In this blog, we spoke to Medical Genetics undergraduate student Mariam Hafidh Abbas from Iraq. Mariam is currently in her second year at the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences (SBCS) at Queen Mary University of London. She is the course representative of Genetics and Medical Genetics.
Mariam Hafidh Abbas
Why did you decide to study Medical Genetics at Queen Mary?
I actually started my path studying Medicine back where I live. I decided to apply to London for a course which I was really interested in. My parents have supported me immensely with this shift and I wouldn’t have done it without them. I found out that Medical Genetics programme at Queen Mary included modules that focussed on cell biology and genetic disorders and thus it was a perfect fit for me. I’m really enjoying this year in particular as the course material is going into lots of details on the different aspects of genetics.
What do you enjoy about the course?
I really enjoy the lab sessions as they are mostly practical work. I also like the workshops, where we are provided with certain cases of an affected person’s karyotype (chromosome numbers and arrangement) and we need to work out what disease the person has. In terms of lab work, we started with the basics such as how to use a microscope and a micropipette but more recently as an example, we have been looking at worms that can regenerate, which I find quite fascinating. I’m a person who really enjoys and loves communicating with others and I feel within the labs and workshops, I’m able to use this skill a lot.
What are your plans for the future?
I have big plans for my future. I would like to become a genetic counsellor as it combines my scientific passion with communication. Genetic counselling involves advising couples who might be affected with a genetic disorder on the risks and probability of conceiving a child with a genetic disorder. A genetic counsellor works directly with families and patients to offer genetic information and assess the level of risk in addition to advising them on how to reduce or manage that risk. Thus, I aim to pursue this by undertaking a master’s degree in genetic counselling and then continuing in the research field by taking a PhD in a research area of my interest.
Do you have any advice for other students?
I think it’s important to take part in extra curricular activities while you’re at university. I’ve enjoyed my role as a student representative on the Genetics and Medical Genetics programmes, taking part in regular meetings with academic staff and the Head of School to represent my peers. I’m also a committee member of two societies – the Arab society and the newly founded Iraqi society. In my free time, I love volunteering as Queen Mary offers lots of volunteering opportunities. It’s very important to balance your studies with other interests and activities as they help to build your personality. Finally, I would say try pursuing your dreams no matter how impossible they seem because you will get there if you put your mind to it.