When I first started medical school, I was adamant that I wouldn’t enjoy research. I thought that research was boring and had a certain stereotype of what a researcher looked like in my mind. Unsurprisingly, several studies show that this is the perception most young people have concerning scientists. In a study called “draw a scientist”, 65% of these young school children drew “Albert Einstein style” scientists 1 and this stereotype often continues to the college level 2. So, like many, I decided early on that research wasn’t for “people like me”. I now know that everyone can find their place in the research field and find a topic that peaks their interest. I would like to think that at the end of reading this, your perception changes, like mine has.
Why Tissue Engineering?
Early in medical school, I realised I enjoyed anatomy dissection, visual learning, and an intellectual challenge. These qualities led me to realise I wanted to become a surgeon. My 2nd year project, “3D Bioprinting; How close are we to off-the-shelf body parts?” was my first experience with academic work, and this gave me the opportunity to learn more about TERM. I found myself enjoying the research process. Every article felt sci-fi to me, and I found it amazing how far we have come in the field of regenerative medicine and the future possibilities in treating patients. My supervisor, who was a plastic surgeon, was very encouraging and pointed me in the direction of the MSc in TERM. I realised that TERM’s versatility is relevant across all surgical specialities and would be ideal for my career trajectory.
Fortunately, the MSc in TERM was offered at the University of Manchester. Manchester has become my second home after moving here from Cyprus, and I decided I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
At Manchester, to be able to apply to intercalate, it is a requirement to pass all your medical school assessments. To apply for an MSc, you must be in the third or fourth year. You can apply to a few courses, and you are required to send a personal statement for your top choice course. I only applied to the MSc in TERM.
The Course Outline:
The course comprises five compulsory components. Four of these are modules which comprise of research methods and skills, laboratory skills, tutorials on critical appraisal, and a specialised masterclass unit. The masterclass unit gives you specialist knowledge of tissue engineering/regenerative medicine and a sufficient understanding of the general methodology and philosophy of research within these disciplines and its relationship to clinical therapy and commercial application. It is a truly multidisciplinary training environment.
My Typical Week:
Your schedule each week differs depending on what semester you are in. In semester 1, everything is face to face, and you are more involved with your cohort through lectures, seminars, and tutorials. In semester 2, you tend to spend most of your time with your lab colleagues and are on campus every day to do your experiments. The nice thing about semester 2 is the independent work you’re able to do. You are usually able to choose when you do experiments and are able to brainstorm in real-time. I personally have enjoyed thinking on my feet each week and learning new skills. I have included some of the many lab skills I will do on an average week in semester 2. All projects in semester 2 are wet lab.
How is the course assessed?
There is a mix of assessments used. 50% of your degree is based on your performance in your lab-based research project and dissertation. The rest of your assessments are assignments, tutorials, and a few small multiple-choice exams. Most of these assessments are done within the first semester in order to equip you with lab skills and research methodology prior to starting in the lab. This means that in the second semester you can immerse yourself in the lab environment and focus solely on your experiments and writing.
Positives of the Course
This course has given me the opportunity to work on a research topic that I not only enjoy but is relevant to my future career and training. I was very lucky to have been allocated to a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Lab. This meant that I was surrounded by inspiring surgeons and researchers, all of whom imparted their words of wisdom on how to succeed in the future and have been incredibly supportive. I found that a lot of the researchers in the lab had creative streaks like myself, and we even have an illustrations group chat where we can have opportunities to contribute to papers/journals and social media using our art! The smaller course size meant that most of my peers had also been allocated their top choice project, and many of them are now doing PhDs with said labs. Furthermore, actively engaging in bioengineering research at the university has allowed me to form connections with nationally renowned academics, whom I hope to ask for advice in the future.
Whilst medical school equips us to become well-rounded students, there is a lack of time to take on basic science research and fully focus on one research topic. I have been able to learn about every aspect of tissue engineering through every discipline and now have knowledge of the production and translation of bioengineered solutions to surgical problems. I hope to take this knowledge forward in my career and hopefully, become an academic surgeon.
I am always eager to learn and have thoroughly enjoyed learning new skills and techniques. The laboratory experience allows you to be able to adapt when things go wrong and has truly made me more resilient! I have been able to participate in animal surgical courses, practice my microdissection and improve my dexterity, and ultimately improve my knowledge of basic science. I have been able to present my work and improve my public speaking skills. I also have aims of publishing this work in the future. The MSc has given me the chance to combine research experience with my personal attributes of creativity, drive, and enthusiastic personality all in one place.
Negatives of the course
Like any MSc, the course is quite demanding and requires resilience when experiments ultimately go wrong. There is a steep learning curve when learning laboratory skills. It can often feel intimidating when there are students on your course who have a basic science background. However, this has been an opportunity to learn from my peers and ultimately improve.
The MSc in TERM is a versatile course, and you can truly mold its structure to your own goals and aspirations. You can get a first-hand experience of how bioengineering solutions transform from mechanism to mouse to medicine. I cannot recommend this course enough to anyone interested in an academic career.
If you would like to learn more about an MSc in Tissue Engineering for Regenerative Medicine, here is the course website link:
I would also be happy to answer any questions anyone has about the course on Twitter: @GeorgiaSavvides
Margareta M. Thomson, Zarifa Zakaria, Ramona Radut-Taciu, “Perceptions of Scientists and Stereotypes through the Eyes of Young School Children”, Education Research International, vol. 2019, Article ID 6324704, 13 pages, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/6324704
Schinske, J., Cardenas, M. and Kaliangara, J., 2015. Uncovering scientist stereotypes and their relationships with student race and student success in a diverse, community college setting. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 14(3), p.ar35.