Warwick Castle trip

While you are studying at Brunel, there will be opportunities to travel around the UK. One of the best offers that you can find is to travel with Brunel International. They organise various trips around the UK. Coaches leave from the university campus and bring you back to the campus when the trip is over. Other offers are usually with starting and end point at Victoria station, so you need to travel to and from them in order to go on a trip. Don’t get me wrong, all offers are great, it is just the matter of personal choice.

There are various locations that you can visit during these trips, like Bath, Stonehenge, Bristol, Warwick, Bournemouth etc. The locations are spread in around a 100 mile radius, so you can get there with a coach, have enough time for sightseeing and be brought back. I went on a trip to Warwick Castle, a beautiful medieval castle in the Warwickshire area. It was a great experience, and I would recommend you don’t miss the opportunity to visit this castle, as the other opportunities to travel with Brunel.

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The end of Term 2 and the dissertation

It’s been a while since my last post, but a lot of things happened in the last two months. The second term lectures and seminars officially finished in the first week of March. There was one essay deadline for the end of March, two in mid April and one exam in the middle of May. A lot of time, some would say, especially when compared to the first term and very tight twelve weeks for lectures, seminars, essays and exams.

There is a three week spring Easter break that follows the eleventh week of the second term, and then the last week of the term was the week ending on April 21st. All in all, a lot of time for essays and exams. If the time management is done properly, everything can be accomplished way ahead of schedule. There is more time for studying than in the first term, but that extra time can be a double-edged sword. The down side is the always present thought “there is enough time”, backed up with the warmer spring days with more sunshine and pleasant temperatures. If you can force yourself to just finish all coursework assignments and leave 20 days for the exam, you will have plenty enough time for all other activities.

The dissertation

We were suggested and reminded several times during term 2 to think about our dissertation topic. Or at least to figure out the area of our interest, so the lecturers and teaching assistants could help us in our dissertation topic choice. It is stated on the website that there is a possibility for an industrial dissertation. There is a possibility, but you will need to find that industrial placement on your own. There isn’t a selection process, or the official ranking. During term 2, we had a number of guest lecturers at three modules. They were from various IT companies, and each one of them had a different area of expertise. There were guests from the security department from IBM, CEO of an online business, interesting researchers etc. It is up to YOU to approach those guests, talk to them and establish a further connection and possible cooperation. Lecturers are there just to connect students with the guest lecturers, the rest is all on you.

My suggestion is to think about several areas of your interest and then wait for the opportunity to come up. As soon as there is a hint of the opportunity to work on the thing you like, grab it. Don’t hesitate, and don’t wait, or someone else will cease the opportunity. Deadlines for the dissertation appear very far away, but don’t let that misguide you. For example, one of the first deadlines was to choose the dissertation supervisor by 17th May. And we knew about that in the beginning of February. If you manage to arrange an industrial dissertation, your supervisor will be the lecturer of the module where the guest lecturer presented its work. If you need to do the dissertation at University (like 90% of the people will do), then think carefully about whom would you like to be your supervisor. There is enough time to think and choose, but don’t get lazy and wait for the last week. The thing is, the lecturers have limited number of students they can supervise, and the most popular lecturers fill up their quota quite fast. If you know what you want to do, or even if you don’t, set up several meetings with your potential supervisors, discuss with them, they are more than happy to help you decide and choose your topic. As soon as you decide, make a formal request for supervision and then you can relax, you have the broad topic and the supervisor.

I have chosen to work my dissertation around databases, graph databases to be more specific. Therefore, my choice was the lecturer of the Data Management and Business Intelligence module, Mark Lycett. My dissertation topic is about re-engineering the data from relational databases into the graph databases using 4D ontologies. It sounds complicated, and it is 🙂 But that’s something that I would like to explore and contribute to, so I am very happy with it. If you have any further inquiries about my dissertation topic or about the dissertation in general, please feel free to comment below this text or contact me through various social media channels.

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Birmingham Gadget Show

At the beginning of April, I had some time and went to Birmingham gadget show. It is an event that happens every year and gathers gadget lovers, gamers and geeks. After a two and a half hour ride we arrived at our destination. We had 6 hours to explore. Whether you like smartphones, TVs, sound systems, projectors, games, there is something interesting for everyone. As I am on a IT course, everything was interesting to me. So, I started from the beginning of the first room and I managed to cover every stand and to see everything. The most interesting thing for me was 3D printing, that is now affordable for home users, so more and more people are buying 3D printers for their everyday usage. Robots, huge TVs and sounds systems which price will eat your half year salary were dominating the show. There was one room for gaming equipment and games only. Gaming using 3D glasses is becoming more and more popular. There was one section dedicated to vintage systems, were you could see old Apple PCs, Commodore PC, Amiga gaming console and many other outdated computer systems. Take a look at some pictures and videos from the gadget show and make sure to visit the one in 2014.

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Language Cafe: Italian

Do you like exploring other cultures? Tasting local cuisine and trying some new food? Do you want to know some historic facts about other countries, empires? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then you definitely shouldn’t miss the events organized by Brunel University and Union of Brunel students. Throughout the year, they organize a number of events that involve foreign countries, their food, music and culture. The biggest event is One World Week, organized once a year. There are other events, scattered throughout the school year. The list of events organized by Brunel is available here. Even if you don’t look at the event list, you will be regularly emailed by Brunel university and Brunel International with invitations to all important events.

I’ve visited a few of these events, and the most recent one was Italian language cafe, held at Brunel’s lecture centre a week ago. Events usually last for about 90 minutes, up to two hours, so you can’t say you don’t have time. The whole purpose is to meet people from the country that is hosting the cafe, in this case Italy, to get to know their country better, try their food and have fun. The event started with some great Italian food and sweets. There was pasta of course, mixed with various ingredients, and everything tasted great. Some pastry combined with ham, olives, cheese was also delicious. Everything is prepared and organized by Italian students with logistical help from Brunel International.

After we have tried the food (and made it vanish), we all listened and participaed in a presentation about Italy. Every couple of minutes, our hosts would put a picture of some famous Italian person from history and ask if we know who that is. Whoever got the right answer from the audience, got a Ferrero Rocher chocholate cand! Our hosts presented us the famous Italian history, from the foundation of Rome, around the year 700 B.C. to modern Italy. It was an exciting journey through history with a lot of interesting facts which many of us didn’t know.

Soon after our history lesson, we tried to learn some Italian words, starting with simpler ones like “Hello – Ciao” and “Thank you – Grazie” to a more Italian style phrases like: “You are a beautiful girl – Lei è una bella ragazza”. We all had fun repeating the words and phrases. When we practiced enough, we were quizzed by our hosts so they can check how good we mastered basic Italian. It was a lot of fun.

At the end, our hosts showed us their popular hand gestures (as they very much like to use their hands in everyday conversation, which sometimes tell you more than the words spoken 🙂 ). You can see the picture of popular gestures at the end of this text in picture galley. For the end of our language cafe, we watched a hilarious YouTube video about Italy vs. EU, which I’ll put just after the text so you can check it out.

When you sum up everything, good food, some music (that went on before and after the presentation), interesting presentation, sweets and having fun, that is what every language cafe at Brunel is all about. So, try not to miss them.

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My course in detail (Information Systems Management) – term 2

Term two started more than a month ago. Time is flying during term time. You are trying to catch everything on the lectures, and then you go home and read, read, read….. and all of a sudden, next week is here, new lectures, new seminars, more reading…

Second term has four modules, the same as the first term. First term modules were somehow focused more widely, every module had a separate focus, there was no overlapping between modules. Second term is different. All of the modules are somehow connected and more focused more narrowly. Big difference from the first term are coursework submission deadlines, they are much longer and later than in the first term. First term was completely finished in 12 weeks. Second term started on 5th January, and for one module, the exam will be in May. Most of other modules are due in April, and that fact gives you the time to breathe. But, don’t fool yourself thinking that you have all the time in the world to finish everything, because this term is also reserved for choosing the dissertation topic and writing a research proposal activities that can bite a huge chunk of your time.

Four modules in term 2 at my course are as follows: ICTs and strategic change, Business integration, Data Management and Business Intelligence and Research methods module. Let me explain in detail each one.

ICTs and Strategic Change

Lectures sessions are every Tuesday from 11am to 1pm and seminar sessions are continuing from 1pm to 2pm. This module is all about using Information and communication technology and aligning it with your business strategy, adapting to inevitable changes and constantly adapting to customer needs. Various strategies, frameworks and theories are discussed as this topic is very interesting nowadays because of the economic crisis. Module leader is bringing interesting guest lectures, usually from the industry, which can give us better insight into the “real world”. Make sure you don’t miss guest lecturers, some of them might help you with the choice of your dissertation topic or point you in the right direction.

Assessment for this module is a 100% coursework. There is also a presentation, which is not marked, but is mandatory. If you don’t do your presentation, your coursework grade is capped at C, which means that you can write the best essay in the class, and you will get a C because you haven’t done your part of the presentation. Presentations are done with a group, usually five or six people. They last approximately 20 minutes, with 10 minutes Q & A sessions after.

Business Integration

Lecture sessions are every Tuesday from 3pm to 5pm and seminar sessions are continuing from 5pm to 6pm. Every week, we are learning about different topic, one week was about Enterprise Resource Planning systems (ERP), other week was about Customer Relationship Management (CRM), third week about Supply Chain Management (SCM). Basically, this module is about integrating big systems in a company in order to raise productivity and have competitive advantage. The module is closely related to ICTs and strategic change module, they are overlapping a lot and they share a lot of information.

Assessment for this module is 100% coursework, a 3000 words essay on one of the topics discussed during lectures. Aside from that, there is a mandatory group presentation with the same rules as for the previously explained module.

Data Management and Business Intelligence

Lectures are starting very early by student time, Wednesdays at 9am! They last for two hours. One group of people has lab work for this module from 11am to 1pm, and the other group has lab work from 4pm to 6pm. There is a strict rule that you must attend lab work in the group that you are assigned to (otherwise, everyone would go from 11 to 1pm, to finish as soon as possible). This module is all about data. The main question and aim of the module is to teach you how to transform big data into something meaningful for the company, how to transform Data->Information->Knowledge, very interesting and highly popular topic nowadays. We learn about various methods of storing data, data warehouses and business intelligence. SAP software is chosen as an example, so we are referencing everything to their ERP system product. Lab work is very interesting, where you can implement theoretical knowledge in practice. Playing with data, creating master data files, creating interesting reports are just small part of the work done in the labs.

Assessement has two parts. First part is multiple choice question test, which is based on lab work and supplementary reading. Second part is more serious one, it is a two hours written exam with three questions about the previously seen case study. It may sound easy, but it’s not, it requires a lot of background reading and understanding of the matter in order to score high grade.

Research Methods

Lectures are every Wednesday from 2pm to 4pm. There are no seminars for this module. The aim for this module is to teach you how to write your dissertation, or maybe it’s better to say to teach you how to make a great plan for writing a dissertation. Even though it’s not a very interesting to listen, it is very helpful with some details that can easily be neglected and later become a very big problem. What is quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, literature review, questionnaire design are just some of the topics addressed in this module.

Assessment for this module is 100% coursework. It is a research proposal essay. You can choose from several offered topics and you need to write a research proposal. Research proposal is basically an explanation how you would do a research on a certain topic. You need to explain which literature would you use, what is previously written on the topic (literature review), what framework or methodology you will use during your research, what kind of questionnaire and questions you will use, where will you conduct an interview, with how many people etc.

There is a lot of work to be done, but it’s not impossible if time organisation is done right. If you are tired from reading a thousand words post, rest your eyes with some pictures from Sunny London, or Natural History Museum, or you can watch some fireworks from Bonfire night last November.

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