As part of our #FBMHstories feature for Instagram we caught up with Anna Kell, a final year Biology with Industrial Experience student. She shared her experience of travelling with her degree and the things she loves about university life.
Why did you choose to study at the University of Manchester?
I chose to come to Manchester mainly for the opportunity to go on the placement year, not many universities offer that so it was really exciting. Also for the variety of field courses that we could go on – they were really incredible. The level of research available is great too – we have high levels of funding. Manchester is pretty great!
What is the best thing about your course and what aspect are you enjoying the most?
The field courses – the opportunity to do them was great. I went to South Africa in first year and Costa Rica in second year. They were amazing opportunities to do research in new environments, new countries and a great way to travel. It was great to get to know new people and do research that you wouldn’t normally do in a lab.
What research did you do?
In South Africa I was looking at the environmental factors that determined how high the termites built mounds, if they built them to a specific type of tree or in a direction with sun orientation. We found that they liked building North-West!
“There was an event here at the museum in January to launch the scheme, which David Attenborough was encouraging.”
In Costa Rica I was looking at the feeding behaviour of hummingbirds, so whether they preferred feeding from purple or pink coloured flowers. I don’t think there was any significant difference! With the purple it was mainly one dominant species that was feeding there, and the pink one had the same number of individuals just with a different assemblage of species.
What are you hoping to do following your studies?
I’m really interested in science communication so I’m currently thinking of doing a Science Communication Masters in Manchester, but need to investigate the funding and logistics of that. I’d like a future career in…maybe public engagement, governmental policy or something. I would like to help the government decide on good policies for climate change, Genetically Modified crops and things like that.
You already have some experience of public engagement at the museum?
Whilst I was on the Costa Rica field course the curator of the Vivarium, who came on the field course with us, contacted me about a blog I was writing and asked if I wanted to be part of the Learning with Lucy project at Manchester Museum.
So with him and a girl called Bethany Luscombe we made an education booklet for children around the age of five and seven to teach them about what conservation is and how to be involved in looking after the environment.
That was a really incredible experience! There was an event here at the museum in January to launch the scheme, which David Attenborough was encouraging. We even met the Ambassador of Costa Rica – that was really fun, we had dinner with him! It was a really great experience to see if I wanted to do something like that in the future, and an incredible opportunity that I had the honour of doing!
What aspects of your placement year did you enjoy? Did you find it challenging at all?
I loved my year away! I was in the south of Sweden at Lund University. I was very scared to move abroad initially, and I’d had no real lab experience so didn’t really know what I was doing! But they were extremely kind, helpful and supportive throughout the whole process. I ended up having an awful lot of responsibility in the lab for maintenance of the fruit flies we were looking after.
Life in the lab was really relaxed and it was a great opportunity to focus on an area of research that people didn’t really know about. I was looking at the effects of temperature on Drosophila mating and locomotion behaviour – it was just experimental, nobody knew what the effects would be but we found interesting results that could prove that these flies would not cope very well with climate change. It was a really good opportunity to have the freedom of working in a real lab with real scientists who are also supporting you, without the pressure of it counting towards a Masters or a PhD.
What is your favourite thing to do in Manchester?
The bars in Manchester are really nice – the cocktails are really good here! I also enjoy the Northern Quarter cafes – whilst I was in Sweden I discovered that visiting cafes was one of my hobbies! They have this thing called Fika which includes loads of coffee and cakes, so I’ve sort of kept that tradition alive in Manchester by exploring cafes in the Northern Quarter.
I also do a little bit of ballroom dancing in Manchester with The Ballroom and Latin society – that’s fun! I’ve done some singing here too.
Do you have a favourite place on campus?
I love Christie’s café! It’s a really nice environment with all of the books, it’s quite quiet. I really like Stopford Library, it’s really bright and at this time of year there aren’t too many people yet so it’s quite a nice place to be. Simon café has sofas and they serve really decent food.
Do you have any advice for prospective students?
It’s a great course to do! Biology is a really versatile subject in that you can take any module you want to – in second and third year I’ve had no compulsory modules. And of course doing field courses and industrial experience opens up opportunity, contacts, and just lets you build your interests and direct you to future careers. I would definitely recommend all of them!
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