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Biology with Year in Industry

Applied in: Winter 2013

University Offers: Birmingham, Cambridge Interview, Imperial College

When I read ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ by Dawkins and ‘Cancer’ by Scotting, I realised that Biology was more than just a school subject. From fossil records to more modern DNA mapping used for identifying relationships between species, Dawkins showed me just how many different ways there are to prove evolution. Scotting revealed to me the more scientific and medical side to Biology, from the risk factors of carcinogens leading up to how cancer cells form and are transported around the body using the lymphatic system. My interest in learning more about the wider world of Biology led me to organise work experience shadowing a surgical team at Hillingdon Hospital. Observing the team in theatre allowed me to see how having a biological knowledge is used in a more practical setting. I also had work experience in a biochemistry research lab at the University of Reading. I followed a researcher introducing DNA into cells and detecting proteins using antibodies by a process called Western blotting. This was very interesting and enabled me to see how diligent researchers have to be in order to conduct successful experiments. I have been to exhibitions and lectures at the Wellcome Trust Museum, including a talk about how radiology was used at the Olympic Games. I was interested in how varied sports injuries can be and how some bodies are able to cope better than others with intense exercise.

My surgical work experience allowed me to see the more human aspect of Biological research, specifically immunology. I now have a clearer idea of the challenges that researchers must face and the practical, ethical and scientific questions that they must answer. I recently read an article in the New Scientist on the benefits of the BCG vaccine in reducing susceptibility to eczema and asthma by up to twenty five percent, an effect that until recently was unknown to the vaccine’s developers. The ethics behind this are complicated since the researchers were unaware of these effects and yet the vaccine was given anyway. What if there were adverse effects that were not known about? How would patients affected by this be treated and who would be blamed for allowing the vaccine to be distributed? This showed me how the field of immunology is constantly being reassessed and the importance of precise research. I attended a course on BDNF to research a field that wasn’t covered by the school syllabus. I learnt how this chemical can assist with neurogenesis and be produced through exercising to help treat conditions such as dementia and depression. This encouraged me to co-write a paper on the effects of BDNF on Dementia which was published by Medlink (http://bit.ly/18TUK3n). I enjoyed the aspect of researching a new topic beyond my school course and attempting to come up with ideas for possible uses of the knowledge.

Being appointed a senior Non-Commissioned Officer in my school’s Combined Cadet Force and achieving the Duke of Edinburgh’s silver award have helped me develop my teamwork. Through my positions of responsibility at school, being elected as both a Senior Prefect and a Head of House, I have improved my leadership and confidence skills. I have mentored in GCSE Biology, refreshing and reinforcing my own knowledge. I also organised a school team to participate in the Great Gorilla Run, a charity event for the conservation of gorillas. My participation in squash and running teams at Borough level and for national races has developed my team working skills and also time management, as training must fit around my school work. I believe these qualities are essential for the modern scientist working in a team and managing large amounts of research effectively.

My long-term ambition is to work for a body such as the World Health Organisation, which influences healthcare on an international scale. I believe that studying this course will help me realise this ambition while opening my eyes to the varied world of Biology.

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