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Emma Lalande – Lincoln College

BMS - E Lalande.jpegComing into the degree, I already knew I wanted to gain more hands-on wet lab experience – I’d managed to get a Bacteriology-based Nuffield Research placement the summer before Year 13, and that had really helped me to choose to apply to Oxford. I had also been told, however, that gaining placements at the end of first year would be challenging, so I started with the Careers Service in the hope of finding something, and was preparing to contact individual labs.

Luckily, I found a great summer opportunity through the Careers Service – funded by an industrial bursary, I went to Perm (Russia) for 6 weeks and studied the impact of zinc oxide nanoparticles on the cell surface morphology of Rhodococcus bacteria in the Kuyukina Lab. The project was especially amazing in that I was trained to use a combined atomic-force and confocal laser-scanning microscope, one of 2 in the world, and which cemented my interest in microscopy.

Following my neuroscience-pharmacology FHS in the Jagannath Laboratory, I decided to apply to external programmes for my second year summer – again aiming to travel – and was very happy to secure a place on the LMU Munich AMGEN Scholars programme. In the Angelika Vollmar Lab, I researched the pharmacological and potential anti-cancer properties of phyllobilins (chlorophyll derivatives) for 8 weeks. The course was fully funded by Amgen, meaning our cohort was also given an induction into the pharmaceutical corporation, and I loved being around super engaging scientists and learning chemistry techniques, which I never would have come across in Oxford with my chosen degree themes (Infection and Cardiovascular Science in third year).

Regardless of placements, I had decided early-on that I wanted to keep my options open as much as possible, and the Careers Service has really facilitated that for me. Before Perm, I had gone on the Insight into Pharma/Biotech day and then a 5-day publishing micro-internship at the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (RSTMH). I discovered that I really enjoyed academic editing and the publishing process, and for the first time, had really been able to see scientific careers other than wet lab research…And I suppose this eventually led me to take part in The Oxford Scientist, Oxford’s student science magazine.

2 years and 3 research placements later, the idea of Intellectual Property Law was still somewhat tantalising – cf IP lecture material on the supplementary Chemical Pharmacology course – and so I managed to gain a micro-internship with Morgan Sports Law, as a Science Analyst. As you may have already guessed, I also really enjoyed this – so no help narrowing down the chosen career path there!

Regardless of whether you know exactly what you want to do, or – like me – you seem to enjoy a myriad of things and want to try everything, my advice to you would be the same: Go For It! Spend some time refining your application and communication skills, apply (within reason) to programmes you find intriguing and around which you can balance your lifestyle and studies, and make the most of each experience. If you can go abroad, go abroad, immerse yourself in new experiences – grab your opportunities with both hands, and most importantly, have fun whilst doing so.

Emma is now a student on the Interdisciplinary Biosciences DTP DPhil Programme here in Oxford, with a particular appetite for Infection Biology. She is hoping to undertake rotations in both Bacteriology and Virology, and her aim is to research the molecular bases of neglected, deleterious pathogenic diseases that burden populations less well-equipped to deal with them.