My Keen Interest in Biology and Chemistry

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The intricate processes of life are all governed by chemical reactions. The way bonds are broken, formed and the movement of electrons from one substance to another are concepts that have always fascinated me.

To believe I, a living and conscious being, consist mostly of just 3 common elements: Oxygen, Carbon and Hydrogen. These separate atoms can precisely help combine to create a living organism. Or combine to destroy a living organism. I am of Tanzanian descent, a country full of spreading diseases where the deaths of millions are overlooked, instead of asking “why”. Initially through medicine, science has always been a part of my life. The passing of my father at a young age in Tanzania without being pretentious, was a life changing experience that greatly aided with my career choice. This paved my interest into studying a career to do with biology and chemistry.

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The ability to explore the inter-relationship of natural and biomedical science and having the most prestigious gift of improving quality of life by manufacturing vaccines and medicine, to obliterate disease completely. The threat of the on-going growth of disease is a ticking time bomb, a study I wish to pursue. The how and why living organisms function have intrigued me since reading ‘Horrible Science’ books as a child I remember being impressed by the phenomena of life. The study of biology and chemistry enlightened me on the complexity of the human body and how life can be broken down into various chemical reactions/biological processes for example how amino acids join to form proteins which have many functions, and the slightest change of a single molecule in our chemical makeup can spell disaster. I want to explore the world of human biology, studying the transcription of DNA into proteins during AS last year was extremely fascinating, the idea of how an entire organism can be broken down into four chemical bases amazed me.

My interests in studying genetics and cancer widened, after returning from an overwhelming visit to Tanzania this summer, and witnessing how people are being presented with an unexplained fever was astonishing to me. I decided to carry out further research on ScienceDaily and I learnt how this fever was not linked to the Plasmodium parasite that causes malaria, and how scientists are currently carrying out genetic sequencing methods such as VirCapSeq-VERT, to find out more about the fever, research that I would love to be a part of. In addition, on my visit, finding out that one of my aunties was diagnosed with breast cancer. The moment left me bereft, as a coping mechanism my curiosity led me to learn in depth about the mechanisms involved in the uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells.

Reading an article on New Scientist on Judy Perkins a woman who survived breast cancer, the use of a type of drug called “checkpoint inhibitor” used to boost cell activity, and increase lymphocytes that recognise mutations in Perkins Cancer.Furthermore, after attending a Biology and Medicine residential at Trinity College Cambridge, here I attended various lectures, one that particularly interested me was a lecture on cancer titled: "when good cells go bad" by Dr Mona Shehata. Here she discussed the causes of cancers; genetic, predisposition, environmental issue and infectious agents. She also touched on the types of lesions: Benign, Invasive and Metastatic. Oncology is not something I've looked into, but after attending this lecture and my aunties recent diagnosis I began reading an article on Livescience titled “How close are we, really, to curing cancer with CRISPR” where I was delighted in learning about gene-editing and CRISPR technology. The ability of opening up a strand of viral DNA using associated proteins such as Cas9 and correcting any error was truly astonishing.

Undertaking a week-long placement at Newham general hospital shadowing a doctor in the stroke unit was hugely informative to see real life effects on the patients of how a blood vessel being blocked by a clot can affect the human body. From further research, I learnt during strokes there’s an increased amount of intracellular Ca2+ which sends off a signal for cells to self-destruct and produce free radicals. Thus, most neurons that die following a stroke are originally healthy cells that potentially commit suicide due to a chain of reactions.I was also given the option to visit the Morgue and although hard for someone in my position my fear turned into fascination, I’ve always been intrigued to learn more and go out of my comfort zone.

Additionally, I took part in the UK Mathematics Trust challenge in which I received a gold award, I achieved the highest mark in my school and in the top 2.5% of females in the country. I was then invited to attend a UKMT summer school at Oxford University this encouraged my lateral thinking and an incentive attitude to problem solving. I also then attended a biochemistry lecture at the open day of Oxford where the topic of gene therapy was touched upon.

In my spare time, I am a keen sportsperson and love to play football and basketball I was able to represented West Ham Ladies being captain this developed my teamwork and leadership skills, I was able to maintain balance with training and workload. I also enjoy physical and mental challenges such as Duke of Edinburgh. I am also a self-taught barber and have enjoyed developing my manual dexterity and working and listening to others.

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