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 After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV

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Margot Lautens

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PostSubject: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Fri May 06, 2011 10:50 pm

Hi, so I'm Margot and I just got accepted into this program which I think sounds awesome. My dad, who's a professor at u of t, is worried about how grad schools and professors in general view the program (i know that there's no graduating class but scholarship vise, summer research vise, etc.) I'm also confused about the concentration electives in later years: are they with the general Mac population or are they just iSci and what's the size/quality of these programs. I'm also wondering if there's anyone in iSci right now who's from outside of Ontario or outside of Canada. I'm trying to figure out if I'll be able to get into grad schools/ med schools with a degree from Mac/iSci or if it'll just be seen as an experiment which doesn't live up to the hype. Sorry if I'm being offensive but I feel that it's important to know and will certainly affect my choices.
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Rachel Charney



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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sat May 07, 2011 12:56 am

Other iScis will do a better job answering some of your questions than I will, so my answer is going to be incomplete, but hopefully helpful all the same.

Scholarships/Summer Reserach:
Many iScis from the 2013 class received scholarships from McMaster last year for their outstanding academic performance (16/39, if I counted correctly). We have also had at least 4 iScis from the 2013 class who have received NSERC-USRA awards, and have spent the summer (or are spending this summer) doing some awesome research in their field of interest.
Other research positions/jobs/opportunities that the 2013s have had/will have:

-The Next 36 (prestigious business program - look it up, it's awesome)
-Weizmann Institute Summer Research Program for undergrads in Israel
-Chemistry job in a lab in Boston
-Biology job in a lab in BC
-Research at a Toronto hospital
-Archeology program in Greece
-others that I can't think of off the top of my head

We are proud to write on applications that we are in Integrated Science - it makes us unique, and I think it has helped us find summer research positions, rather than hurt our chances.

Concentrations: If you choose to put your electives towards completing a concentration, then you are taking courses with the general Mac population. The size of your classes will vary depending on the concentration that you choose. For example, if you chose a chemistry concentration you would have electives with around 20 students, but if you chose a psychology concentration most of you classes would take place in large lecture halls. What do you mean by 'quality'?

As far as med school goes, you have probably heard this before, but your degree doesn't matter - you just need to make sure you complete the prerequisite courses that the med school requires. Simply by completing first year iSci you will have the requirements for most med schools in Ontario, and then in later years you can take courses like organic chemistry that are required by certain med schools. If you can get into med school with a Bachelor of Arts in history, then of course a Bachelor of Science in Integrated Science is more than acceptable. It's about your GPA, your MCATs, your interview, and other experiences that you choose to write about on your application .

For grad school, each program has its own requirements, and as long as you plan ahead and make sure you meet those requirements there is no reason that a grad school would tell you that your degree 'isn't good enough'. I think that grad schools are interested in your course work, research experience and your thesis (correct me if I'm wrong, your father would know better than me lol) and just like everyone else in any other science program you will have the opportunity to write your thesis in your field of interest.

Feel free to ask any follow up questions about what I've written!
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Prateek Gupta
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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sat May 07, 2011 2:03 am

Great work answering the question Rachel! Not much more to add

Thanks for your interest Margot, and I'm really happy to see you were accepted! I hope you take it to the next stage and accept the program too.

The entire iSci program is built specifically in the mind of graduate schools. I can say with 100% confidence, that (even currently), the iSci program is the best program to get your foot in the door with graduate schools. As Rachel mentioned, the very fact that so many students are receiving lab work and NSERC grants attests to this. Students in the iSci program are the first in Canada to have NSERC positions from first year, and honestly speaking, that in addition to good academic standing will make you a shoo-in for any grad school and a desirable resource for any professor.

It's a valid statement to say this is being viewed as an experiment, but recently even delegates from Harvard University have come to view the program, and they are working on building an integrated math-engineering-computer science degree built upon the framework that Mac iSci has created.

To clarify, concentrations are built to allow you to get full certification in the subject. You will essentially become a students of two hats: one of iSci and one of your Concentration (Department of Chemistry, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour, etc.), and this second hat will be worn more in 3rd and 4th year. For example, I'm in the Earth Sciences concentration but I am fully on the stream to get the Professional Geoscientists Certification.

This program is a risk, and if you enter the program, please treat it as a risk and explore the choices, explore the electives, explore elements of each concentrations. That is not only encouraged but what the iSci program forces you to do. But I am seeing iSci as becoming not only a top program in making you a better individual, but its prestige is quickly advancing as well.

Please come tomorrow and find out more if you still have concerns!
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Nicholas Pun



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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 7:18 pm

One unanswered question about any students outside of Ontario; currently there are is 1, but there will definitely be at least 2 next year. I'm from Vancouver, and would be glad to answer any questions specific to out of province students. As Rachel mentioned, I worked in a biochem lab in BC at SFU with a professor who of course didn't know what iSci was as first, but after I explained to him the curriculum; he seemed more than satisfied (based on the fact that I actually got the job).
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Nicholas Pun



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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 8:46 pm

I forgot to mention we have a student from Korea, I'm sure you'll meet him next year if you come to isci.
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Margot Lautens

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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 8:56 pm

Thank you so much for all the help, it's a pretty big decision and I'm having a hard time deciding between Life Sci at U of T witha possibility of switching to Pharm or to Immunology is second year or coming to Mac and doing iSci. I really like iSci's approach and I think it's a very good one considering how research is done these days but I'm not sure if I want to work with a small group of people or if I want to be thrown into a huge school and have to work hard to get to know the Profs (but the Profs who teach me are more likely to be active researchers) and I'm trying to access all the little bits of iSci to determine if this is what I want to do.

I suppose my final question, although I am aware that there hasn't been a third year class yet, is what the iSci course is like in third year and what role it plays in your education that year. What I mean by that is, is it more of a thesis course or is it a more like iSci1
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Nicholas Pun



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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 9:07 pm

Let me know if i'm interpreting your statement incorrectly that iSci professors are less likely to be active researchers than any U of T prof? Although a few of the iSci profs aren't currently doing research in their respective fields, they are working on the pedagogical aspect of iSci. But in addition to the iSci specific profs (2 or 3 of them) there are also profs that come from various departments of Science to teach us the specific projects in their areas that are more often than not doing active research.
As to the third year of isci there are no exams, and the projects are much more broad and allow for students to explore the aspects they are most interested in as opposed to a more formulaic approach. The project topics include climate change, light and the universe, wine, and an individual project.
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Margot Lautens

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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 9:17 pm

I keep coming off feeling like I'm being rude or dismissive of the program. Yes you interpreted my first question correctly, from what I'd noticed from reading the iSci faculty's page, few seemed to be active researchers and instead active teachers which is great. I hadn't known how much outside influence there was though and its certainly reassuring that in a program whose focus is research, the students are being exposed to very active researchers. Thanks for letting me know about the third year projects, do you know how the students, including yourself, who worked in labs outside of iSci did? Does the focus on researching individual projects, something that I definitely prefer, mean that some more general principles or themes are missed or are the students still able to understand the research that their supervisors are doing? And again, thanks for all the help, I imagine that it's difficult being active on this board, answering the same questions over and over again. I also heard that a lot of people left the first year, could you tell me a little about why they left, what they're doing know and what they wanted to do when they joined the program if you can? Also, does anyone know what kind of yoga they teach at the athletic centre at mac?
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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 9:24 pm

What? I thought only a few people left iSci after the first year? This is going all the way back to the October Open House so things may be a bit foggy but I'm pretty sure I remember hearing the profs state that the student retention was really high after first year. One student left after the first week of class to transfer into Engineering, but after the full year I thought they said only one or two had transferred.

Of course, I'm not even started the program yet so I can't claim any of this to be true. Just what I remember hearing. Razz
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Nicholas Pun



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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 9:31 pm

It's ok, it's only reasonable to have doubts coming into the problem and I enjoy answering questions, it definitely helps in a way to reflect upon what I've done in the first half of my undergraduate education. Well I'm not sure how you would measure success in a lab, I'm certain that everyone enjoyed their various research experiences, and at least for myself I understood the major themes/principles that my professor was working on with some help from the graduate students and the professor as well even though i was focusing on a very specific aspect of a project (developing a working fluorescent binding/release assay for the 6S RNA with RNA polymerase in vitro). Although biased, I think most iSci's were able to grasp the major themes/concepts just from what i hear about everyone's experiences (i.e. they were able to explain to me what they did and have me understand most of it).
For the poeple that left in first year (in our year) a few of them left simply because of the workload and switched out, a few of them for Health Sciences (as I think it was originally their first choice) (it was originally mine as well but I decided isci was right for myself) . As Dr. Chad Harvey (or just Chad) said at the May@Mac presentation, iSci isn't right for everybody. I'm not sure about their details, and i have no idea about yoga, but maybe checking out the DBAC athletic centre website and going into their "programs" would be helpful. Keep the questions coming, it's only healthy to be skeptical.
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Nicholas Pun



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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 9:32 pm

Adam, i think around 10 people ended up leaving
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Nicholas Pun



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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 9:34 pm

though not all right after 1st year, some may have left during 2nd year (kind of a little bit foggy on that)
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Margot Lautens

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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 9:39 pm

I'm glad I'm not just going to be that student... Although we'll see I still might get there. In a lot of ways I feel that it is my ideal program so as much as I feel skeptical I feel that part of that is because I have trouble believing that something could suit me so well. I'm also curious how very internalized people do in iSi because although I have a lot of friends that I'm really close to and I've loved my 69 student graduating class, one of the reasons I'm looking forward to uni is for the independence and the exposure to new things and to new challenges.
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Nicholas Pun



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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 9:42 pm

Well I almost liken 1st and 2nd year iSci to elementary school all over again since you're always with the same 30-40 people for almost all your classes.
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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 9:43 pm

Haha, lots of fog going on.

"developing a working fluorescent binding/release assay for the 6S RNA with RNA polymerase in vitro"

Wow, this seems super intense. Smile

10 people?! Didn't your first class have a maximum of 40 students or something? That's 25% that left! I guess that's cool though...it's an even smaller class for you guys now.
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Daniella Pryke

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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 9:44 pm

I don't know. I'm just a prospective student like you, and I don't know what your friends are like, but I do think that working with other really dedicated students is a lot more fun than what you might be used to.
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Nicholas Pun



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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 9:45 pm

Haha Adam, just throwing around the big words, but I can link you to some articles if you're interested in reading about 6S RNA Smile. And apparelently 25% is a really low "attrition rate" for the faculty of science. there were exactly 40 at the start.
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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 9:52 pm

Awesome, actually some articles would be pretty neat...if you think they're within my grasp. I am only familiar with the phrases "in vitro" and "RNA polymerase" from my bio classes. Very Happy

It'd definitely be cool to understand exactly what kind of research you iScis are carrying out.
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Margot Lautens

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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 9:54 pm

It's not that i dislike working with my friends, they're amazing and we've had lots of amazing debates and discussions. What I'm actually talking about is that although i enjoy spending time with friends shopping, arguing, eating and talking; I also spend a lot of my time alone so are there people like that right now in the program and how are they doing?
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Nicholas Pun



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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 10:02 pm

Here's the link to the publications for my prof: http://www.sfu.ca/~punrau/publications.htm. For the one on 6S RNA look at the 2010 list and look for the one with 6S RNA in the title. I didn't actually partake in any of this research, but I continued upon the work that was published. hopefully it'll be part of a publication at some point Smile
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Rachel Charney



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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 10:09 pm

To add to what Nick said, there are also iScis who left because they found their passion, and wanted to spend as much time as possible pursuing it.

I think in the 2013 class there are many of us who would describe ourselves exactly as you have just described yourself, and we're doing just fine =)
iSci definitely lets you have a good balance. We don't spend 24/7 working together on projects, if you want some alone time it's not too difficult to find.
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Margot Lautens

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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 10:14 pm

Thank you so much everyone. Have a good night.
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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Sun May 08, 2011 10:33 pm

I think I may be able to provide you with an accurate/insightful calculation of iSci’s retention rate. At the beginning of the first year of iSci, there were 40 students in our cohort. Two days in, one student transferred into engineering. Since he left before the program really even began, I don’t think we should consider him as a part of this calculation. So then we have 39 students. One student unfortunately failed and therefore also should not be used to calculate the retention rate (seeing as this person was removed from the program and did not actually choose to leave). So that leaves 38. At the end of our first year, five students transferred out of iSci (two went into Health Sci, three went into Life Sciences). If you’re curious, the #1 reason people gave for leaving iSci is quite ironic: they didn’t enjoying learning about a certain science enough, usually physics (or else they felt there was too much of a particular science for them to handle, though it should be stated that iSci does divide the curriculum evenly between the core sciences). This is perhaps more indicative of a (seemingly corrected) weakness in the selection process for iSci students rather than the program itself, as it was clear that a few students who were given acceptances didn’t really enjoy every science or else decided that they were too passionate about one particular science (ie. health science). Anyway, that ultimately places the first year retention rate at 33/38 (87%).

By the end of this academic year, three more students had dropped out, thus the second year retention rate is 30/33 (91%). Each of the remaining 30 students will be returning next year with every intention of graduating from the iSci program. Therefore the dropout rate for iSci is lower than that of most other science programs (which is generally around 25% in first year, though I’m sure more accurate numbers can be found with a little bit of research).

Please also note that we are the very first cohort of iSci, and so some really positive adjustments to the program have been made based on our feedback.

Just thought it was important to make that clear.
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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Mon May 09, 2011 12:54 am

Active topics here! Thanks to Margot, Adam, and Daniella for sharing your insights.

Cody provides a very good explanation for those concerned about the "dropout rate" of iSci, which really is more of a "transfer rate." To those unfamiliar to university, this is something that's very common, and is experienced in every program as each individual student learns more about themselves as they progress through the years.

To answer your last question Margot, you will be AMAZED to see how different the students in iSci are. Trust us, we have all actively tried to define what an iSci student is, and we always hit a roadblock. I think the definitive answer is that there is no answer. You have very introverted students to very extroverted students, those who prefer quiet nights studying, to those who are prefer hitting up the clubs or bars. And I think the coolest part, is we all end up building a community despite (or perhaps even -- because of) our differences.

If you are passionate about science, passionate about discovery, and you have a great work ethic, simply put you will find a community here within iSci.

To answer earlier questions about Level III, honestly noone has experienced it, but I, personally, am extremely excited to really applying my skills in these broader projects.

Also the Symposium is starting next year. And I'm not sure how much information has been spread about this "Symposium," but mark my words, I am certain this will put iSci on the map as the greatest Science program in Canada next year -- no exaggerations here at all. This will give an outlet for even First Year students to present their work to the world in a professional setting (though it is more formally built for 3rd and 4th year students, which is why is it beginning next year).
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PostSubject: Re: After iSci question + iSci in Level III and IV   Mon May 09, 2011 6:36 pm

YESSSS!!!! Symposium is going to be amazing! Very Happy

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