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Dissertation Day! Medicine student, Connor Tugulu, shares his experience of the iBSc Oncology programme.

By Wendy S Russell, on 12 August 2019

Written by Connor Tugulu (MBBS student)

iBSc Oncology students

(Left to right) Connor Tugulu, Sonam Patel and Meenusha Shanmuganathan celebrating submitting their final projects!

Handing in a dissertation is an exciting and nerve-wracking day. You’ve spent months of time working and thinking about your project. Then you have it there, all of your hard work printed and bound in your hands ready to give in. But of course before handing it over for assessment, you have to take the opportunity to commemorate the occasion! UCL is a world-leader in research and education, so taking a photo -especially a fun one like this- feels so very special. The portico is embedded in a UCL student’s memory from open days visiting the university, so is a prime spot to take some pictures and the UCL Cancer Institute has been our ‘home’ for the last 9 months during the iBSc Oncology programme.

Life in the lab

One element of the cancer iBSc that I particularly enjoyed was being based in the Cancer Institute itself. We had lectures, seminars and for most of our cohort also had our laboratories for our projects based here as well. For me, the laboratory for my project was at Great Ormand Street Hospital’s Institute of Child Health. I’ve genuinely never seen such a happy hospital – seeing the smiling faces of the children with their GOSH jumpers on was a wonderful way to start the day.

Researching blood cancers

My laboratory focussed on childhood blood cancers. Being in a lab so close to a hospital that would see patients with this condition every single day made my work feel all the more important. My specific project focused on the use of viral vectors in a gene silencing system, comparing two different systems to see which one was better. It was an amazing experience with a really lovely group of researchers. I learnt a lot of new skills, from the simple things like how to use a pipette properly to q-PCR, which is used to assess the amount of messenger RNA produced by a cell. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience in the lab and it has really stoked my interest for pursuing research in my future medical career.

iBSc Oncology programme

Another positive element of the iBSc Oncology course was the fact that handing in our dissertation was the final hurdle we had to finish the year. The modular system of exams meant we had been examined throughout the year with the submission of our dissertation being our final assessment. This not only meant over Easter we could really focus on our projects ensuring they were the best they could be, but also meant that throughout the year we learnt the content to a high degree rather than saving everything up until the end. For me this form of assessment was really beneficial and lead to a far deeper understanding of cancer as a disease but also how it has such a big influence on our society. I am so grateful for all of the people I met doing this course, both my fellow students, who could always be relied upon for their support, and the incredible staff who taught and helped us throughout the year. This year has left an indelible mark on my future career as a doctor. I was truly inspired by the work that UCL researchers are involved in and the many insights into this extraordinary world that we got to witness throughout this year.

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