“Let me tell you about the four main categories in science,” said our Biology lecturer, on our very first lecture of the semester in university. I could not see my coursemates, but I could feel everyone’s ears perk up. Whoever heard of four categories of science? We’ve only ever heard of three.
“First, math is the most fundamental,” she says. “Then what is the most basic science after that?” “Chemistry,” someone tried. “No, it’s physics,” said our teacher. True. I suspected that was why doctors are commonly physicians in the US, because the word physic originally referred to both the practice of medicine AND to natural science (Merriam-Webster, 2020). “Then the next would be, Chemistry, and then Biology,” she finished. “Then Physics is derived from Math, Chemistry is derived from Math AND Physics, and Biology has elements of all of the above.”
One thing I have discovered as in the first few weeks of studying foundation in science at university is: every one of these scientific categories has elements of another category. Math is most fundamental, and therefore only seems to relate to nothing, when you study it on its own. But when you get to the “more derived” subjects, you will see all the interconnected relations between the sciences: there is differentiation (math) in Physics, there are complicated molecular structure of chemical compounds (chemistry) in Biology, and there are logarithms (math), gas laws (physics) and enzymatic graphs (Biology) in Chemistry.
It truly is really interesting, when you see the bigger picture come together. You see the purpose of why things happen; why you are studying math when it seems to be just about numbers. Seeing the patterns and interconnections gave me a new insight into the subjects we had been studying ever since high school; and I wondered why we weren’t exposed to this earlier.
But here’s the really cool thing. I am not sure about other universities. Personally, I am certain not many universities must have this weird concept in their foundation in science syllabus: in our recent Physics exam just two days ago, a white blood cell and a Bacteria (Biology) are racing toward Point A at the speed of 20μm/s and 50μm/s respectively. Calculate the relative velocity of WBC to the liquid…. I laughed, as I read through the question on my digital exam paper, in my room. Maybe exams and studies have dulled the minds of people, and they don’t play as much as I do, and they might find me too peculiar for their tastes. But little things make me laugh, and that does not compromise my intelligence. I think that was a very lighthearted element to include in an exam, a strange rojak, as we like to say here in Malaysia (rojak = a mixture of random foods, used to mean a mixture of random things / languages spoken together, etc).
Many of my lecturers are really good teachers. They bring across the topic to us clearly, they are prepared for what we might not understand, possibly due to their years of experience, or credentials in the field. They teach us the why of things, which is the whole point of studying science, and a great way to pique our interest.
I am really grateful for the opportunity to study foundation in science at my university. It gives me a fresh insight into science. Although I have been more of a quiet person in my primary and secondary school years, I hope to grab this last stage of education – tertiary education – with both hands, and learn and discover as much as I possibly can.
~Rachel Tan Hui Xin, 20 July 2020, What it’s really like studying science at my university.
Meriam-Webster. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/why-is-a-medical-expert-called-a-physician