What to expect from a master’s in Clinical Biochemistry

MSc Clinical Biochemistry graduate, Emily Goodall, is currently completing a PhD at the University of Manchester where she is looking at the cellular mechanisms that are involved in regulating cell migration. Just like many students, this wasn’t her plan when she started her undergraduate or postgraduate degrees but her experiences while studying made her realise that this was what was best for her. Below, find out from Emily what to expect from the MSc Clinical Biochemistry programme at Manchester and discover why she loved it so much… 


Why Clinical Biochemistry?

I’ve always been interested in biology as I have a deep desire to understand the workings of the human body; how the cogs all fit together to maintain a happy homeostasis. Clinical biochemistry is the study of using bodily fluids, such as blood, urine (and even faeces!) to determine the health of a patient and diagnose any medical conditions they may have.

Naturally, an interest in the human body lead me to take a career path towards becoming a clinical scientist for the NHS. Most lectures were taught by specialist NHS clinicians, and we were taught alongside students on the Healthcare Scientists Training Programme (STP). Manchester’s clinical biochemistry masters is undoubtedly one of the best places to get a strong background for the STP.

The course

The course is split into three sections, which correspond to years one, two and three of the STP course. Lectures are given in intense blocks of 9-4 teaching for five weeks so you are required to have good time management. I found that these intense blocks of teaching worked well because it gave us time to consolidate our knowledge before exams, and complete a few essays for coursework.

There are also two blocks of laboratory sessions where clinical tests are performed and validated.  At the end of the year, there is a 12 week research project that can be either ‘wet’ or ‘dry (either in the lab or at a computer). These are chosen from a list of project proposals that are arranged with academic researchers at the university, or hospital based projects.


The highlights

I have three shining experiences of the course: the first one being the academic support. The two academics who oversee the course were incredibly supportive from start to finish. They would arrange meetings to discuss our progress through the course and options for the future. In addition to this, they would always quickly reply to e-mails and help as much as they could.

The second was my research project. I chose a wet-lab based project, and this gave me better lab experience than I had ever previously had. It was both challenging and rewarding. At the end of the project you submit a literature review and scientific report of your results. This was a large undertaking, requiring a lot of time and hard work, however, having had this experience, I was able to get a PhD at Manchester, thus for me it was the most rewarding part of the course.

The third and final highlight was my cohort. Spending large blocks of time together means you get to know your classmates on the course very well. Throughout the course you will partake in group activities and seminars. This lead to developing a strong support network  and gave me some lifelong friendships! At the end of it all, we were given a great graduation-send off.


Where I am now

I started the course thinking that I would enrol in the Clinical Biochemistry STP scheme after graduating. A number of my classmates have been successful in this endeavour, and I am still interested in the Clinical biochemistry STP myself, however having enjoyed the research project so much I chose to follow on the MSc with a PhD.

My PhD is based in the same lab as where I did my master’s project. I am looking at cellular mechanisms involved in regulating cell migration, which has a broad range of clinical implications such as cancer metastasis and wound healing in the immune response.

I have remained in contact with the course academics, and demonstrated one of their laboratory based modules, to their new cohort this year. They have also helped me to stay in contact with clinicians in the NHS.


Words of advice

Top tips for a successful clinical biochemistry masters:

  • Manage your time well – The course is structured to deliver a large amount of interesting material to learn, but could leave you stressed and overwhelmed if you don’t systematically tackle your coursework and revision.
  • Exploit your support network – Help and support is offered from all angles. Make sure you communicate with your academics, ask STP students for advice and work as a team with your cohort.
  • Keep your options open – This course is tailored towards the STP Clinical Biochemistry scheme, but opens up a lot of opportunities for other career paths due to the many opportunities and skills given in the MSc.

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