Hear from some of our recent graduates about their experience at the SBCS and the University as a whole.
Charlotte Pike – Freshwater and Marine Ecology (graduated 2018)
Now Marine and Freshwater Intern at Zoological Society of London
I graduated with an MSc in Freshwater and Marine Ecology from Queen Mary in 2018. I was drawn to this course in particular due to the large practical aspect, with modules tailored for real-world application. It has been really valuable to be out in the field, learning and engaging with industry professionals, building networks and being given insight into the variety of career paths available to us. Having a module based solely on statistics, taking us back to basics and building our knowledge and confidence was hugely important to ensure complete understanding. My research project looked at using stable isotope analysis to evaluate the success of river restoration, which broadened my laboratory skill set, including allowing me to use some of the state-of-the-art equipment provided for students at Queen Mary. Most importantly for me, this project helped to build my confidence in public speaking, and exposed me to a number of other ways that I could effectively communicate science, integral for any career in this field. Finally, although I was only at Queen Mary for 12 months, I met some incredible, determined, passionate friends and lecturers, who encouraged and supported me throughout my time there!
Peter Petoe – Plant and Fungal Taxonomy, Diversity and Conservation (graduated 2017)
Now PhD student in Palm Evolution and Biodiversity at Aarhus University, Denmark, and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
I enrolled on the graduate programme offered jointly by Queen Mary and Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG), Kew in order to gain insight mainly into the field of taxonomy, which I thought is somewhat underrated and neglected as a scientific discipline despite its prominent role in the classification of all life on earth and the delimitation of species. This subject had not been covered in any detail during my undergraduate studies and I was eager to learn more about how the taxonomic process works in practice and ideally get my hands a bit dirty in the process. The course was overall really well taught. Some of the modules I found particularly interesting were statistics at Queen Mary, introduction to plant and fungal taxonomy at RBG Kew, the hands-on field trip to Madagascar where we made our own plant and fungal collections, and the immersive 6-month independent research module. I was very pleased that the latter module resulted in a publication of a high-end taxonomic journal and allowed me to become an authority on a South East Asian palm genus! One of the best things about Queen Mary and RBG Kew were the numerous occasions on which we were able to interact with scientific staff. Lecturers are always experts in their fields and were keen to answer just about any question I managed to come up with.
Ekaterina Gousseva - MSc Chemical Research (graduated 2017)
Now PhD Student in Chemistry at University of Reading
I made the decision to continue with my studies at Queen Mary after completing my Bachelor’s degree. Initially expecting to graduate and apply for corporate graduate schemes, I was introduced to the Chemical Research MSc course by my supervisor. Having never considered pursuing a career in science, but particularly enjoying my final year undergraduate project, it was the unique structure of the postgraduate course which led me to contemplate this as the next step. 80% of the Chemical Research MSc consists of a research project, which made my experience really worthwhile and helped me gain an insight into the world of academia. You have the freedom to choose which academic you wish to work with and take the time to complete a project thoroughly. The passion of the academics in at Queen Mary was inspiring and it really helped guide me in my choice to continue onto a Chemistry PhD.
Stuart Negus - MSc Aquatic Ecology by Research (graduated 2017)
Now PhD student on London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership
My Master's degree was MSc Aquatic Ecology by Research, but despite the title of the degree I was exposed to many different disciplines within biological science. Some of these I had touched upon in greater detail than in my undergraduate degree, such as ecological monitoring. However I learnt a vast amount in greater detail, including interesting topics I had never even heard of before, such as biogeochemistry. At Queen Mary we had learnt many different skills, particularly the demon that is statistical analysis - but the lectures were fun and engaging which made learning complex statistics more digestible and easy. A particular highlight was the focus on the research project for the final half of the year, where I was actively involved in novel research of loggerhead turtle feeding ecology across different time scales. This provided opportunities to not only to carry a project from concept into fruition, but also helped me to establish strong connections within the lab I worked in - where I ended up helping as a research assistant for further data collection after my Master's. I fully recommend Queen Mary, as it helped me to mature as scientific researcher and has no doubt played a vital part in my career development particularly in achieving a PhD scholarship with the London NERC DTP.
Gemma Golding - MSc Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (2017)
Now Assistant Ecologist at Atkins
I came to Queen Mary in 2016, having completed a BSc in Zoology at the University of Bristol, followed by a year working in an unrelated field at Imperial College London. I originally didn’t really consider postgraduate study as an option but missed the thrill of taking part in new research and learning about the natural world around us. My masters project used molecular techniques to identify the presence and evolutionary history of bacterial symbionts across a range of ant species, originating from all of the world. Ants are one of the most abundant and speciose organisms in the world. In comparison to other insects, very little is understood about any endosymbiotic relationships they exhibit, with only a few known examples of bacteriocyte-associated endosymbiont relationships. From the moment I arrived at Queen Mary, I felt at home and any worries about whether I had made the right decision to return to university immediately disappeared. While returning to study was ultimately to improve my employability in an area that I am passionate about, it gave me the freedom and ability to complete a much larger research project and get to know and learn from others working in the lab around me.
One of my best memories was a field trip to Borneo. We saw so many amazing animals, (including orangutans!), and really saw the effects deforestation has had on the landscape and wildlife first hand. The staff who went with us were absolutely amazing, making sure we all took as much from the experience as possible but making sure we had a great time too. After finishing at Queen Mary, I spent six months as a Seasonal Ecologist, assisting with the ecological surveying of great crested newt, water vole, bird, bat and barn owls, whilst volunteering one day a week at Rudiger Riesch's lab at Royal Holloway. I assisted a PhD student in processing fish data collected from Italy, Spain and Trinidad. This research looked at the circumstances influencing the predictability of phenotypic evolution in response to environmental variation. I then gained a full time role at Atkins, where I have further gained experience in Phase 1 habitat surveys and surveys for dormouse, badgers and reptiles in addition to more desk-based work. My time at Queen Mary really enabled me to meet great people, stretch my mind, find a career I enjoy and will always be a special place for me.
Nazrath Nawaz – MSc Bioinformatics (graduated 2016)
Now PhD student in Computational Biology at Queen Mary University of London
I obtained my BSc in Medical Genetics at Queen Mary which gave me a firm biological background. The rapid expansion of big data within Biology as well as finding a passion for the theoretical side lead me to choose to do an MSc in Bioinformatics. This intensive one-year degree allowed me to completely shift from the wet lab to a data scientist. Through the courses offered, we were taught to code in various relevant programming languages and thus gained the necessary skills to analyse data. With my background knowledge and the newly acquired skill set, I was equipped to pursue a PhD in Computational Biology. Even though I have chosen a route in academia, the programming skills and expertise of the MSc can be applied to handle any type of data, including industry. Completing this MSc helped to open up my career options and allowed me to choose what I really wanted to do. By the time I complete my PhD next year, I will have been at Queen Mary for eight years and have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. I have met and worked alongside some of the most amazing individuals and leading pioneers in their respective fields. Queen Mary has become my home.
Samadi Galpayage MSc Ecology Evolutionary Biology (graduated 2016)
Now PhD student in Cognitive Ecology at Queen Mary University of London
I started my MSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Queen Mary in 2015 as a full-time student, just a couple of months after graduating with a BSc Biology from the University of Bristol. For me, the highlights of the taught modules of the course were the field trips and the opportunities to talk to both academics and relevant stakeholders outside of the university. I found the practical focus of the course appealing because I gained a deeper insight into how science is applied in the real world, such as carrying out ecological surveys to inform policies. Dedicating half of the academic year to do my own research project was extremely rewarding because I experienced a very steep learning curve, not only about my topic of interest, but also about being a good scientist. I learned about bee vision and behaviour and found myself training bees to compare their short-term memory to their long-term memory. I was surrounded by knowledgeable and friendly people that were always keen to discuss fascinating scientific questions or just to help out if I needed it. These experiences made me determined to advance my skills in scientific research and led me to do a PhD in cognitive ecology of bees. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as an MSc student at Queen Mary because I felt that the course provided a great opportunity to immerse myself in a field that I found fascinating, as well as to really develop as a person.