Teagwen

Previous School:

Reigate

Initially, I was pretty set on going into Medicine, while also considering several ‘back-up’ options, which included Microbiology. However, in my first-year progression exams I didn’t quite meet the grades that I’d need to follow the Medicine route. One of the main things that had attracted me to a possible career in Medicine was my interest in infectious disease. Now, I can confidently say that this was in fact more of an interest in understanding how infectious diseases work at the molecular level rather than treating them as a doctor. Looking back, I think missing out on that predicted ‘A’ in Chemistry was one of the best things to happen as it led me to investigate Microbiology in more detail and now, I really can’t imagine doing anything else.

I really enjoyed my mix of A Levels, but always found Biology to be the standout subject. I also chose to do an EPQ about the financial burden of diabetes care in the UK. Exploring a specific interest in detail was very useful heading into my degree, plus I gained important understanding of how to reference correctly.

My College journey was ultimately cut short due to the pandemic, but I found the support from my teachers was above and beyond. All my teachers were great, but Alys really helped me to explore the areas within Biology that sparked my interest. I think her love of the subject really made me love the subject and has led me to where I am today: still looking to stay within the field and further my scientific career.

I’m currently in the final year of my degree, focusing on my dissertation project. I’ve carried out a 3-month laboratory-based project within one of the research groups at Leeds. Working within the Fontana lab, I investigated bunyaviruses, an important group of viruses. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has named three of these – Rift Valley Fever, Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Virus and Lassa Virus – as priority pathogens for research, so it’s really exciting work. I’m enjoying being part of the research group and using the fantastic research facilities at Leeds.

Prior to this, my placement year working as a Microbiologist within the Research and Development (R&D) team at Arxada was invaluable. Not only was it great to have a year with ‘real’ experience, it was also such a lovely way to break up my degree programme and it’s helped to inform my career direction. As part of the R&D team investigating antimicrobial control solutions, I screened over 50 compounds to analyse their efficacy, support marketing claims and facilitate the launch of new products.

Incredibly, I’m now named as a co-inventor on several pending patents having generated pivotal data as part of the team. A crucial part of my placement was the experience of working within interdisciplinary teams. All this helped me to better understand the links between microbiology and other disciplines and see the day-to-day application of the research. The teams were so welcoming and friendly, which made my placement year super enjoyable.

Now, I am considering what to do next. I’m applying to several PhD programmes and actively seeking funded postgraduate opportunities as I’d like to stay within virology and develop as a research scientist. And after that, I’ll decide about whether to pursue academia or move back into industry.

Ultimately, my time at College perfectly prepared me for the next step in my studies. I think one of my standout memories will be the Biology fieldtrip: standing in a stream in freezing cold weather in November trying to collect samples – thankfully now I am always nice and warm (sometimes too warm!) inside a lab with my practical work.

There is such an abundance of courses to consider at university and more than likely there will be one that is perfectly suited to your interests – you just need to hunt it down. My advice would be to get as much hands-on experience as possible. Do a placement year! Apply for things! My placement has been one of the highlights of my degree – although I didn’t have any specific lab experience outside of my university teaching labs, I have seen just how much employers value even a little work experience.

Teagwen Cameron

Reigate College: 2018-2020

Higher Education: BSc Microbiology (with Industrial Placement Year), University of Leeds

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