How did you first decide to study a Biology-related degree?
Throughout my years at school I had always liked science, and at secondary school I started to favour biology and chemistry (even though these weren't my best subjects). That's how I chose to study both subjects at A level, along with maths and further maths. Here I realised that it was the parts of biology where I also had to use my chemistry that I enjoyed the most - and that's how I chose a biochemistry degree.
Why did you decide to study at St Andrews?
As a top university, St Andrews was always a place that I had considered when choosing where to apply. I read about the course that I would potentially be studying here online, and I really liked the look of both the range and the depth of topics that it covered. The real clincher was when I came to visit; the staff that I met that day and all of the facilities that the School of Biology has to offer were more than enough to convince me that I should come to St Andrews.
What are some of your degree highlights?
Placement Year In Industry: an integral part of my degree was a year working in industry. I worked at a pharmaceutical company called Heptares Therapeutics. This was a fantastic year for me, as it allowed me to learn lab techniques way beyond the scope of my degree and I experienced working full-time in a scientific environment. This has really helped me prepare for both scientific and non-scientific careers in the future.
Biochemical Society Summer Studentship: After my second year, I spent the summer in the lab where I would eventually write my dissertation. Not only did this introduce me to lab skills that gave me a head start for the next three years, but also allowed me to find an area of biology that I enjoyed, and paired me with a PhD student mentor whom I would really benefit from for the rest of my time at St Andrews.
Antimicrobial Resistance Module: This was one of my favourite modules across all five years. It really gave me a chance to improve my public speaking, allowed me to more effectively read scientific literature, and most of all; the topic itself was both very interesting and highly relevant.
What do you do outside class at St Andrews?
My main extracurricular activity at St Andrews has been getting involved with the music society. This is something that I started in my second year here, and it has been a really important part of my St Andrews life. After a first year that could have been better, the music society allowed me to meet a whole new host of people, and I only wish that I had joined sooner.
I also joined the MusSoc committee and started running two of their ensembles, which was a nice addition to my CV. Getting involved with something outside of classes is something I would highly recommend.
What did you learn about yourself while at the University of St Andrews?
One of my problems before coming to St Andrews was portraying myself in a good light on paper for various applications and the like. Since starting here, my confidence has been boosted enormously and made me realise that it is okay to be proud of the things I have achieved - and my abilty to write personal statements has really grown with this.
What advice would you give anyone considering a Biology-related degree at St Andrews?
Buy some comfy lab specs! You get exposed to so much practical experience working in the lab here, these are useful. I would also encourage everyone to get in touch with group leaders early on in their degree, and try to get involved in something beyond the teaching timetable. The best thing would be if you could spend some time here over the summer on a short placement. This way you can find something that really interests you sooner rather than later, and it also looks really good for your CV.
What is your next step?
After graduation, I will be starting a PhD in the group of Dr David Bhella at the University of Glasgow's world-leading Centre for Virus Research. I am excited to get started, using cryo-electron microscopy to study the structure of herpes viruses. I am lucky to have been chosen for this highly competitive project, and it has only been made possible through all of the practical experience that I have gained during my time at St Andrews.