Sunday… A day of revision (Day 20)

Ok so today has been another relatively lazy day (aka I slept until 8 instead of the usual 7) and had a leisurely brekfast. Its been full of revision and also trying to spend a few hours brushing up on Chemistry (aka teaching myself). Unfortunately I did not study Chemistry as a A-Level and after Genetics realise just how deeply intwined it is into everything so am trying to work through it myself.

In terms of anatomy I now know the different parts of the Scapula, and am starting to learn the differences between the species. I really do think I need my own set of bones to do this properly so have spent some time reasearching and hopefully have found someone that can supply me a dog skeleton relatively cheaply. The problem in terms of diagrams not being that useful is that I have to learn the muscle attachment points, which on many bones are just rough areas. Trying to learn and memorise the position of these without being able to feel them is next to impossible and I think I will spend most of Tuesday and Wednesday evening in anatomy self-study where I can use the bones.

In other news I was asked to get involved doing some writting for a new project today which I am pretty excited about. I am still a long way from my goal of £40,000 and am slightly concerned at how I will be able to cover next semesters tuition. I am focusing on trying to find as many monthly sponsors as I can now as this way even though it may be more work now I do not have to worry so much about how I am going be able to afford to stay here.

If you enjoy reading my diary and if you can help (even with just £1 a month) please do as it will make the world of difference to me! You can set it up automatically each month on the right of this page with a Paypal subscription. As a monthly sponsor you will get a special sponsors only newsletter, as well as invitations to come visit and hopefully some supporters events when I am back in the UK. If you are a business I also am able to offer you advertising as part of a sponsorship detail so please contact me.

A day of rest… (Day 19)

Just a really quick entry today. Basically I decided to take some downtime and so took some time to catch up on my emails, tweets, facebook and diary entries over the past week. As well as stealing a lie in this morning.

This afternoon I have spent some time going over notes from the lectures this week especially on the staining techniques for Histology and the content of milk. The amount of stuff that I have learnt so far that I don’t actually realise I’ve learnt is staggering. Yet when I look at my anatomy textbook and realise that I’ve still got another 40 pages to learn before Thursday I start to wonder. Anatomy really is taking over my life, and whilst I realise its important the other subjects just simply are not getting as much revision as I’d like. Speaking to others it seems I am not the only one, Anatomy has weekly credit tests which all need to be passed, this weeks test is on the bones of the Thoracic limb and the comparative anatomy of them between species.

In terms of the amount to remember its something like the following before introducing addition areas specific to certain species or animals.

Scapula – 17 different areas and names to learn
Humerus – 27 different areas and names to learn
Radius & Ulna – 30 different areas and names to learn
Metacarpals – 25+ different areas + bones
Digits (Phalanx’s) – 35+ different areas and bones

All of this needs to be memorised in latin by Thursday! I am trying to do different bones each day for the next few days to try and cover it. I desperately want the A grade there as well!

Anyways back to work and then hopefully going get an early night!

So so tired at the end of Week 2… (Day 18)


Ok so its Friday so thats probably an excuse for me being so tired today, I also got stuck into Anatomy revision last night as I really am pushing myself for the A now. Its the end of my second week of lectures in Vet School and it has finally sunk in that I am really here and that it’s not just a holiday! I really am looking forward to getting some sleep this weekend, though realise I have a ton of stuff to catch up with fundraising for next semester, finishing some painting in my room and also got to get my residency permit sorted so that I can get a bank account here.

Anyways this mornings lecture was Genetics, this is definately somewhere I am going have to do my own additional reading. I lack the biology and chemistry A-Levels that many have so have to really get back to basic to understand the more advanced theories. This is also going onto my weekend reading list.

This was followed by the Milk Hygiene practical which this week was very interesting. Basically (in Slovakia at least) milk has to go through several different quality controls before it can enter the human foodchain. The basic tests for this look at fat content and protein content of the milk, this also helps ensure that milk has not been watered down. The first test for fat content uses a really strong concentration of Sulphuric Acid to seperate the fat molecules. Cue the first appearance of Health and Safety here with faceshields and massive aprons!!! Anyways the method that we used was the Gerber method which is used worldwide as its a very simple and extremely rapid way to determine the volume of the fat in the sample. It uses a special tube called a butyrometer in which the sulphuric acid is mixed with the milk sample and osoamyl alcohol before it is placed in a centrifuge and the result read by moving the stopper on the tube in and out.

4 different milk samples in 4 butyrometers to determine the volume of fat contained in the sample

Yes that tarry looking black substance is in fact milk… The thin tube on the top actually contains the scale and the tube on the left has the most fat and the tube on the right the least fat content. One of the basic requirements for dairys is that the milk produced contains at least 3.5% fat. The other classifications of skinned and semi-skinned have their own margins which the reading has to fall between.

The next test of the day was for protein content and was carried out using Formol titration with the chemicals below (love how the only understandable thing on the bottles are the labels of doom!) and sodium hydroxide from a burette.

Chemicals with the labels of doomThis method relies on the neutralisation of the milk by adding sodium hydroxide and doing a calculation based on the quantity of sodium hydroxide actually used. Its actually pretty a pretty cool example of chemistry at work as sodium hydroxide is a clear liquid yet when added to milk turns a bright pink.

Adding sodium hydroxide to milk turns it pink
Adding the sodium hydroxide to the milk turned it pink

Pretty cool or what? The next practical of the day was for genetics where we used PCR to look at DNA, I will be doing a detailed post on this later on so will not include too many details here. Basically PCR allows for the rapid duplication of DNA and then the comparision of this DNA. By the end of this I was exhausted, vet school is definately tough and my weekend is going be very busy!

My first credit test, bones, and the flying mouse… (Day 17)

horse thoracic limb skeleton

Today is probably the most intense day of my week with both my Anatomy lecture, my physiology practical and then my anatomy practical packed into these 6 hours! I managed to start the day well today with coffee at home and cereal for brekfast. I actually am so grateful for living so close to uni as compared to Hartpury I can go from bed to campus in just 30minutes where as previously I had to worry about bus times making it closer to 2 hours.

Now in the Anatomy lecture we started looking at the bones, types of bones, and bone construction which was pretty cool. Then we started looking at the different parts of the thoracic limb. Basically the lecture was looking at diagrams which was pretty dull however something that needed to be done.

After this lecture it was time for physiology and we’d been promised hands on practical animal restraint. We had mice and rabbits (they had problems getting a cow for us sadly 🙁 ) however in the end mice and rabbits were plenty to start with. Being a gentleman I let the ladies go first, and trying to chase the mice round the box to grab a tail it would seem they got a little aggitated. Once they had a mouse the next step was to scruff it, at which point the mouse decided it was war and turned round and sunk its teeth into the human finger! So having a chunk outta the first person, the other mice wanted blood too and so ensued a game of don’t get bitten as the accident book and antiseptic came out! I managed to grab a mouse without injury to either party, though I have to say scruffing it did feel a little mean at first until it turned and tried to bite me.

Next up was rabbit handling, and being on the other end of the line it was my turn to go first. I’ve always been taught to pick a rabbit up by supporting it under the thorax and front legs and then supporting the read end. In this case I was supposed to scruff the neck and then pick it up by supporting the read end. These rabbits were not just normal rabbits, these were albino rabbits with bright red eyes, looked really devilish! However I got away with a light scratch which I was way pleased with as I’ve not really had much experience with handling animals.

We were then informed that next week we would actually be taking blood from the rabbits ears. So we went over blood collection procedure and then one of the group walked through it practising on an apple. With that Physiology was over, definately one of my interesting practicals, though I did hear later on one of the young ladies got bitten and flicked her hand with the mouse still attached by reflex causing the mouse to fly across the room (the mouse was unharmed though she bled for ages). I have it on very good authority that mice bites tend to bleed a lot so my biggest lesson today was not to get bitten by a mouse….

Time for Anatomy practical and my first ever credit test. Stupidly I volunteered to go first, and with nerves and being blindsided by questions on bones that I had not revised to I ended up with a B. Over here the grading works:

A = 90% – 100%
B = 80% – 90%
C = 70% – 80%
D =  60% – 70%
E = 51% – 60% (minimum pass mark)

I was slightly gutted at getting a B, however getting one early on is probably better than later as it means I will be pushing myself to work even harder! Next week we have to know the different regions of the thoracic limb (the arm) and also the interspecies differences.

horse thoracic limb skeleton
Thoracic limb skeleton of the horse

Now each bone has around 20 – 30 different areas where muscles attach, or of specific interest in terms of movement or positioning and from the Scapula down we now have to memorise these for the credit test next Thursday.

Since I have been here I have been invited to eat with several different people, so tonight took the opportunity to cook for those that have cooked for me. Using the cooker was interesting as the knobs are all on backwards so the numbers have no relation to the temperature of the position it is in. I probably spent ages waiting for potatoes to boil on a plate that was not even turned on so dinner was around 40 minutes late. The apricot chicken dish that I cooked did go as a success though! With people from Hungary, Iceland, England, Scotland and Slovakia it truly was an international dinner.

Milk and enjoying Latin… (Day 16)

My view in the morning...

So this morning when I woke up to this view and realised that I was really here in Slovakia at Vet School it instantly put a smile onto my face.

My view in the morning...

Ok so today was a day of Milk hygiene followed by languages. Milk Hygiene looked at the components of milk (i.e. fat, protein) and how this is managed which was pretty interesting.

Languages was where it got interesting as I could not remember which group I was supposed to be in and both groups wanted me so I was an easy catch for the first group which had Slovak first.

This week we started looking at how to count (something I had always taken for granted) and which is going be something I am going have to spend a while in my own time practicing. The only number the same in both Slovak and English is million…

Anyways after the disaster of Latin last week, and several hours of self study and going over stuff with friends leaving me less confused and feeling more confident I went to Latin. Going over the homework I had only made a couple of mistakes in my translations (yay!) and so we started looking at Declension 2. Now when I understand something I am fine so after the lecturer explained it once (and thanks to understanding the previous basics) I was fine. For some reason the lecturer then explained it again a different way, and then again another way, and then again, and again, and again. You could look around and see the initially confident faces becoming more and more confused… I decided that it would be more beneficial for me to get on with the next exercises so I started these answering a question that I was asked correctly and trying not to caught in the whirldwind of confusion that was sweeping the class.

I will confess initially I got totally lost in the first lecture, English is now apparently one of the easiest languages to learn as the genders and cases from other languages have been replaced by their own words. Latin for example does not have the word “of the” instead the ending of a word is changed to represent that it belongs to the object.

So the words fractura (fracture) and scapula (shoulder blade) would go together as fractura scapulae with the “a” on the scapula changing to ae to read as “Fracture of the shoulder blade”.

It gets a bit more complicated than this when you start adding left or right shoulder blade into the mix however I am getting more comfortable with it and in fact might even be learning it faster than Slovak!

The pretty colors of Microbiology… (Day 15)

The colorful microbiology practical

Today was pretty interesting, this mornings Microbiology lecture was on cell structure (I can see a theme for this week after Histology and Physiology yesterday also being on a similar topic. Going have to brush on my cell biology as if its getting this much attention then its gotta be pretty important! One of the things I consider most imporant within this is the difference between Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria. Most bacteria cells have a wall around them which controls the transfer of stuff in and out of the cell. This affects what types of antibiotics can be used in treatment, as to the diagnostic techniques used in the identification of it.

Anyways after this lecture it is time for a quick break and then onto the practical session, I was kinda excited to see how well I had done innoculating my plates in last weeks practical. Today we walked into a set up of loads of different coloured plates like this…

The colorful microbiology practicalSometimes I really do have to just stop and admire just how beautiful nature really is. Considering that all the bacteria on these plates can do harm to us its amazing how they manage to look so pretty.

Anyways enough of that, todays practical introduction was on the different mediums available to culture (grow) bacteria, how they are prepared and why they change the colours they do. Through my undergrad it had been a case of it just was, now I am learning the why and I am so much happier actually understanding this.

Culture media is important as when trying to determine a bacteria you basically test different properties to determine which it is. Within the selection we had today we had selective media (which restricts the type of bacteria that will grow on it), differentiative media (which tests a common property between negative and positive), and media specifically for the detection of pigment production by bacteria.

Basically agar is just a plain power that is mixed with water and then sets almost like Jelly. For selective media chemicals such as crystal violet and bile salts which restrict the growth of Gram positive bacteria (hence making it selective). For differentiative bacteria indicators are added to detect the presence of things such as pH or lactose which causes a change in color. And for special media chemicals are added to react with specific properties such as thiosulfate which is metabalised by Salmonella and forms colonies of bacteria with black centers.

Today we had prepared plates to examine the difference appearence of different bacteria on different culture media which was pretty cool. When you start to look at the differences you really do start to appreciate that a cell is alive, it eats, it puts out waste and its amazing how this happens with something so small.

Different types of microbiology agarWe then looked at the different types of growths, shapes of colonies, and then using liquid medium as well for growth in a test tube. The growth and culture of anaerobic (without oxygen) bacteria using oxidation-reduction and an anoxic jar.

The power of Electrons… And a few electrolytes (Day 14)

Electron Microscope

My second Monday in vet school, we were told last week that this week in histology we’d be looking at Electron Microscopy which is a pretty big thing. I’d never seen an Electron Microscope before let alone learnt anything about it (apart from vague references). An electron Microscope is pretty powerful allowing you to see the different organelles within cells and maybe more importantly viruses which are too small to visualise otherwise.

The main lecture was on the cell structure and components which is pretty important and then after a couple of hours break it was time for practical. Something that still gets to me a little is seeing warning signs with symbols for death and yet not being able to read the text information which is kinda interesting. We get led into a prep room with a rather large sign like this, and loads of machinery and chemicals around.

The preparation for electron microscopy is different as it requires that the sections (or samples) of tissues to be examined be thinner (between 30nm – 60nm thick) which means damage is easier to do. Anyway samples are cleaned, chemically fixed and mounted in plastic to faciliate cutting. Now the actual cutting of sections is down by a machine called a ultramicrotome using a glass diamond blade under microscopic magnification. These samples are then mounted onto wire mesh grids which then can be examined under the electron microscope.

Now electron microscopy works by passing an electron beam through the sample at high temperature from an electron gun consisting of a cathode and anode before it goes through objectives and onto a recieving plate which converts the invisible electrons into a visual image for us humans. While being able to achieve incredible magnifcation the use of electrons mean that images from an electron microscope are in black and white. Just turning the microscope on takes several hours to warm it up (and eats a ton of electricity) however the university has two electron microscopes in working order that they purchased in 1980. I just need to find a reason to get to play with them myself 🙂

Electron Microscope
Electron Microscope

Arriving for Physiology later in the afternoon the lecture started of rather excitingly with electrolyte balances which is something I was looking forward to learning about. It rapidly changed focus however to another pretty common sense lecture sadly. The evening was then spent doing some revision for Genetics tommorow….

My first falconry experience… (Day 13)

Today I decided the check out the University Falconry Club, my only previous experience has been with rescue birds in rehab and playing host to Ben Long who gave a talk to my old society last year.

Anyway the UVM Falconry Club was set up about a year ago, and in addition to owning a few birds and training also acts as a rescue and rehab center for wild birds in Slovakia. Something I did find out which suprised me a little was that the government would cover the food costs for birds that are successfully rehabiliated and released back into the wild here. In fact there recently was a Eagle in for rehab that had flown into power lines, and the power company actually donated 500 Euros to the club for the care taken of the bird.

Before I get too distracted back to Sunday, so its after lunch and I have headed down with 16 others to check out the club. Starting with a demonstrating on how to approach and glove (take a bird from perch to glove) a bird with Forrest. Now I believe forest needs an introduction; Forrest is a saker falcon that was rescued by the uni vet clinic when his owner accidently broke his wing leaving him unable to fly so wanted him put down. He is the clubs training bird as he can’t fly (though apparently he can still move pretty fast along the ground) so perfect for people that have no experience as his escape is limited.

Anyways the talk then went onto kit, baiting (the bird trying to flying off), the feeding routines and how the club worked before looking at learning the falconers knot. I had a slight advantage here with my climbing background so found the knot pretty easy, and because of this when a volunteer was requested to be the first to hold Forrest it ended up being me. Now I’d never held a bird of prey standing on my hand before so gloving up I was slightly nervous however really excited at the same time with a bit of curiousity as to how heavy he would be.

Now Forrest weighs 800+grams however 10 minutes later it felt closer to 2Kg with a slightly tired arm. Being up so close and able to see the find detail of the feathers and contours of the body and beak was pretty amazing. As well as learning how the jesse’s and lead works, Forrest was calm throughout and I was really happy when he which meant that he was happy.

Now placing Forrest back onto the perch was the moment of truth with the falconers knot, I was ok tying it onto a metal loop however it was onto a cord loop on this perch which was a little different as both sides of the knot could move… In addition I ran into something I had totally not expected, where I had fed forrest some raw meat my fingers were a little bit slippery! This also complicated it a bit more however I managed to get the knot tied with just a little bit of difficulty pulling it tight.

The rest of the evening turned into revision for Histology staining methods.

Highs of my first week in Vet School (Day 12)

Vet School Microbiology Warning Signs

What a week, it feels like a month!!! This week has been a total high (even with the 6:30am starts!) and I am still on a total buzz. I have to keep reminding myself that I am actually here, apparently its not just me either as several classmates have commented that it feels like the best holiday ever! This week has been so good I don’t think I’ve had a single low, here are the moments that have stuck out in my mind.

Last Sunday night passed with me so excited for my first ever lecture (even though it was Histology) that I could barely sleep. Meeting to be shown where the class was at 8am on a beautiful sunny day with a buzz in the air so strong you could practically see it. When I got into lecture and was taken through the process of sectioning and preparing tissue samples I realised that I had never actually done Histology before. It was no longer a vague look in the textbook to find out what it is I am looking at but a understanding of how I have actually got there. Knowing how and why the colours are different, and having someone able to explain exactly what I am looking at made Histology one of my new favourite subjects. I also arranged for a group of us to visit the aqua-terra club this evening.

Vet School Histological Section of the dogs ear

Tuesday was Microbiology, a subject that I’ve always struggled at as I did not do Biology A-Level however we started slow with an introduction to types of bacteria and replication. The practical session was on plate creation and innoculation. I made some new friends today with Tryggvi, Mickayla and Bonnie with plans to go Tesco to get stuff we needed. Anyways my degree results should have been online Thursday last week, checking today they finally made an appearance and I got a 2:1!!! Its still sinking in however Tryggvi, Mickayla and Bonnie celebrated with me with Pizza at Tesco (a massive pizza is like 4 euros here) and then we took an evening off watching The Inbetweeners!

Vet School Microbiology Warning SignsThe highlight for Wednesday was the Slovak teacher singing to us in Slovak…. We also got our ISIC cards so officially became students (whooooop!).

Vet School ISIC Student CardThursday was Anatomy where we started looking at Terminology before the planes of the body. I spent most of this day wondering if I was dreaming or if I had really made it to vet school whilst realising that I really did need to get down with the Latin Language.

Vet School Animal SkeletonsFriday arrived and I was still buzzing, Genetics totally threw a curve as walking into the practical we were provided with a dead mouse and told to harvest the testes to examine Meiotic cell replication (the production of sperm). I’ve never done any mouse anatomy and the testes are in the abdomen so I was very pleased with my ability to find them. We then followed a special process to stain the cells for examination under the microscope! What a total high to end the week with my first dissection!

Staining mouse testes in acetic orein to examine Meiotic divisionWeek one of Vet School complete! I actually want the weekend to be over to be in Histology again as next week we are doing Electron Microscopy!

The end of my first week in Vet School (Day 11)

Staining the mouse testes in acetic-orcein

Today was Friday, and was probably one of the lectures I’d been dreading most as the older years have said that this professor loves to fail people… So I headed to genetics and prayed that he wouldn’t pick me to fail, todays lecture was an introduction followed by looking at Mitosis (creating a replica of the cell (diploid as two sets of chromosomes)) and Meiosis (creating germ cell (haploid as one set of chromosomes)) in depth with and the interactions of this on  the chromosomes. I guess this kinda was revision, however I am going need to spend a couple hours here with my own book to get the processes spot on as I have not done it in a while.

This was then followed by the practical for Milk Hygiene, during which this week was mainly a recap of the previous lecture we had. We did however discover the power of questions as in shops here they seperate what we have always assumed to be milk products into two sections. Basically with milk products sometimes to reduce the cost producers replace milk cream with vegetable oil which then removes the product from the classifcation of milk products. So basically in the stores here there are milk products and then products that include milk. The rest of the lecture was on hygiene and process of hygiene and laboratory testing during milk production.

Note: Whilst I do have pictures of the dissection, I have made the decision not to include them within my diary as I want it to appeal to as wider range of readers as possible.

Our timetable got changed again leaving us with a 2 hour gap so we then all headed back to dorms, I did an hours studying and took a 30 minute nap. Also my bottle of water had leaked in my bag so put stuff out to dry. I then headed back to my Genetics practical with just my labcoat, notebook and genetics book. On sitting down the lab tech walked out and put a dead mouse in front of us, and was like collect the testes. I’ve never done anything with mice before so had no clue as to the anatomy of the urinary tract. Pulling a glove onto my left hand as I had a open wound I set about exploring my mouses abdomen with scalpel and scissors. I was very conscious about not damaging any internal structures but with limited dissection experience and no clue as to the anatomy was a little nervous. I opened to skin layer exposing the peritoneum (basically a sack that surrounds the abdomen organs). Now I had already admitted to knowing nothing about mouse anatomy so this was kinda cool, and I then opened the peritoneum exposing the organs. Now in relation to the size of the penis, the testes were large about the size of small marbles which suprised me a little. I harvested one and passed the mouse onto the next group for the other. The teste was then cut up into very small pieces and stained in acetic-orcein (which is a red stain) before being examined under the microscope.

Staining the mouse testes in acetic-orceinThe cells were then examined under the microscope to look for germ cells in different stages of maturity before they actually formed sperm cells. I am awful at recognising things under the microscope from paper (especially when it is black and white), however others in the class managed and I looked at the cells under their microscopes before then finding it with my own. We then also examined a onion root to look at the different stages of mitosis.

On the way out as the campus was so quite I decided to get a picture with Ardo, the bronze horse that has a long and interesting history within Kosice (I am not entirely sure of the whole story so will cover this another time when i know!).

Chris with Ardo the bronze horseMy first week of lectures in vet school is now over, its been a week of early starts, late finishes and yet I love it and have never been happier! This weekend is now for revision, and more importantly I need to really work on my diary and letter writting to try and raise the £4000 that I need to continue studying here in February!