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Professional profile: Neuroscience/Widening Participation

1 Name : Fatmata

2. Undergraduate degree:Foundation Medicine and then Biological Sciences (Neuroscience)

3. Current Job : Widening Participation

4 . A levels: Biology, Chemistry, English Literature and an Extended Project Qualification

5 .Journey in 3 words: Surprising, Challenging and Unfinished.

6 Describe your current role: Although I have a love for Biology, my current job has absolutely nothing to do with science. I work in Widening Participation, which essentially means I work with students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and help them access higher education. I work at a University, as well as in two schools and I deliver a very wide range of activities, recruit students onto events such as residentials, whilst also working as mentor.

7 What motivated you to pursue a career in science: I am not going to use the dreaded personal statement cliché: From a very young I have been interested in science. That would be a lie. I actually wanted to become a lawyer when I was younger. However, I was discouraged as a result of the idea that “black people do not get to become lawyers in the UK”. I was pushed towards the path of Medicine (classic). This was 100% NOT something I wanted to do. Consequently, I did various things to ensure that I did not have to. This included applying for Uni’s I KNEW I wouldn’t get into to study Medicine, as well as not practicing for my Interview when I did get one. I had to make the decision to change courses after I completed my foundation year, and because I already had the A-Level grades for it, I went for something I was interested in. I decided to study Neuroscience, as I wanted to learn more about how the human body works, particularly the brain. I have always been intrigued about the fact that the way we are “wired” can drastically affect us e.g. make us more susceptible to mental illnesses.

8 Describe your work-life balance: I graduated last year- so I have only been working for about a year. At first it was VERY difficult to get a work life balance, and I still do not believe I have absolutely perfected it. I had to move cities for work, so that meant that I knew no one and had/have no friends. Until recently, I came home, ate, watched Netflix and slept. Very boring to say the least. I am slowly but surely figuring out the best balance.

9 What advice would you give someone wanting to follow your same career path: Getting into widening participation is not easy for a new grad, because of the experience they would like you to have. I applied for about 15 jobs, and only got two interviews. This was a tedious and annoy process to say the least. I suggest that for everyone going into any career, you make use of the job and voluntary opportunities you get from university. I did a wide range of jobs (I was broke and needed money) which included being a student ambassador, working in a Food Market, etc. I also volunteered a lot, as I was aware that my degree alone would not be enough to get me a job.

10 Why did you change career paths: I changed paths for a range of different reasons. The main reason for me was because I wanted to make a difference in the world, and I wanted to do so now. Even though this could have been achieved through science, I felt as if it would take too long. I had the option of either going to KCL and completing a fantastic MSc in Psychiatric Research, or starting work. One thing I think a lot of people do not pay attention to, is the financial burden of doing a MSc/PhD. On top of wanting to change the world (Cliché I know), I simply would not have been able to afford the MSc, as it cost more than the Postgrad Loan, and London is VERY expensive. I however, do want to go back into science, so I am working now in something I like, until I can figure it all out.

11 What transferrable skill from your degree do you use in your current job: One of the most important transferable skill I got from my degree which not only helped me get a few jobs, but also helps me throughout my work, are my presentation skills. All throughout my degree, I had to complete many presentations. This helped me to be confident (especially because I have a stutter), allowed me to identify what makes a great presentation, and how to time myself properly.

12. What was the hardest thing in switching courses : The hardest thing for me about switching is the fact that I know I want to go back into education and eventually have my PhD in Science in the area of Neuropsychology. This may sound strange, but having two completely different things I am deeply passionate about (Science and Widening Participation) means I struggle daily with the decision of what I will do in the future.

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