Jeannie Lee and her PhD

Since obtaining her BSc in Biomedical Science in 2012, Jeannie Lee has flung herself into postgraduate research and is now into the second year of her PhD studies at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKC) – a joint medical institute paired with both Imperial College London and Nanyang Technological University.

Jeannie previously worked as a Research Assistant (RA) in the Cancer Science Institute in Singapore and, even now, she still manages to shoot airsoft in her spare time and sit on several student committees, including President of the Graduate Student Club. Safe to say, she does it all! Take a look at how Jeannie’s time in Manchester planted the seed for what is already proving to be an extremely prolific career in research!…

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Back in 2012, I had to make an important decision between accepting a Biomedical Science degree offer from Manchester or, alternatively, an offer to study Medicine at the University of Bristol.

One of the main reasons the University stood out to me was the prestige: the University is one of the best in the UK, has one of the largest student populations in Europe and is part of the prestigious Russell Group. In addition to this, a senior figure who had studied there previously gave an amazing review of the University, so ultimately I chose Manchester.

scastleManchester is a big, progressive, modern city, and pleasingly compact compared to London; it’s a dynamic place with all the attractions you’d want.

I stayed in private accommodation called, the Student Castle. I loved the location, the facilities and the staff – it was definitely a breeze arranging accommodation in Manchester.

Whilst many people had mentioned the cold, northern weather, the people are so friendly that you don’t care so much – and they always have time for a cup of tea!

Choosing not only Manchester but Biomedical Science was one of the best decisions I have ever made; I have met great friends and lifelong mentors who have continued to guide me throughout my life.

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The support I had from the faculty was second to none. I was mentored by Dr. Tracey Speake and Dr. Berenika Plusa, who were with me throughout my degree: from making sure that I settled into the city and university, to offering me guidance and support to get through – they were there every step of the way.

As well as an emphasis on hands-on laboratory sessions, there was a variety of interesting modules, ranging from Cells and Tissues in Human Disease to Principles of Infectious Disease, as well as the mandatory elements such as academic tutorials and the Clinical Sciences Experimental Design Module.

uni friendThe degree was both challenging and rewarding. Whilst it was new to me, I absolutely adored the team-based learning (TBL) sessions during tutorials: because they are student-centric, it allowed us to learn from our fellow tutorial mates.

My personal highlight would have to be my final year project under Dr. John Burthem, who taught me so much about research, from the planning of experiments to the actual execution and writing of a thesis.

The constant support from my postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Karen Rees-Unwin, was comforting and she was incredibly helpful as I was busy running experiments across the various local and University hospitals.

The laboratory practical sessions – a demanding 6-hour marathon in second year! – really helped me develop my practical lab and data handling skills, easing my transition into final year projects and RA days.

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Following graduation, I pursued my interest in haematological malignancies and worked as an RA at the Cancer Science Institute (CSI), Singapore, under Prof. Chng Wee Joo. My research focused on identifying novel cancer therapeutic targets, identifying potential therapeutic drugs and pathways for various haematological malignancies such as Acute Myeloid Leukemia, Lymphoma and Multiple Myeloma.

The days were hectic but fulfilling: my role allowed me to carry out research as well as interact with patients enrolled in the study. Slowly and steadily, I began to fall further in love with research as I had under Dr. Burthem and Dr. Rees-Unwin. It’s safe to say that both my time in Manchester and at the CSI helped prepare me for the step up from a Bachelor’s to a PhD.

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After once again considering med school, I eventually decided on a PhD and started actively looking for scholarships. Together with the encouragement from the University and thebfaculty, I applied to LKC and in January 2018, I embarked on a four-year research project with Prof. Andrew Tan, studying effects of catastrophic oxidative stress in metastatic cancer.

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I would unreservedly recommend the Biomedical Science at the University of Manchester. If I was to offer any advice to anyone, it would be to attend the open days as you get a chance to talk to the faculty and the students; if you’re an international student like me, don’t be afraid to email the friendly admissions team with your questions before choosing the course.

As for me where I’ll go next, I definitely want to try something new – perhaps stepping into the pharmaceuticals or medicine, finally, but I’m loving my PhD journey so far and who knows where it’ll take me!


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