Archive for the ‘Neuron – Vol 5 (issue 2) – Apr 14 (2008)’ Category

Why Biology?

October 9, 2009

By Maha Khalil


Many AUC students ask us bio majors why we are majoring in Biology, and we are getting rather good at coming up with interesting answers such as: “I woke up and found myself a bio major,” or “a man dressed in white came to me in a dream and told me to,” or simply “why not?”

When people ask us this question, they usually want to know what we hope to become after we graduate, and it is hard to answer because there is no straight answer.

nnn4A biology graduate could become anything from a nothing to a stem cell researcher, depending on his/her competence and passion as well as many other factors. Dr. Andrew Main, founder of the AUC Biology Department, recently undertook the laborious task of attempting to contact 63 recently graduated Biology students (58 of whom Dr. Main was able to acquire information about) and formulating a number of tables summarizing what they are doing and where they are in the world. Using this data, charts were created below that would visually represent the results of Dr. Main’s efforts and hopefully attempt to give AUCans an idea about what they could accomplish if they major in biology. 


On behalf of the entire Biology Department, we would like to thank Dr. Main for providing us with the data necessary to create these charts.


Violet Easter Lilly Cactus

October 9, 2009

Echinopsis obrepanda

Copyright 2007, Bishoy Hanna


The Pallid Swift

October 9, 2009

By Mr. Richard Hoath


One of the most common birds on campus is also probably the least observed. Actually it is more over campus than on campus. Large flocks of Pallid Swifts Apus pallida can be seen wheeling and circling over Tahrir throughout the year and their screaming cries can often be heard above the traffic. Watching them is only really a matter of looking up. In spring love is quite literally in the air as they will be courting and mating, and like with virtually all Pallid Swift activity, this will be done on the wing.

Swifts are amongst the most aerial of birds. The only thing that ties them to the ground is nesting. Between fledging last year’s brood to building this year’s nest it is quite likely the swifts will not have landed. They quite literally eat and sleep in flight. Indeed their legs are almost entirely useless, the Latin name for the swift family Apodidae means “without legs”, though the feet are strongly clawed for clinging at the nest site. Though they do nest in natural sites such as cliff faces, in the city cracks, crevices and  ledges of buildings have been readily adopted as cliff substitutes. The tiny nest is built of aerial flotsam grabbed in flight and glued together with saliva.

Swifts are generally drab birds so it comes as some surprise that their closest relatives, indeed members of the same Order, are those brightly-hued avian jewels, the hummingbirds. The Pallid Swift is typical of the group, some 16cm long, slim with slender sickle-shaped wings and a forked tail. It is uniform beige brown in color with a pale throat. It is an insect eater, catching minute insects and invertebrates, aerial plankton if you like, in flight. Though the bill itself is small, the gape is enormous, ideally designed for catching its tiny prey.

Much has been argued about how fast a swift can fly. Watching them career over Tahrir Square the impression given is that of very quick indeed. The record of a flock of Brown-throated Spine-tail Swifts in India flying at 320 kmph is now largely discredited though the more modest claim of 170 kmph for the Alpine Swift, a close relative of the Pallid Swift is more widely accepted. Built for speed, swifts can undoubtedly fly very fast.

In Spring the hurtling flocks of Pallid Swifts are worth checking out for migrating Common Swifts heading north to European breeding grounds. It is very similar to the Pallid but uniformly darker. The rare Alpine Swift, also a migrant, is much larger with a clean white belly and throat. Egypt’s fourth swift is the rarest, the Little Swift easily told by its white rump. There have been very few sightings in Egypt but it could just make it onto the campus bird list as one of those records is from just across the river in, or rather over, Zamalek.


Carwardine, Mark The Guinness Book of Animal Records Enfield: Guinness, 1995.

Goodman, S. and P. Meininger The Birds of Egypt Oxford: OUP, 1989.

The Pre-Med Program at AUC

October 9, 2009

By Sarah Beshay

Posters around AUC have been noticed recently that advertise for the new pre-med program opening up. One of the biology department Professors, Dr. Rania Siam was interviewed:


Q. Is the program that AUC offers accredited by ALL medical schools?

A. Yes, the list of courses of the pre-med track has been prepared under the supervision of the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) and they satisfy the general requirements of universities of North America and Canada, which are 1 year of Biology, 1 year of Physics and Mathematics, 1 year of Chemistry.


Q. What are the chances of students doing pre-med at AUC being accepted into medical schools? or What percentage of those who applied so far have been admitted?

A. There are no statistics so far, however, acceptances are happening.  On the other hand, some applicants have not been accepted into medical schools, and that’s not unusual.  It is also relevant to consider that becoming accepted into medical school is dependant on several factors other than the courses that have to be completed.  Students should maintain good records in extracurricular activities, results of MCAT’s are another factor, together with the application that includes a statement written by the student and reference letters.  All those are important besides doing considerably well academically.


Q. Does pre-med at AUC prepare students well for medical school abroad, or do they usually face any problems?

A. There is no sufficient information about that so far, because the program is relatively new and the number of students that have already gone to medical schools is not that large.


Q. Are there any extracurricular activities related to pre-med that AUC offers?

A.  This is a major concern in the short-term plan.  However, students are being advised to participate in any volunteer work they get a chance to.  Also, students are being directed to make their senior thesis about topics that are close to medical fields.  Students should then take the opportunity to do as much activity-related kinds of work together with their research as they work on their thesis.


Q. Are there any preparatory courses for MCAT’s that AUC offers?

A. No, there are no such courses given in Egypt.  However, the university organizes the enrolment of students into Kaplan preparatory courses.  The university also coordinates the reservations in MCAT’s as well as look at their applications and give feedback in order to enhance their chances.