Frankie, MSc Cancer, Biology and Therapeutics13 June 2017
Why did you choose to study a postgraduate degree at Cardiff University?
Having already spent three years at Cardiff, I have learnt to love the City, and certainly wasn’t ready to leave after studying as an undergraduate here. Cardiff is a relatively small city which is perfect for getting to know your way around, yet there is such a breadth of fun events and activities on offer all year round- I really couldn’t fault it! Most importantly however, Cardiff University is one of the top research institutes in the UK, with many groups carrying out ground-breaking research at the forefront of medical science. With respect to Cancer, my subject of interest, Cardiff has a wealth of experience and expertise in research and teaching-for example the recently built Hayden Ellis building houses some of the top researchers in the field of cancer stem cell research right here on campus, and in the School of Pharmacy where I am currently working, a number of novel discoveries have been made in the cancer field that have undoubtedly contributed towards improving outcome and quality of life for patients.
How was your experience as a postgraduate at Cardiff University, in terms of the programme?
The best thing about specialising in your area of interest at postgraduate level, is the smaller course sizes. This meant for me, as a student in the school of Pharmacy, that lectures become more like formal discussions that revolve around a central research topic, where ideas are bounced off one another to reinforce and to develop our understanding further. Smaller group sizes means asking questions is certainly less daunting than in huge undergraduate lectures, and you get to know the lectures and researchers in the department quite well.
Specifically relating to the cancer Biology and Therapeutics programme, I have found certain aspects play to my strengths as a bioscience graduate, whilst other aspects have challenged me to learn a broad spectrum of new skills. For example, we have had to develop scientific posters and presentations to present to peers as well as top researchers in the field; write essays on complex cancer concepts; develop and utilise specialist data analysis skills in scientific reports; as well as complete written assignments aimed at lay audiences and learn about the design and management of clinical trials.
This broad array of tasks has without doubt provided us with a multitude of skills to that will equip us for a range of employment opportunities in the future. On top of this, we have also gained practical skills in the lab, which are on-going in our current dissertation projects. The course has without doubt been challenging, but if you apply yourself- making use of free study time during the day, then you will be fine. As you progress throughout the course, the content builds on concepts learnt in the first term so the key is to keep detailed and organised notes throughout.
How was your experience of living in Cardiff, in terms of the city, social life and accommodation, again specifically as a PG?
First of all, I LOVE CARDIFF! Cathays or Roath is where most students live, and both are never more than about 20 minutes from the centre. The night life is great- such a wide range of nights are on in Cardiff to suit all tastes-I love going to some of the independent bars and clubs in Cardiff and the rooftop summer parties when the weather gets better! I also love exploring the whole independent business scene in cardiff including the markets, restaurants and coffee shops – where I go to relax and spend several hours writing up lecture notes or reading papers.
One of the best things about cardiff in my opinion however, is the sport. Cardiff is a hub for sporting events, from regional to international level- we’ve just had the champions league football final; the atmosphere was fantastic! There are autumn international rugby matches and six nations matches at the principality stadium here each year which are great to go and watch, and Cardiff is also host to many international cricket games at Cardiff arms Park.
Less than an hour drive away from Cardiff city centre is the Brecon Beacons national park, which is an absolutely stunning landscape of rolling hills and mountains-climbing ‘pen y fan’ should definitely be on the bucket list of every student that attends Cardiff University!
Although I didn’t live in University run postgraduate residences, there are many halls of residence available in Cardiff which are described in more detail on the website’s accommodation page. There are also events over the summer that the university runs to meet up with fellow postgraduate students and organise alternative accommodation through letting agencies. There are also always rooms being advertised on facebook groups and elsewhere online, so this wont be a problem for you at all.
What was different about your postgraduate experience at Cardiff University compared to your previous degree?
As I’ve already mentioned, the thing that was the most different to my undergraduate biosciences degree was the size of my course and therefore lectures. This means that staff are able to give more individual support. The specificity of the course content means the lectures are more tailored towards their own personal research endeavours, thus we are being taught by some of the world leading experts in their area within the school. This is alongside many guest speakers from different academic schools, or many with clinical backgrounds based at the Cardiff and Vale University Hospital, as well as smaller cancer treatment centres around Cardiff.
How did you fund your postgraduate degree?
I was lucky enough to be the first year that had the masters loan introduced for students that study in wales, living in England. On top of this, I was awarded an excellence scholarship based on academic excellence at undergraduate level- there is usually a second round of applications around June/July time so there is still time to apply for this if you wish! The scholarship covers half the programme fees, so with the masters loan I am able to cover fees plus living expenses-plus a little extra from part time work! The Cardiff university Jobshop is great for students looking for part time work on a casual basis to fit in around studies, or there are always jobs going in the city centre!
How do you think that your postgraduate degree is helping prepare you for the future – job aspirations, career development, future study, etc?
I think this course has been really helpful in opening my eyes to what other avenues of science I could pursue beyond a career in research, as well making me realise how much I enjoy communicating my specialist subject, cancer biology, to others with less knowledge- be it friends, family, or colleagues. As a result of this I am keen to follow a career path with a science communications focus that revolves around the delivery of complex scientific topics to others.