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 Is iSci Challenging?

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Margot Lautens

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Join date : 2011-05-06
Age : 24
Location : Toronto, Ontario

PostSubject: Is iSci Challenging?   Sat May 21, 2011 10:35 pm

I'm trying decide if I want to join iSci and I'm wondering, to what extent are the foundations of the different areas taught? Do students at iSci wind up knowing a lot about the different projects but not much for what's not the projects? How challenging has iSci been for students who took the IB, especially ones who did highers in the sciences (i took Higher Bio and Higher Chem)? And are the electives challenging? What sort of level are the other students at Mac at?
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Charles Yin



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PostSubject: Re: Is iSci Challenging?   Sat May 21, 2011 11:22 pm

Hi Margot. One of the mandates of the iSci program is to cover the foundations (i.e. Biology I, Chem I, Physics I, etc.) to a degree equivalent to that of the regular Year I in a sciences program. There are committees in each department that reviews the iSci curriculum to make sure that it covers what is necessary to move on to more advanced material in Year II (I know this is the case in Biology, but I would expect the other disciplines to have a similar process).

That being said, with the project-oriented focus of the program, it is not realistic that we cover ALL of the regular Year I material. However, we also have the opportunity to explore concepts outside of and beyond the normal curriculum because of what a particular project might require. The most prominent example of this would be in the Cancer project, where we covered the fundamentals of cancer biology at a level significantly beyond what is done in the regular biology course.

While on the subject of research projects, I think that the iSci faculty do their best to make sure that the content from each discipline is incorporated as a fundamental part of each project. The success of this approach I found to be generally good if variable. Some projects do naturally emphasize concepts from a particular discipline over another, but part of the excitement of these projects comes from drawing connections between the project and a concept that, from a superficial glance, has little bearing, but with further analysis reveal some deeper insight into what is being studied. I will admit that this year there were some issues with the connectivity between certain aspects of a project and the core content, but I think that part of the challenge of these projects is successfully applying what is being taught in the context of a realistic scientific problem.

I never took IB and so am thus unqualified to judge the challenge of the program in context of IB. However, I know that many people who have taken IB or AP do find some of the content "easier" than others who have not. Nevertheless, with the breadth of content that iSci seeks to deliver, there will always be areas where some people tend to naturally excel and others need to focus more time into. I find that, in the end, it all tends to balance out. I myself was stronger in biology and thus had to put less time into that subject. I was able to instead put more effort into areas where my background is more deficient, such as math or earth science.

In terms of electives, the level of challenge really depends on which particular elective you took and your own personal strengths and weaknesses. Your elective will probably demand a slightly different skill set from what is needed in iSci (i.e. the ability to glean information from a fairly impersonal lecture), but typically the workload is less than iSci itself. The biggest factor that iSci students typically face is balancing the workload from iSci and the electives. It's an excercise in time management and some people have more success than others. If you're looking for a challenge, the iSci program will not disappoint. But take it from me (and the other iSci's), you'll survive!
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Prateek Gupta
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PostSubject: Re: Is iSci Challenging?   Sat May 21, 2011 11:30 pm

Hi Margot, thanks for your question!!

Charles did a great job answering your question, but I'll add a few points.

iSci students end up knowing a lot. In terms of the calibre of the students: iSci students in the physics concentrations are the top students in physics at McMaster, those in chemistry, the top in chemistry, etc. We feel like we are in a bubble sometimes, but it is clear that iSci does a great job in preparing students for the content. Also, the key to iSci, and the whole reason why it is put together in one course is the "Integrating" aspect, which really and fundamentally is what is valuable to the program, and the type of learning that is built to be best for the students accepted to the program.

I took AP biology, physics, and calculus in high school. And yes, I found that a lot of the content in all three was repeated (like it is meant to be). The fun part for me, was that this allowed me to jump into the higher critical thinking, application, and analysis that is not covered with AP and IB programs a lot quicker, and I could more readily contribute to the groups. All this background will give you will less time reviewing content from the textbook and iCons, because the content is familiar.

Electives: totally depends on your elective. In my opinion, some are more challenging, some are less, but this all completely depends on your level of interest, learning style, and how well the elective suits you. This isn't high school anymore, it will be tough to do well in a subject/class you have no interest in, so really take those that you are willing to work for and learn about.
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