How to make the most of your Genetics degree

Making the decision to leave home to go and study at a university in a different country isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. However, with over 7000 international students currently studying at undergraduate level at the University of Manchester, there arguably isn’t a better university in the UK for overseas students to come to.

Third year Genetics student, Alice de Sampaio Kalkuhl made that decision in 2016 and (despite the weather) the move has proved to be a fruitful one. Her passion for genetics is clear and here she gives her verdict on how to make the most of your time on a Biosciences course…



I came to Manchester from Germany in 2016 to study genetics not really knowing what to expect. Hopping on that plane was a huge step, but I did it, and it was definitely worth it. The day before I arrived, the weather forecast said that Manchester was experiencing heavy rainfall but to my surprise I was greeted by blue skies and sunshine, something that I soon came to realise was a rare event! Even today I’m still astonished by how mild the weather is here.

People study genetics and other biosciences for different reasons. You will meet the ones who are set on becoming researchers, the ones that want to make all the money in industry and the ones who just don’t know. You can also look at it another way where you put genetics students in two groups. Those who hate Drosophila melanogaster (common fruit fly) and the ones who don’t. The reason why this is important is because the common fruit fly is a model organism for genetic studies and we study them in second year. So, where do I stand? First of all I want to be a researcher and secondly, I really enjoyed the fly labs in year two! It’s fun, I promise.


So, how do you make the most of your degree? There are tons of advice on the internet and I just want to draw your attention to three points: extra reading, public talks, and self care.

Do the extra reading. It’s as easy as it sounds. If you don’t want to print it all out or don’t want to read on your laptop, download them on to your phone. Textbooks are often outdated, especially in genetics and if you don’t get into the habit of doing the extra reading, you will write something outdated in your literature review or in an essay. Doing the extra reading also makes writing all of those a lot faster.

Go to as many talks as possible. There are research talks everywhere and researchers from all over the world come to Manchester to present their research. I honestly don’t know a single better networking opportunity than those talks. Occasionally, one of the researchers even talks about a topic that is relevant to your exams which can obviously come in really handy when revising and in the exam itself.


Remember that you don’t only study in Manchester. You also live here. Make sure that you don’t forget to take care of yourself. Eat proper meals, sleep as much as you need and drink a little less coffee and alcohol than you would like to. By the time the year progresses you’ll be happy that you don’t have to deal with exhaustion on top of revision.

Think of studying in Manchester as your years on the frontiers of science. The lecturers are amongst the best in their fields and it will show in the units. Sometimes that means that the exam questions are all based on the extra reading, but it also means that you get to hear the latest research and that you get the best degree possible. I made the most of my time here in Manchester and so can you.

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