SCIF1121 Journal Final Entry

It’s been a great ride this semester with the Monday tutorial people who I’ve become good mates with 🙂 At the beginning, I thought this would be a course that was specifically designed to help us ‘make more mates’, but I’ve actually learnt quite a few things throughout the weeks. The most important skill I practiced during the semester in SCIF1121 was that of group discussion; before SCIF, I tended to solve a problem by myself and without anyone’s assistance because I thought that was the best way. However, SCIF tutorials have taught me that group discussions are much more effective as it allows me to hear others’ opinions on the problem which I had not even thought of, which in turn allows me to come up with a better solution to the problem by combining all the different ideas..

This is extremely important to my career as a Scientist/Mathematician because the collaboration of ideas can possibly reveal new aspects to a problem that I had not seen, and therefore allow me to develop a more efficient and better solution.

Finishing off, thanks to Pejh for being an awesome tutor throughout the semester!

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SCIF1121 Journal Entry (Week 13) – Networking revisited and Globalisation

We had our last tutorial for SCIF this week!

In regards to networking for professionals, it is extremely important as it allows for collaboration and the sharing of ideas which could potentially benefit all parties. This was actually a topic area in HSC Chemistry in which collaboration between scientists was essential in solving certain problems which required expertise in many areas to solve parts of the problem. Hence this relates to the success of Science in a global context in the sense that the collaboration of scientists from all around the world with their different cultures and beliefs can add new and unique ideas to a certain problem, combining their knowledge to come up with new technologies that have a beneficial impact on the entire world. This is because collaboration encourages discussion and ideas which others may not have even thought of, and so it is a vital part of science in that regard.

SCIF1121 Journal Entry (Week 12) – Ethics

This week’s tutorial focused on the topic of ethics, which is a very sensitive subject. We firstly defined it by defining it as something it isn’t: it isn’t based on a code of conduct, religion, culture or time. I didn’t really like this definition because it is a bit like double negatives in a sentence – I would much rather prefer a solid definition of the term, however I guess it is much easier to define it as what it isn’t because it is very difficult to define it as what it is because of its complexity. We discussed this by watching an episode of Doctor Who in which the main character had to decide between killing 20,000 people to save the world or doing nothing which could possibly destroy the entire world. It was unanimously agreed that the ethical decision would be to save the world by killing the 20,000 people, although it took us some time to come to this conclusion.

We then looked at 6 case studies, in which ours was about a Japanese military unit creating biological weapons and the General being pardoned in exchange for the information they had gathered. When we did it individually, I had trouble coming to a decision because although the information would be extremely helpful for future research, I thought it wasn’t enough justice for what he did to all those people he tested on. During the group discussion, we sort of agreed that they should have taken the information and lied about the pardoning, putting him into jail instead. We then had a class discussion on each of the cases, and some of the class agreed on the pardoning as we should make the most of the tests that the military unit had already conducted, which would otherwise be inaccessible. So while the group discussion helped me into coming to a decision, the class discussion made it slightly more difficult, which is unusual compared to previous tutorials in which the class discussions usually helped me to come to a solid answer to a question.

In my opinion, the difference between ethics and a Code of Conduct is that while a Code of Conduct must be followed to its exact specifications, I believe the ethical decision in a certain situation can and should change according to that situation. In organisations or businesses, difficult decisions may have to be made that can affect the entire business, and it is important that we look at it from an ethical perspective rather than a profit-based perspective.

SCIF1121 Journal Entry (Week 10) – Seminar Presentation

I presented my seminar presentation in this week’s tutorial, and had a lot of fun doing it! I think my seminar went fairly well (I presented on the topic of memory and how we can improve it), and hopefully everyone in the audience took something out of it, such as the Method of Loci which is usually used to remember a list of things but can be extended to memorise things such as terms and definitions for wordy subjects. In hindsight, however, I think I could have presented better if I had practiced a bit more beforehand; I sometimes forgot what I was saying and had to pause and make up a few lines on the spot (I didn’t use palm cards because any presentation looks more professional and better overall without the use of palm cards), but that tested my ability to think quickly on the spot which I liked as a challenge. I could also have improved by seminar by choosing better examples as the few examples I used were a bit unusual and hard to relate to, so when/if I present another seminar I will make sure to use more understandable examples and practice it so that I know exactly what I am saying.

SCIF1121 Journal Entry (Week 9) – Innovation and Experimental Design

A cool-sounding title for a SCIF tutorial this week, and it involved discussions on our reactions to innovations and the importance of persuasion, as well as flaws of experimental design that could potentially have disastrous effects.

Personally, it takes me a very long time to adopt an innovation unless the innovation has a direct impact or has a substantial benefit in my life. If not, then I am oblivious to these innovations and hence do not find out about them until after the hype has died down. To be completely honest, in the Week 1 tutorial I didn’t eat the sultana because my hands were dirty (hopefully that’s a viable reason!), but I took two sultanas for the fun of it because I was curious as to why we were asked us to take only one sultana. From this, I think it is fairly clear that I didn’t accept this ‘innovation’ at all.

So, if I had come up with a solution to a long standing problem, I would persuade others of the advantages of my innovation by outlining the beneficial impacts of these advantages on their lifestyle in the short and long term. This would be achieved by incorporating the oral communication skills learnt in last week’s tutorial, as effective communication skills is essential for persuading others.

On this topic, the authors of the potato experiment could never convince readers on their ideas of potato storage because of their horribly described method which is very broad and confuses readers. The experiment also requires a control for it to be valid, and their lack of specificity in certain details further makes the results less believable. As a group, we improved their argument for their results by rewriting their method so that the details were more specific, and used less jargon. Hence, we found out that for effective communication, one needs to explain in simple terms that can be easily understood by a wider audience rather than using jargon which only a select group can understand.

SCIF1121 Journal Entry (Week 8) – Oral Communication

This week’s SCIF tute was used to help us for our upcoming seminar presentations in two weeks time. We looked at presentation and speaking skills, and found that good speakers spoke clearly and confidently with good pace, changed their volume when necessary, had good body language and were able to convey emotions effectively. On the other hand, bad speakers spoke in monotone, mumbled and used voice mannerisms (such as ‘um’) frequently, do not maintain eye contact with the audience, and are not able to convey emotions. In my opinion, the one main characteristic that makes a good speaker is his/her ability to convey emotions and thus relate with the audience on a level such that the audience feels as though they are listening to someone who is familiar to them.

From this, one idea that I’d like to incorporate into my seminar is the effective use of examples, which have the effect of capturing the audience’s attention and clarifying certain parts of information that is a bit difficult to understand. I am also thinking of changing my seminar topic to something that the audience can better relate with and will be useful for their upcoming exams, which will be added incentive for the class to pay attention 🙂

In mathematics, seminars or talks are generally non-existent due to the presentation of ideas delivered through forms of written communication in which it is easier to convey difficult mathematical concepts which would be very hard to give an interesting talk on. However, a possible situation in which a professional in the field of mathematics presents a seminar would be in a TED Talk, such as the one given by Arthur Benjamin on The Magic of Fibonacci Numbers.

SCIF1121 Journal Entry (Week 7) – Group Roles

This week’s tutorial was a sort of continuation of last week’s topic on working in groups, with this week focusing on group roles. We began with a questionnaire on roles in a group and I scored highest for Harmoniser and Cooperator, with Concept Developer not too far behind them. This is accurate because when I do group work I always focus on getting the group together as a team first before we do any work; a cooperative team will work much more efficiently and produce better work overall. If there is any conflict or confusion over something or some role, I will always aim to resolve that first and I will occasionally ask for updates on everyone’s progress and help anyone in the group if possible. However, I can see how my roles will change depending on the group I am in – if there is someone else in the group who is especially good at organizing and bringing the team together, then I will let him take that role and I will play the role of the Concept Developer.

We were then given a sheet with a list of the types of people who can bring negative impacts upon a group: Nola No-Can-Meet, Do-It-All Dottie, Seldom-Seen Sam, Always-Right Artie and Quiet Quentin. I have had experience with all of these types of people except for Do-It-All Dottie throughout my high school years. In the case of Quiet Quentin, I was able to help him contribute more to the group discussion by asking everyone to get into a circle and contribute one idea each, no matter how ridiculous the idea was. Quiet Quentin was able to communicate his ideas through this process (as well as via online group chats), and the problem was solved. However, a different approach was required for the case of Seldom-Seen Sam, who obviously wanted to do the least amount of work possible while wanting to receive the same mark as other people in the group who had contributed much more than he did. We tried to solve this in many ways such as by creating a group chat since he couldn’t make it to group meetings, but he would not check it often and wouldn’t contribute anything to the group. Hence we had to solve the problem by letting the teacher in charge of the project about his inability to cooperate with our group and he was subsequently told that he would receive a lower mark unless he was able to show proof of substantial contribution to the group. He ended up contributing an equal amount as us and thus we were able to solve the problem.

From these group tasks, I believe that a group agreement goes a long way in helping a group with members such as the ones listed above, as it encourages responsibility as well as each member knowing exactly what their role is. Overall, being able to work well with groups is an essential skill in life and so it is important that we know how to manage difficult members.