Why did you choose to study Biomedical Science at Ulster University?
I chose to study Biomedical Science at Ulster University, firstly because I was looking for a degree which joins knowledge of Biological Sciences and Medicine (in Poland there are only Medicine courses or Biology or Biotechnology). Secondly, the course structure at Ulster applied to me personally (subjects studied in every year) and thirdly I checked the research interests of Research Groups in School of Biomedical Sciences and School of Pharmacy (I was and I am particularly interested in stem biology, biochemistry and molecular genetics joined with elements of pharmaceutical sciences). Ulster University was my first choice in my application.
What do you enjoy most about the course?
Every year I enjoy something different about my course.
During my first year, I was impressed about entrepreneurial and the extra activities available at Ulster. In my spare time between my main modules I was able to join Business lectures offered for Marketing Students. The openness of lectures from other disciplines was amazing. It helped me develop knowledge and skills in another discipline than my course.
During my second year, I got an opportunity to do some practice during semester 2 at Pharmacy School (in Dr B. Callan’s Research Group), where I was able to develop skills in drug delivery system studies.
During third year, I am enjoying my current final year project in the research group of Dr. P. Thompson.
In conclusion, I am impressed how our lecturers are open to students and how easily they are approachable with any problem regarding the lecture material or getting some extra knowledge or opportunities. I do like the course structure and how it works in the practice – I found that the structure allows students to add own elements like additional experience in lab without affecting presence or over loading by knowledge. The feedback element and reflection available for students is also very valuable for me and it helps my progression, especially that English is not my native language.
Tell us a bit about any work experience you may have undertaken.
I completed a placement in the Northern Ireland Centre for Stratified Medicine at Magee campus (Ulster University) under supervision of Dr Priyank Shukla. As part of my placement I was developing skills in programming into Stratified Medicine and together with a supervisor I was looking at artificial intelligence based prediction tools with potential application in Cancer disease stratification. I was also involved in helping with manufacturing nano-materials for supporting cellular growth in Dr G. Burke’s research group at the Jordanstown Campus.
What other opportunities did studying at Ulster University bring you?
The opportunities that I have been given, due to studying at Ulster University have been invaluable to me.
During my first year, I was in second time in the representation of Poland for the biggest science competition in the world in Phoenix, USA – Intel ISEF, where thither with my friend I was presenting research work, which we have done during holidays 2015 called: Origami BioBandage mathematically described multipotential bioimplant based on polymeric nanomaterial modified by hydroxyapatite and stem cells. This project was also awarded by Ulster University (Research and Impact) by student grant and I won Santander grant for further development.
I was also chosen to represent the STEM related undergraduates for the 1st European celebration of women in computing in Belgium.
In June 2016, I was also nominated by Ulster University to take part in the Leadership and Entrepreneurial Programme, The Clinton International Summer School – INCORE – Ulster University. This experience helped me a lot to develop an understanding on how an entrepreneurial approach might help in the peace building process. This knowledge was essential to progress to Leadership Academy where I am now.
During my second year I was involved in volunteering work in the Riding Disabled Association in Coleraine, where I was awarded officially by Bronze Award by Professional Body under British Horse Society – YELA Young Leader Award. I am currently progressing to Silver Award.
During the second part of second semester I got the privilege to work in the Pharmacy School in Dr Bridgeen Callan’s group, who are interested in the development of novel polymeric drug delivery systems, in particular the use of amphiphilic polymers to create self-assembling nano-vehicles capable of transferring both hydrophobic compounds and highly charged hydrophilic compounds across cell membranes.
I was investigating new copolymer and its ability to encapsulate various versions of regimes, used in colorectal cancer treatment (IIb and III stage of the disease).
I have performed bench-based work associated with the encapsulation and polymersome synthesis. This was a very exciting opportunity, particularly tbecause I was involved in drug delivery systems before.
During the 2016 holidays, I was working with Dr Priyank Shukla on computational biology-based project “Machine Learning-based model development for predicting miRNAs involved in Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) using Next Generation Sequencing Data (NGS).” We have been recognized during application for AI grant finalists as listed in group of 75 projects out of 825 applications worldwide (9.1%).
During my third year, I am involved as Undergraduate Student Committee Member of Athena SWAN. I was also nominated for the Leadership Academy for Poland, delivered by Harvard Business School (graduation will be in January 2018). In September, I got a unique nomination for the biggest international network for entrepreneurial leaders aged below 25 years old – Kairos Society in US.
How did you find the support of the staff during your time here?
In my opinion, staff around the Ulster University are unique and thanks to them, my experience with the university has been and continues to be very good. Starting from the lecturers, who are easily approachable and very helpful in finding resources or creating extra opportunities like placements, internship based experience during holidays or in spare time during the academic year. My personal experience is connected with engaging with staff from the Pharmacy School (Dr B Callan), Biomedical School (Dr P Thompson, Dr N Ternan, Prof S. McClean, Prof C. Walsh, Prof. P. Flatt). These people helped me a lot during my last years at Ulster, and I am thankful them for creating for me environment for development and accessing resources to explore more about science and my career.
I am also amazed about the delivery and content of lecture and tutorials. Because English is not my first language, and to be honest I wouldn’t say that I am easy learner in new language, I have never struggled with understanding module content.
I also have excellent experience with the faculty staff, particularly in finding funding help for my further development.
What one piece of advice would you give a new student starting this course?
The advice which I would like to get new students is to be open to your lectures and try to engage and explore their academic and research profile and show initiative to be active in finding new opportunities.