5 Cool Modules in NUS that are Actually Useful

During my (almost) four years in NUS, I took several cool or seem-to-be fun modules. I consider myself to be very fortunate to be able to secure those modules because I had plenty of G account points (most of my core modules were conveniently allocated). However, for some people with very limited G account points, this might not be the case. I really hope my honest reviews of the ‘cool’ modules I took will benefit those who are still undecided where to spend those precious points.

GEK1542: Forensic Science

Latest cut-off points: 900 (AY 2014/15 Semester 1)

5 Cool Modules in NUS that are actually useful

Do you think forensic science is equal to CSI TV Series? Well, think again. Hollywood and US TV Series are well known for over-glamorizing various professions including forensic scientists. Of course, you still get that cool vibe from studying about some unusual or curious cases. However, you don’t really see people in suit and tie walking carelessly around the precinct. In fact, they tiptoe and do some paperwork to ensure zero contamination. And, Luminol (that blue stain which glows when there is a trace of blood) does not glow forever like those shown in TV series. It only glows for a very short period of time, pretty much like your dream of living the ‘cool’ life of those CSI Series’ forensic scientist. In reality, forensic scientists do lab work which sometimes takes a long time to come to a conclusive result.

This module has been very popular for years. Of course, it is understandable considering the misconceptions surrounding the forensic science field. It cost about 800 points when I took this module a couple of years ago. Even with that sky high bidding point, some people who did not secure the module still came to the class to get a crash course on forensic science. I remembered in the first lecture, some people sat on the stairs of LT27 just because they wanted to show their genuine interest while hoping that their appeals would be accepted.

This module will unravel the myths of being a forensic scientist. Besides the scientific part, you will also learn the laws and regulations. When I took this module, one of the lecturers was a public prosecutor who could deliver those mundane lists of rules and regulation in a very engaging manner. Another part of this module was taught by a pathologist who was in charge of body autopsy and told us the stories behind each gory graphic image he showed.

I still remember I heard someone in the class threw up when a graphic image was flashed on the screen. That is, this module is not for the faint-hearted. Some parts of this module needed a lot of memorizing. For instance, there was a part about drug or substance abuse which we had to memorize the different side effects of various drugs or narcotics.

Overall, take the module if you want to know how a real forensic scientist work. It’s never been suit and tie. Most of the time, it’s a lab coat and covered shoes.

ES2007S: Professional Communication

Latest cut-off points: 1-250 (AY 2014/15 Semester 1)

Professional Communication

I can’t remember why I took this module. But it turned out to be one of my best decisions. The module turned out to be very useful for final year (especially job hunting because almost all companies are looking for excellent communication skill!). We learnt about how to write a good cover letter and proposal, mock interviews, how to communicate in a professional environment and how to brand ourselves. I could go on and on talking about its content. In short, trust me, it’s useful. I would suggest you to take this module during your penultimate or final year, though, because if you take it too early you probably forget half of its content by the time you are looking for jobs.

The lecture was also very engaging and interactive because I was lucky to have Brad Blackstone as my lecturer. His unconventional teaching method was pretty interesting. For instance, I had to blog and comment on others’ blogs during the semester. We learnt a bit about acting because, quoting Shakespeare, “all the world is a stage” and acting can goes a long way in the working world or even in the ‘real’ world. We also did at some group activities with different people which made the whole class very close (at the end of semester, we even had a class outing with Brad!).

The only cons of taking this module is, of course, the level of commitment you have to put into because the module is 100% CAs and no exam at all. A large percentage of the CAs was the group proposal which was time-consuming because we had to do it from scratch. First, we had to formulate and substantiate the problem we were going to solve, create survey questions, conduct survey, interpret the data and create our own proposal. Another thing worth-mentioning was that there were a lot of exchange students taking this module. It is both a challenge and an opportunity because you could really experience the different perspectives, hone your multicultural communication skill.

GEK1049: Introduction to Narrative

Latest cut-off points: 1 (AY 2014/15 Semester 2)

It’s hard to find good movies these days. I personally rely on awards seasons to check out some Oscar-worthy movies. If you love stories and movies as much as I do, you probably should take this module. This is one of the rare modules where you can learn and watch movies (well, excerpt from great movies but it’s better than the usual power point slides, right?) at the same time. Moreover, all the movies shown in this module have some notable qualities that make them worth watching, even in the midst of your busy schedule. Some of my favorites were Memento and The Truman Show. This module also introduced me to some of the greatest directors of all time like Hitchcock.

narration

Other than that, the highlight is probably knowing how to craft a great story and what a narrative consists of. A narrative might sound very simple, but not many people realize that a good story can help you in life. It can be a story that a patient tells to his doctor. It can simply be that story you tell during a job interview. They are all narrative.

The content was manageable as long as you attend all the lectures. It was far from demanding. When I took the module, there was only one mid-term test, one big project and a final exam. The mid-term test was relatively easy and, for the big project, we were free to choose whatever we wanted to do as long as it was related to the module. It was the first and the last time I had such a group project. The final exam was arguably the hardest part because we had to memorize some terms and theories that were not taught in lecture but appeared in the textbook.

If you want to know more about the content, check out its website here (https://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/ellibst/GEK1049/?).

FMS Module (Freshmen Seminar)

Bidding points: vary

freshman seminar

I maxed out my freshmen seminar module quota (which was one). And it was worth it. It cost me around 900 points to secure a science FMS about human diseases and drug testing. The best thing about FMS module was its auto S/U. That is, as long as you pass, you will get S (Successful) grade without having to sacrifice one of your precious 12 MCs S/U quota (at least, that’s what we used to have during my time when there was no free S/U for freshmen modules). Another reason to bid for this module is that the seminar was only once a week despite the fact that it is still a 4-MC module. The class was very small which explained the high bidding point. And, when I took a science FMS, I got cookies and some drinks every week. Yum, yum.

The module I took was FMS1213B: Common Principles in Embryogenesis and Human Diseases. It was an eye-opening module because I really learnt about new things that otherwise I wouldn’t even understand. The module basically covered the importance of embryogenesis process in medical treatments like stem cells. It is really amazing how a small cell, given the right environment and method, can be harvested to save life. Besides stem cell, another important area taught was how scientists made use of transparent creatures like zebrafish to investigate the cause and treatment of various human diseases.

It was also the first time I read a scientific paper. Ever.

To be honest, it was painstakingly hard to read, let alone to comprehend. It was even worse because I was an Applied Chemistry student and had only taken one biochemistry module. Every few words, I encountered at least one strange, alien word that I was not even sure that they were in English (please forgive the exaggeration). Looking back, it really helped me a lot to survive my penultimate and final years where I had to read loads of scientific papers.

After spending another year in NUS, I finally understand that the module was a simplified version of level 3000 or 4000 modules with auto S/U, small class, cookies and drinks. Because as a Science student, almost all level 3000, 4000 and 5000 modules that I took involved scientific papers, not textbooks. And the FMS definitely helped the transition from textbook to papers.

For more information regarding FMS modules, do check out your home faculty’s website!

LAC1201: Chinese I

Bidding points: 1-100 (AY 2014/15 Semester 2)

Photo asiasociety.org

Language modules are fun! Well, except for the steep bell curve and 6-hour classes per week, I could say the same for Chinese 1. As a Chinese descent who could not really speak Chinese at first, I found the module very useful. Chinese 1 concentrated more on the basic Chinese vocabularies and pronunciation. Thus, it was not very difficult compared to the higher levels which required understanding of grammars and advanced vocabularies. However, despite the relatively easy content, the bell curve was definitely skewed to the right (that is, getting less than 80/100 in a test could be considered bad).

The lecturers wrapped the content in such a way that you would want to go back to class (with some exceptions during tests or quizzes). For instance, besides memorizing the seemingly-endless han zi, we also watched funny Chinese videos. Also, the lecturer often told us some interesting Chinese customs and the stories behind them. The best part was the movie session after the final exam. The content was relatively easy to follow as long as you attend the classes.

My only suggestion if you want to take this module is that you might want to take it with your friends because there is a group project at the end of the semester.

Of course, there were times when my expectations were not as pretty as the reality, or vice versa. My advice is, do ask for some reviews before deciding to sacrifice your bidding points for a ‘cool’ module. Do you want to share your experiences taking interesting modules? Leave a comment below!

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Teresa Widodo
Teresa is a final year undergraduate in NUS majoring in Applied Chemistry. If you can't find her in the lab assembling some batteries for her final year project, she is probably curling somewhere with a book in her hand. Her all-time favourite book is The Little Prince. She is also a big fan of classical novels, Neil Gaiman's and Paulo Coelho's. Besides reading, her favourite pastime activity is binge watching American and British TV shows. On top of it, she revels in writing. She started out writing short stories published in several magazines in Indonesia. One of them was crowned as the best three in Kawanku Short Story Coaching in 2010. In 2013, she joined NUANSA 2013 Musical as the script-writer head and fell in love with scriptwriting ever since. Besides creative writing, she has written for various magazines in both English and Indonesian. In 2013, she served as the Chief Editor of NUSSU The Ridge where she finally realized her new-found passion in leadership.

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