Fáilte & Welcome
Céad Míle Fáilte to all our readers, whether parent, student, teacher, past student or someone interested to find out about our fine College.
Susan Clinton was one of two very lucky students who were chosen to take part in the Royal College of Surgeons Mini med programme. This programme gives students an opportunity to experience what it is like to study medicine.
Below is Susan's account.
Upon applying for a position in the Mini Meds programme my main claim in justifying the position was that by completing the course I would confirm my desire to study medicine. By completing this course I not only discovered a predilection for pursuing a career in medicine but also the specific courses I would like to study after the Leaving Cert.
The extensiveness of the program was daunting purely from looking at the time table; there was so much to be learned in one week. The lectures were designed to give each of the 150 students a flavour of what it would be like to work in the occupations, each lecturer attempting to sway students to that career path. After being divided into five groups we were given an overview of the course for the week, starting, of course, with a Health and Safety Lecture. After this the real program began, beginning with my favourite lecture of the day; "A Whistletop Tour of Human Anatomy". The lecturer was creative and humorous, and because everyone had worked to receive their placement in the program it was possible to do everything at a fast pace, no-one falling behind. The event I had not anticipated on the first day was what the timetable described as "Calisthenics". It was only when I was standing in the gym playing dodge ball that my group and I realised we were one of two groups given the opportunity to trial the college gym.
We were to be in the main RCSI building by St. Stephen's Green on Monday and Friday, and for the rest of the week would be in Beaumont hospital for lectures and practical sessions. The highlights of the second day for me were the Clinical Skills session and the Cardiac Arrest lecture. The main reason as to why some lectures were unanimously preferred over others was because of the enthusiasm and creativity used to descried each course. This particular lecturer gave cream eggs to those who could identify ways of decreasing one's risk of having a heart attack! The Clinical Skills allowed us to learn some of the basic services conducted by medical staff; we learned suturing, how to take blood samples and how to insert tubes for food for those who can't chew food. The skills were all learned using simulators, such as a prosthetic arm with a "blood supply" and clear plastic torso.
Wednesday was the most interesting day of the week. We were introduced to a patient who was to have her gall bladder removed and then seeing the surgery through a live feed from the endoscope used by the surgeon during the laparoscopic surgery. Because it was laparoscopic surgery we were able to see exactly what the surgeon was looking at while performing the operation. We also seen a colonoscopy, were introduced to patients who had had kidney transplants a few years ago, and were given a lecture on medical research in relation to forensic science.
Thursday was our last day in the hospital, the highlight of which was the lecture on orthopaedic surgery; bone repair, reconstruction and the treatment of bone cancers. The most disheartening section of every lecture was when hearing of the entry routes to the courses i.e. 560 points in the Leaving Cert. Later than day we informed about the HPAT entry test into medicine which when combined with points received in the Leaving Cert now gives medical students a maximum target of approx 860 points; one must pass the HPAT and for every five points gained in the Leaving Cert students receive one point from the HPAT. It is not currently compulsory, not being piloted yet, but will be compulsory by the time TY students of this year complete the exam.
After five blindingly fast days it was the last day of the course. The most interesting lectures were those on cranial injuries and student study habits. The majority of the lectures were given in the form of PowerPoint presentations and included graphic photographs of various injuries, scans and diagrams. The MRI scans used in this particular presentation were fascinating as they demonstrated the frailty of the brain and why some injuries that appear to be more serious than others are in fact not so. The study habits lecture was effective as a test was conducted by each student to see what their strongest learning point was; use of visuals, aural, reading/writing and kinesthetics. It would be useful to know which of the above are one's strong points in terms of revising before exams.
The last event of the day was the award ceremony where students received prizes for suturing, microbiology and various other activities. Four other students and I received awards for taking accurate readings of a patient's blood pressure using non-electric manual equipment. At 4:30 the program was closed, ending one of the most informative, enthralling experiences of my student life and the best experience of TY thus far.
Earprints are a form of profiling and are used to indentify people the same way as fingerprints, for example when they are found at a crime scene.
There is a debate among scientists about the accuracy of earprints. Earprinting technology is popular among scientists in European countries such as Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to indentify and prosecute people. However scientists in countries such as the USA and Australia are convinced that earprints are not unique to each person. We found this debate very interesting and felt it would be an interesting subject to research and experiment on.
A random sample of thirty students from our school volunteered to have their earprints taken. We compared the earprints under similarities and differences and recorded our findings. We took earprint samples from three families and compared them to see if there is a hereditary aspect to the formation of the earprint. It is a known fact that fingerprints are not hereditary. Both of these investigations helped us determine how unique our ear prints are, compared to our fingerprints.
To take an ear print we used a glass template, fingerprinting powder, latent fingerprinting brush, roller, wide fingerprint lifting tape and card.
We contacted Chris O'Connor, a fingerprinting and ear printing specialist, in the Forensic Science Laboratories at the Garda Headquarters and John Fox in the Dublin Institute of Technology. We also contacted professors in DCU, NUI Maynooth, Trinity College and the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. We have a contact in DCU library who gave us full access to the books, files and journals based on genetics and forensic science stored in the library. This was an invaluable source of information during the course of our project.
During our project we visited the Forensic Science Laboratories in Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park. We met with Chris O'Connor and he demonstrated how to lift earprints and fingerprints. We practiced taking each others earprints and fingerprints until we had perfected the technique. He recommended and loaned us a very useful book ‘Earprint Identification' by Cor Van Der Lugt. We also gave us a poster showing the various parts of the ear and tutorial books that are used to teach crime scene investigators about earprint recovery and analysis.
On the basis of our project we have found ear prints to be unique but not as unique as fingerprints. Within families there are certain hereditary similarities such as the lower crus of the anithelix.
Highly Commended Project
For the Young Scientists Exhibition 2009 we, Maria Corrigan and Susan Clinton, prepared a project to see how both stress and relaxation affect a student's ability to cope successfully with exams. In order to do this we decided to investigate into three main areas:
- The effects of stressed and relaxed environments on students during exams
- The effectiveness of relaxation techniques, according to student trials
- How students, parents and teachers view the subject of stress versus relaxation in relation to one's education
In order to investigate into these three areas we divided our experimentation methods into three sections; surveys, the use of relaxation diaries and an exam to test select students in both stressed and relaxed environments. The latter of the three was our main section of experimentation as it would show specifically how stress and relaxation affect student exam performance.
We chose six students from 1st year and six students from 2nd year by giving a basic mathematical BEMDAS test to two full classes. They were given five minutes to complete a fifty question test in a standard classroom environment and twelve students were chosen who received an average score of approximately eight correct answers. Three students were then taken from each group of six to partake in the second, more stressful test and the other six students partook in the relaxed-environment exam. The secondary testing was done with the use of our equipment; a blood pressure monitor was used before the exam and a heart monitor was used while the test was being taken. The blood pressure monitor was used on an average school day to take the twelve students' normal blood pressure and then again before the second exam. The level of increase in the readings would scientifically prove whether the students felt stressed/relaxed during the exams as stress increases one's blood pressure due to the increased rate that the heart works at in reaction to a tense situation. The heart monitor showed how the students' heart rate responded to the test which further proved how stressed/relaxed each participant was while being tested.
Upon completing this part of the investigation we found that the majority of people performed better in the more stressful environment than in the relaxed alternative. 4 out of 6 students who participated in the stressed experiment surpassed their initial scores in comparison to the 1 out of 6 students who improved while more relaxed. There were exceptions to this pattern; one student in particular reacted excessively to the stressful situation. Her blood pressure reading suggested an acute possibility of fainting, however; it was clear that in most cases the preferred environment in an exam situation is that of a more stressful one. This preference does not always apply directly to exam situations though, as some students feel that by being stressed over an extended period of time before an exam one's ability to focus revision attempts becomes compromised; i.e. distress is unconstructive.
The relaxation diaries were issued to the purpose of assessing four of the main methods of relaxation for one week in order to see how affective they were. The four methods assessed were:
- Deep Breathing
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Guided Imagery
Four Third Year students were used to test these methods, being one of the more stressful years in the school as, not only are they in an exam year, they have never completed a state exam before. The four students trialled the relaxation methods for the week and by mid-week each student was repeatedly recording the methods as effective. Some methods, such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation, only reduced physical stress as opposed to psychological stress. This makes it ineffective as a means of releasing school induced stress as the majority of school related stress is in fact psychological. Due to time restraints and the pressure of completing school work on time some techniques required too much time to do and had to be completed at home, thus also making them unsuitable for school situations. Because of these limitations Deep Breathing was the best technique for students to use for school stress.
A total of three different surveys were conducted over the course of the investigation; one of parents, students and teachers. The student and teacher surveys were written in such a way that it was possible for us to compare some of their answers to each other. The student survey showed that although they would prefer to work in a relaxed environment in school some, namely those in exam years, admit that by being stressed by school work in preparation for exams they work harder and would not perform as well if they had not felt that pressure to succeed. In comparison to this the teacher survey showed that teachers would prefer to be more relaxed in class yet they feel that due to the size of their typical classes they cannot afford to allow students to relax. They claim that because of the amount of students that they have to teach it is necessary to standardise the work they receive, giving expectations to each student. Again we see that despite preferences, people see the need to be stressed in order to work.
The parent's survey showed interesting yet typically nurturing results. The majority of parents placed their daughter's mental and physical health above their education and felt that methods of release and relaxation were important in preparation for exams, just not always as important. The majority of people also felt it necessary to encourage them to perform intellectually, as one parent said "in order to progress". However, in terms of would they perform better in an exam when worried or confident the majority said they would and have performed better when worried, thus showing that, like the teachers and students, they see the need to apply pressure to the students so that they reach their potential.
In conclusion, we discovered that stress does in fact improve the exam performance of the majority of people, all three groups of people; parents, students and teachers, realise and utilise the need for stress in order to succeed, and relaxation methods are effective once one is prepared to take the time out in order to practise them. It is also evident that, although some levels of stress are beneficial, distress causes one's performance to deteriorate, proving the importance of moderation in terms of work and the necessity of a means of release, whether through sports, socialising or, the most popular method mentioned on the student survey, by listening to music.
The finals saw the best Leaving Certificate science students from around the country compete against one another. Although the students did not place, they did both the school and themselves proud.