always replying within the hour on Piazza and happy to jump on a zoom call during the week to help our group out, and to try figure out why something wasn’t working how it should. The good thing is that the project deadlines are all before exams, so its out of the way leaving plenty of time to study. While this course definitely gets your brain working hard, it is really cool to see the links between what you learn in class and what you design over the semester.

Biomeng 261 – Tissue and Biomolecular Engineering

I wasn’t really expecting a paper like this, and I don’t know why. 261 is probably one of my favourite papers. It’s split into two parts. The first half of the semester we cover Reaction Kinetics and Systems Biology, which is looking at mathematically modelling reactions and rates of reactions with enzymes. The first few labs for this section included Matlab or Python coding using equations to graph reactions with enzymes with different numbers of binding sites and inhibitors. Then we moved on to gene regulation. This part of the paper was interesting, as it was another way of applying the biology we learnt in both high school and BioSci 107. The second half of the semester was a Biological Engineering Lab module. This focused on different laboratory techniques and then DNA reading and analysis. The first part of this had some basic chemistry, calculating concentrations and volumes of solutions needed for experiments. While we were unable to complete any of these labs in person, our lecturer adapted and provided us with a site which simulated experiments, making us drag pipettes around our laptop screens and putting solutions into water or ice baths. It felt pretty cool, and we even had to make sure our pipette tips were thrown out after each use just like in a real lab. These experiments graduated into the DNA and RNA mixing that we covered in class. We looked at what happens when you insert RNA into DNA for one lab and then looked at Ebola and it’s spread for another. It was rather topical, given one of the tasks was looking at sections of Ebola virus DNA from patients and trying to figure out in which order they were infected by looking at the mutations. I felt like a Covid tracker. These labs were really interesting and reminded me that Biomedical Engineering is not just about designing medical equipment. We learn such a range of skills that open us up to so many fields out there, one of which is biological research and analysis. The final module we looked at was ethics, covered in the last few weeks of semester. This was also interesting, I felt quite like a philosophy student discussing with the class our thoughts and the ethics behind animal testing, medication testing and a range of other topics. This was also really fascinating and got me thinking about things I wouldn’t necessarily have even considered on my own, such as how morals change in different circumstances. Handy tip for you: the tests for the first module have been really similar over the past few years, so use these to study for the test and you might find that first test is rather a breeze. I thoroughly enjoyed this paper, and the lecturers are really helpful in answering any questions you may have. 10/10 would recommend.

Enggen 204 – Professional Skills and Communication

This is the one common paper among all second-year engineering students. It has two lectures a week, and one hour-long tutorial per week. The lecturers are all engaging and cover some interesting topics as they get more specialised towards the end of the semester. We cover material from effective communication and presentation skills to health and safety law, sustainability, and design thinking. It feels kinda weird being back in the big lecture theatres, but it is nice to see friends from other specialisations and often not pay attention during the lectures. You get put in a group of around 6-10 people from different specialisations within your tutorial and work together on three assignments throughout the semester.  The tutorials are scheduled rather early in the morning, and if you end up flatting a bit far away from uni, try arranging your timetable accordingly so you don’t have to leave the flat/house before 7am to bus in for an 8am tutorial. The assignments themselves are quite different, and rather interesting. The first assignment we did was a short video clip, where we got to choose a target audience from a list of different ages (typically high school or uni student) from a non-engineering background (accounting to law) and had to describe an engineering principal to them. It was fun coming up with different analogies to help get our message across and set us up well for our second assignment. For this, we had to write an engineering report, contents page and all, for Watercare advising them on appropriate rankings for their stakeholders on their Auckland water expansion plans. This assignment is more about how we communicated and backed up our ideas, not about the correctness of them. The third assignment we completed as a team was a presentation. This one took my group the longest, as we had to research and prepare an 8-minute persuasive presentation on our topic to be marked by the rest of our tutorial. Our topic was promoting Hydrogen power being a suitable source of energy, but other groups presented for and against using New Zealand using Nuclear Energy, and well as Engineers being the cause of climate change. It was interesting watching the other groups presentations, learning more about the pros and cons of different energy sources and seeing their presentation styles. As this is a group work focused paper, your experience with this paper can really depend on your group members. I was fortunate enough to have a good group, everyone working hard to ensure they contributed, but others weren’t so lucky, and I’ll touch more on this in a later post. This is probably the most relaxed paper of this semester, and there isn’t an exam so another bonus! Despite that, make sure you put in your fair share of the work, as it really will help your overall grade.

Medsci 241: Biology for Biomedical Science: Organ Systems

Another FMHS paper. This paper is just as content heavy as Biosci 107 but requires more understanding and linking concepts together. The multichoice questions can be rather difficult consequently, but the exam is going to be more diagram labelling and short answer questions. Medsci 142 has kept me the busiest this semester, with post-lecture activities after all 34 lectures, quizzes at the end of each week, post-lab quizzes and two tests throughout the semester. The lectures are really engaging, we learn all about the heart anatomy and how it works, the reproductive and digestive systems, as well as kidney functions and bone and muscle structures and growth to name a few. My favourite part of this paper however has got to be the labs. They’re on the Grafton campus and can be straight after the lectures which require a bit of speed walking up a hill if you decide to go to the lectures. We’ve had five labs this semester, dissecting rats, handling brains (the only ones we were able to do in person), dissecting sheep hearts and chicken legs, and a model lung demonstration. The lab demonstrators are super friendly, and helpful with any questions about not only how to cut the rat/sheep’s heart/chicken leg but the concepts behind what was going on. Starting out with the rat dissection as the first lab was a rather shocking introduction, and it smelt soo bad. For hours afterwards, even after I showered, I could smell the stench on my hands. That was the worst part though, the rest of the dissection wasn’t too nauseating. If you are a bit squeamish, you don’t have to do the dissection yourself, just observe others. No one vomited or fainted if that’s what you’re more concerned about. I think this is the paper I’m most worried about for exams, its lining up to be a difficult one. However, everyone I’ve talked to has agreed with me in saying the content is really interesting and enjoyable. Also, make sure you go along to the last auto-endo lecture for a rather entertaining surprise.


Jeepers that was a long one! Congrats if you made it all the way to the end, I hope this helped you gain a clearer idea of what to expect in terms of content you cover in second year Biomedical Engineering. If you’ve got any questions or further queries, feel free to hit me up! Stay safe and study hard x


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