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This major unsurprisingly focuses on equipping students with the skills to conduct original research concerning any kind of animal you’d wish to name, both in the field and lab. Consequently, subjects are highly varied, with some espousing zoological theory, some allowing you to conduct real research in the field, and some even examining the philosophical implications of evolution upon our own lives. For those students who hope to escape maths by choosing this major, a warning: you’ll be disappointed. A sound grasp of (or at least a strong willingness to learn) the basics of statistics and programs such as Excel are highly important for this major, particularly in the ecological side of the discipline. Extra readings outside of lectures are expected in the majority of the subjects.
All the lecturers and faculty are fantastic, and are exceptionally helpful outside of class times, but special mention must go out to the many PhD and Masters students who do come along on the field subjects.

This is a major for biology lovers. In first year biology there is very little on plants but it touches on plant physiology and evolution. You are also introduced to some of the botany staff, like Andrew Drinnian and Mike Bayly. They play a main role in the subjects relating to the plant science major. It is a strange major with only one core subject, plant evolution, and 3 electives that contribute to the major and you can choose from quite a few different subject like Environmental Plant Physiology, Marine Botany, Field Botany, Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and Vegetation Management and Conservation. The major really focuses on plant taxonomy and systematics as well as practical techniques and getting out into the field. The staff in the botany department are amazingly smart and dedicated individuals that have extensive knowledge on almost all aspects of plants. They are at the forefront of plant science research and make the major fun and really enjoyable.

The major consists of two core subjects: Drugs: Discovery to Market and Drugs in Biomedical Experiments) and two elective subjects (you MUST do 1 of them): Drugs in the treatment of Disease and Drugs Affecting the Nervous System. Watch out for Dr Michael Lew in both of these. He reminds you consistently that you’re not as intelligent as he is, and writes unreasonable and poorly worded exam questions. Eliminate his exam questions whenever possible. When making a decision to undertake the pharmacology major, the amount of time you have to dedicate to your studies plays an imperative role. All subjects are incredibly detailed and require massive amounts of revision time. The biggest tip you can get before undertaking this major is pay attention to detail, this is not a ‘big picture’ kind of area, every small detail has the potential to be examined and it is regularly. It is the specificity of detail that separates the students into different grade groups. The Pharmacology and Therapeutics faculty are among the most supportive and passionate of any I have come across, they make the major enjoyable and really help guide you into post-graduate studies with enthusiasm and professionalism.

The maths and stats major is, obviously, a major in maths. The thing is, ‘maths’ is such a broad area of study that the major itself is split up into four specialisations: pure maths; applied maths; discrete maths and operations research; and statistics and stochastic processes. Because these specialisations are quite different from each other, there are quite a few second year subjects, and a lot of third year subjects, and you’ll probably need help to figure out exactly what you need to do for your major. However, the good news is that there are only 3 (or 2 if you did specialist maths pre-tertiary) first year maths subjects that need to be done that will allow you to do any of the second year maths subjects. The department also has course advice sessions, along with 1 on 1 appointments, later on in the year to help people choose their subjects/major, which allows you to get a feel for what the subjects are like before really committing to it.

The subjects themselves can be a bit ‘hit and miss’, and a lot of it is based on who you get as a lecturer. First year subjects generally have several ‘streams’ and a different lecturer for each though, so you can swap around if you dislike the way your lecturer teaches, however in second and third year subjects, you only get the one. The exams in every subject are generally worth either 70% or 80%, which is always a point of contention with students, although you get used to it as you do more of them.

The department also offers a diploma of maths, which essentially just adds on a few more subjects to your degree, as long as you aren’t doing a maths major. This allows people who can’t decide between maths and another major (generally physics or engineering) the freedom to do both, as well as people from other degrees to do one of the majors in maths. You can cross-credit some subjects (ie let them count towards the completion of both degrees), however it will most likely add another year to your degree unless you overload subjects.

Immunology it available as a major in both the Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Biomedicine; as the name suggests, is the study of the immune system. This major consists of three compulsory subjects which give a broad yet detailed overview of how the body fights infection through the differentiation of white blood cells, the numerous signalling pathways, as well as a touch of genetics, transplantation and its complications, and autoimmune diseases. The focus is on the human body, not so much the causes of infection, and how innate immune responses turn into an adaptive immune response. The major must be complemented with another subject of your choice and can include microbiological studies of bacteria or viruses, biochemistry, genetics, or pathology. There is one textbook for the core subjects and although pricey, it is invaluable and available as a pdf online if you look hard enough.

This is a tough major; there is a lot of rote learning and memorisation of seemingly arbitrary molecule names, a lot of work and study is required, and it can on occasion turn you into a hypochondriac because of the complexity of action occurring at such a microscopic scale. However, it is a fascinating field of study, the lecturers and laboratory staff are incredibly intelligent and ever helpful in providing information on both the course and post-graduate options, and the lab-based core subject allows for networking and the development of close friendships with peers.

Genetics is a scientific discipline of biology and underlies most if not all modern branches of biology. It is the study of the genetic code, changes in it (and the inheritance of these changes) and their effects on the organism they reside in.

Studying genetics will give you a strong base to move forward from. As the genetic code underlies all biological diversity, so the science of Genetics is used in all fields of biology. As our knowledge of genes and genomes increases, its use increases as well. Want to help conserve a species? Understanding the relationship between individuals is critical to stop inbreeding, and genetics is your best friend here. Want to become a doctor and help find the cure for Ebola? Both the immune system and the Ebola virus can be understood by understanding the genes that code their activity. In the future being able to sequence a person’s genome can tell you which drugs or psychological treatment has the best chance to work on them, reducing needless waste of time, material and suffering for the patient due to side effects.

Not quite sure what you want to study, but that biology might be it? There are far worse places to start than with a science that underlies so many others.

This major is great for anyone interested in meteorology. It is maths heavy but has great aspects to assist you including small class sizes and consistent practice exams between years.

The teaching staff are incredibly approachable for questions and have assisted many students with outside class requests in the past. Our reviewer recommended the following three first semester subjects to anyone who has meteorology on their radar (pun absolutely intended):

MAST10005 Calculus 1  (MAST10006 Calc 2 if you did Specialist Maths in high school, Calc 1 if you didn’t)

PHYS10001 Physics Advanced stream is a bit intense unless you really, really like physics

ERTH10001 The Global Environment great as an initial springboard if you’re interested in meteorology and/or geology. This is a great subject for anyone with a general interest in science but hasn’t yet pinned down a specific path.

It is also recommended to keep up with the maths subjects throughout this major- it will facilitate solid conceptual understandings as you progress, instead of just understanding how to manipulate the computer models. This major is great if you are interested in weather and the climate and aren’t scared of a bit of maths and physics. The highlight of this area of study is its dynamic nature. Due to the chaotic, constantly changing properties of the atmosphere, new challenges present themselves each day. Forecasting also has quite a decent starting salary, with plenty of room for growth.

Chemistry focuses on reactions, molecular structures and the underlying processes at the atomic level.This major has a high focus on practical work and most subjects have an equal focus on organic, inorganic and physical chemistry. While the first year subjects Chemistry 1 and 2 can be considered extensions of VCE, second year and third year subjects have a lot of new material, including everything from new reactions to the theory of lasers. A bit of first year physics or maths is a massive help, especially with the physical chemistry components. In second year, all practical work is contained within a single subject and the other two main subjects are theory based with an equal distribution among the three main areas. The practical subject is a lot of fun, including an introduction to computational chemistry, but can be quite time demanding, especially with contact hours. If you have an opportunity while completing second year to have a lighter load in one semester, pick the one in which you’re completing the practical subject. In third year, the core theory subject and the practical subject follow a similar structure to their second year equivalents. The practical subject has a higher contact hour commitment than the second year version, in exchange for more interesting practicals. The other two main subjects that make up the major each allow you to pick three topics out of a list of five to six topics covering a large range of areas and often directly correlates to the research areas of the lecturers. Speaking of research, there is also a research project subject which allows you to spend part of the semester doing a research project as part of a research group, which is a lot of fun and is considered to be the best third year chemistry subject.