How did you feel about moving to the UK? Was there something in particular you were worried or excited about?
After spending some years in Singapore, I personally prefer the cold climate in the UK. Before coming to the UK, I thought it would snow every day. I’m upset that it doesn’t. It seems like it only snows less than 24 hours per year. The weather is not that cold, but I do always find it more comfortable to stay indoors.
Why did you choose to study your undergraduate degree here in Manchester?
I applied to several universities for my undergraduate study through the UCAS website. After receiving my offers, I mainly compared their university rankings and global reputations. As an international student, I also considered the cost of living and travelling. Manchester had the best quality teaching and they had a lot of great international funding opportunities.
What did you think of the Manchester lifestyle? Did you pick up any hobbies or interest here?
Manchester has become home to two of my favourite hobbies: Hiking and Photography.
Hiking: One of the reasons why I chose Manchester, was definitely because of the University Hiking Club. Due to Manchester’s geographical location, it is convenient to travel to the famous tourist locations around UK, e.g. the Lake District (north) and Wales (southwest). So far, I have done over 50 hikes and ten weekend trips with the hiking club. It has been a great place for me socially too. I’ve been able to meet great people and have made some good friends.
Photography: Instead spending lots of time shopping and eating in Manchester, I love travelling around by bike and exploring interesting places in Manchester. I enjoy photography as a way to balance the science and art in me. I believe that you can’t have the rainbow without the rain and so fortunately, with Manchester’s many rainy days, it means rainbows aren’t too far away!
I have seen some of the most stunning sunsets and sunrises in metropolitan Manchester due to its unique climate; many pictures taken here were featured by the University, a local news agency and exhibited internationally. I even won a free trip to Turkey for some of the photographs I have taken!
What did you find most challenging about your undergraduate degree?
During my undergraduate, my biggest challenge was passing my final year written exams! The final year exam is usually essay-based, where students are required to answer two or three questions of their choices. As English is not my first language, it took me time to convert my ideas into suitable words and sentences under the exam stress. Fortunately, my progress was closely monitored by my adviser Dr Tracey Speake, and I really appreciated her crucial guidance which helped me pass the exams. In addition, I also attended several individual-based writing skill workshops that helped me practice my writings under exam timing. These were provided by the University and so as an international student, I felt as if I had all the support I needed.
What was most rewarding?
Comparing to exams, I had an exciting lab experience by doing my final year project in Dr Pawel Paszek’s lab. It really was a challenging project, investigating the heterogeneity of macrophage activation in single cells, but it simply inspired me to study more about immunology. I also met a group of helpful senior researchers in the lab and tried using the latest cutting-edge equipment available in Manchester’s Systems Microscopy Centre. I think this project gave me a strong motivation to study a postgraduate research degree.
Why did you choose to continue on and study your masters here?
So I decided to continue research in an environment that I was already familiar with and hoped to make some genuine contributions to science!
For my MSc course, I specifically decided to join the Neuroinflammation immunology Group to learn more about the signalling pathway leading to NLRP3 inflammasome activation. This research group is doing a cross-disciplinary field which investigates the importance of immune response implicated in various diseases such as stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. My experiments went really well and some of the materials were integrated into a publication.
What were the differences between undergraduate and masters?
The MSc course in the FBMH is completely lab-based, where you need to carry out two projects in the 12-month period. The assessment will be based on your performance in the lab, with an emphasis the final report on your research. Instead of doing exams, I love reading scientific papers and trying out different techniques or reagents in the lab. This lab-based project was really suitable for someone like me who is interested in taking on a postgraduate research position.
What’s next for you?
Now, I’m doing a PhD Neuroscience degree under the supervision of Dr David Brough, Dr Catherine Lawrence and Dr Sally Freeman! It is basically a continuation of my masters, but slightly more challenging and absolutely more rewarding. I have planned my start and right now I am doing some experiments and making sure everything goes right in the lab.
And finally, what advice would you give someone who was about to start their life here in Manchester?
Follow your interest and passion in science; you will eventually find a suitable area for yourself and do enjoy your study here in Manchester.