Friday, 24 August 2007

S204: TMA-5

This TMA turns out to be the worst so far.

It all starts off gently enough. Question 1 is a question asking about the stomata in plants.
I figure that's a pretty easy one, and its only 800 words so how hard can it be?

I then discover an entire chapter devoted pretty much to this subject in the book - OK so its going to take a bit more work. At least its work I know about and its just assembling he facts and stuff in the right order.

Then there is a choice of two options. One on microbes which looks at genetics of fungi. Another one about nutrients in plants. I'm usually reasonably good at genetics usually, but I know fungi are a bit odd, but this will probably make a good learning experience.

It starts off gently enough with a few definitions and a bit about restriction enzymes - not too bad, it needs a bit of research but it all looks good.

Then I get to part e(ii) of the question, and suddenly I am completely and utterly stumped for the first time in this course. There is some data presented and its all rather confusing. Probabilities in the 0.2 range I find confusing. A figure of 0.05 is usually biologically significant, but 0.2 is not that far away from 0.05, certainly nearer to it than it is to 1.0. I go around in circles on this part of the question for ages - several weeks.

I managed to find the original paper its based but it wasn't much help. My tutor comes up with some suggestions but it doesn't make it any clearer in my mind. Lots of other people are stuck on this too - the sensible ones move onto Q3 instead. I ask a friend who is a senior lecturer in neuroscience and deals with genes all day long if he has any suggestions on how to approach it, he has no ideas and passes it onto a colleague in genetics. He takes it home to look at, but I don't get an answer! Well at least it makes me feel better.

I try and convince myself I can do this, and keep picking away at it. I eventually come up with an answer to all parts of the question, but they are more expressions of hope than anything else.
I leave it for a couple of weeks whilst I'm away on SXR103 and SXR270 residential courses, but it doesn't get any better looking at it with a fresh perspective.

Its my lowest point of the course so far. I know the exam is coming up and I've worried a bit about that, but its more how can I cram all these facts into my head sort of stuff - solvable stuff - at least in principle. I didn't really have any issues with the understanding, more the remembering. This episode has rather shaken my confidence though.

1 comment:

Phil said...

On tentahooks now with the 0.2 probability thing :D

What was it? 20% or 1:5 chance, i.e. results statistically insignificant and probably down to pure chance?