1. Name: Jen
2. Course :Cancer Research and Molecular Biomedicine
3. A levels Biology (A), Chemistry (B) and Psychology (A*)
4. Undergraduate degree: Medical Genetics (2:1)
5. Journey in 3 words: Interesting, Difficult, Rewarding
6. Briefly describe your role or course: I haven’t actually started my MSc in Cancer Research and Molecular Biomedicine yet, but I’ll be learning about tumour formation, cell signalling and gene expression in cancer cells and a general overview of the field of cancer research. I’ll be doing 2 placements in labs at the university for a more practical approach to learning about cancer research, which I cant wait for! My undergraduate degree (Medical Genetics) focused on lots of different aspects of genetics, including ethics, developmental genetics, evolutionary genetics and clinical genetics. I have learnt so much about the field of genetics as well as learning aspects of other areas of medical biology such as biochemistry.
7. What motivated you to pursue a career in science?
So many things! I’ve been interested in the sciences since I was about 14-15, then when I went to college and did my A levels I realised how much I HATED chemistry and physics, it was biology all the way for me! I read ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ when I was 16, and this book literally changed my life. I loved it so much and it was only after reading it that I started thinking that cancer research would be an interesting field to work in. Since then, I have developed such a passion for science, especially women in science! I love reading about all of the amazing women in the scientific field whose work has, for the main part, gone unrecognised or claimed by men, such as Rosalind Franklin. I’m definitely not interested in all fields of science, but I have such a passion for medical science and I also find psychology so so so interesting, and I love to keep learning in those fields, either through my studies or just reading books related to these areas in my free time.
8. How did you manage to keep your love for reading books while balancing university work?
This is actually something I get asked a lot! I’ve had such a love of reading since I was little and it’s never not been an important part of my life – I didn’t want this to change when I came to uni. Admittedly, for the last few years, I haven’t read as much as I wanted to, which is why I made it my 2018 goal to read at least one book every week. As somebody who loves a challenge, setting myself that goal worked wonders and I’ve already read 32 books this year so far! While I was at the height of my studies during my final year of my undergraduate degree, I never left the house without a book. On the days where I’d be at the library from 9am-7pm, I’d read on my lunch break, and have another couple of breaks during the day where I’d read a chapter or so. It’s so important to take breaks while you are studying, and for me, opening a book and escaping into a completely different world for a while was the best way to relax before heading back to my studies. I also incorporated reading into my nightly routine. An hour before I wanted to sleep, I’d get in bed with a hot chocolate and read until I was practically falling asleep over my book. Granted, this wasn’t always the best idea when I was reading a particularly good book and just HAD to stay up until the early hours of the morning until I’d finished it! But really, I think if you love reading as much as I do, you will always make time to read. All it takes is reading one or two chapters every night before bed and it will become part of your routine.
9. Why didn’t you do a phd straight away?
I did originally plan on doing a PhD straight after my undergraduate degree, but it’s so so competitive to get onto funded PhD programmes in the field of cancer research that I knew doing a masters first would probably be a better idea in the long run. I’m actually really glad that I’m doing my masters first because it gives me a chance to really develop some skills that I didn’t spend much time developing during my undergraduate degree, particularly my skills in the lab and my scientific writing. I did spend a fair amount of time in the lab during my final year but it’s not something that I’m confident enough with right now to go straight into a PhD. I’m looking forward to spending more time in the lab and allowing myself to become more confident and develop different skills.
10. What is important when picking a masters ?
I think the main thing is picking something that you really really really enjoy. It’s not cheap to do any degree in the UK, so if you’re going to pay that much money you really have to want to do it. Also, you need to consider where you want to study. I know a lot of people that want to stay at the place they did their undergraduate degree, or want to move somewhere else and discover a new city, but for me, all I wanted to do was to move back home. If you aren’t happy where you are living, chances are you won’t enjoy your course half as much.
11. What did you enjoy the most about your university experience?
There’s so much! I really loved my course and loved having the opportunity to learn lots of different skills in the lab, and I made some amazing friends while I was there! Personally, I don’t think I’m going to miss being in Leicester or being away from home, but I did enjoy my 3 years there.