Alex Faria on his dissertation project

One of our class of 2015, Alex Faria, tells us about his dissertation project, and offers some great tips for those doing their own projects. 

 At the beginning of my final year I had no idea what dissertation I wanted to do, I only knew the area I wanted to do it in. After a discussion with Sally Rogers, I decided to do a project under her guidance, and “The characterisation of the C-type lectin gene B-NK found in the pied flycatcher and the assessment of polymorphisms between individuals” was born (catchy isn’t it?!) My dissertation involved playing around with RNA and DNA. Using techniques that I had never used before to determine if the gene B-NK firstly, existed and secondly, was different between individual birds. This involved going into the lab once or twice a week and conducting biochemical tests. Although intimidating at first, once I began to understand what I was doing I really enjoyed it, the constant evolving of the project meant there was always something new to tackle so it never got dull.

Dissertations can be a daunting piece of work, but don’t fret; here are some tips to help you on your way to final year bliss…

Always keep in touch with your supervisor

It can be a good idea to keep in touch with your supervisor, sending a quick email asking their opinions of your ideas, can save you a lot of time. You don’t want to spend 6 hours in a cold rainy field just to be told you have collected the wrong data!

Dedicating time

Try to dedicate some time a week to your dissertation; this is pretty easy if you have to do work in the laboratory but when at home its much harder. If you can get into a routine the dissertation backbone should write itself without you realising.     

Draft, Draft, Draft! 

Although the deadline may seem a long way away, that shouldn’t be an excuse for not getting any work under your belt. To begin with try to make clear notes, I recommend buying a new notepad for this. These notes will become your bread and butter when it comes to writing your full dissertation, so try not to lose them. Remember each scribble and sentence is just a little bit closer to a final piece.   

Draft Deadline

Another thing to remember is the godsend that is draft deadline! You can literally send your dissertation supervisor, get feedback and rewrite it! You don’t need to have a finished piece, but if under pressure I would recommend doing a little bit on each section rather than concentrating on one, as the lecturers can only read what you have done. 

It’s ok to take a break

If you feel your getting bored, frustrated or just don’t feel like tackling it, then don’t. Come back to it at a later date, just don’t leave it to late. Your dissertation is something your meant to enjoy not something you want to throw at your wall.   

A few weeks before hand-in

This a very important time to secure those extra few marks for the grade you want. Make sure to pop into both your dissertation lecturer’s office and your secondary markers office from time to time and pay complements to their youthfulness and intelligence. Purchasing a present for your dissertation lecturer is also a good idea, while the secondary marker is optional. 

Alex Faria B.Sc. (Hons) Biology  

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