International student stories: Studying at Sussex’s School of Life Sciences
Source: University of Sussex

Are you looking to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in the life sciences, or to hone your expertise in the field with a career-boosting Master’s qualification? You may want to consider doing so at the University of Sussex’s School of Life Sciences in England.

The life sciences is a fascinating field of study and one that’s constantly evolving. Prospective students will find that the school’s diversity–with expertise in areas as varied as cancer biology, drug discovery, neuroscience and biodiversity–lays the perfect foundation for them to develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in their chosen endeavours.

But what is it like to live and study at Sussex as an international student? Here are stories from three students reflecting on their social and academic experiences at the university:

Muratha Sottatipreedawong from Thailand, BSc Biomedical Science

Muratha Sottatipreedawong

While choosing a university course, what made you select a life sciences degree at the University of Sussex?

Being a student at Mahidol University’s (in Thailand) BSc in Biomedical Sciences 2+2 programme involves spending the last two years of my degree at Sussex. I chose this programme because the school has strong research areas in the fields of biochemistry and neuroscience. The programme also provides me with an opportunity to do research in an active laboratory environment, which provides the foundation for me to further my studies in my field of interest.

What’s your favourite part about living the University of Sussex undergraduate student lifestyle?

The school has given me an opportunity to work in Ruth Murrell-Lagnado’s lab this summer, which is the favourite part of my undergraduate studies. Being at the lab gives me plenty of hands-on laboratory practice and will develop my academic skills and scientific thinking processes for conducting experiments. The supervisor and graduate students here have also given me great advice and support. There’s also great facilities at Sussex, such as the 24/7 library.

Teaching at the Sussex School of Life Sciences is strongly research-led and focused on developing the skills and employability needed by the next generation of scientists and innovators. How does this school prepare you for the future worlds of work?

My goal is to further my studies in research. My undergraduate programme at Sussex acts as basic preparation for a future career in healthcare and research. You’ll learn loads of useful practical skills in the lab which are linked to the core content of each module.

Apart from learning research skills, you will also have access to the latest scientific papers which are useful for research projects. As with my experience in the lab, Sussex’s graduate students have been really helpful – they have given me great advice on performing experiments or have considered my ideas while working together. Also, there is lots of English language support at Sussex so you will improve your writing and communication skills.

Victoria Hilley from the US, MRes Animal Behaviour

Victoria Hilley

While looking at potential Master’s courses, what made you select a degree at the University of Sussex School of Life Sciences?

I’d met Prof William Hughes – my future supervisor – in Zambia when I was working for an NGO studying lions. I had expressed how I wanted to do a Master’s in animal behaviour, and he told me about the course! I was instantly sold. I did, however, apply to other universities but none of them had the variety in classes like Sussex did. No other university had the MRes Animal Behaviour option; I wanted an MRes because I wanted a career in research and have more opportunities to broaden my horizons through the multiple field courses Sussex had to offer.

How do you think your Master’s course is shaping your future career and enabling you to prepare for the future world of work?

The variety of classes we had allowed me to expand the skills I had acquired from past jobs and my Bachelor’s. For example, to have the opportunity to participate in marine field courses and learn about the data collection of corals and marine life while scuba diving, now opens another door for future job opportunities.

If you could offer a piece of advice to international students that are considering a Master’s course at the Sussex School of Life Sciences, what would it be?

Be prepared to be more independent than during your Bachelor’s–the professors won’t hold your hand the whole way. However, all of your classmates are in the same boat, so you’re not alone. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help either. You will definitely receive help when you ask for it since everyone is very approachable. Just jump in and remember to have fun!

Nisha Peter from India, MSc in Genetic Manipulation and Molecular Cell Biology and PhD in Biochemistry

Nisha Peter

While looking at potential Master’s courses, what made you select a degree at the University Of Sussex School Of Life Sciences?

Among the main reasons I chose this Master’s course was because of the amount of exposure students are given in the lab for the dissertation project. A lot of time is spent on developing practical research skills, which was really important to me, while there is also really good student support available for international students.

The Master’s courses at the University of Sussex School of Life Sciences aim to help you develop your career. How do you think your Master’s course is shaping your future career and enabling you to prepare for the future world of work?

Following my Master’s, I did my PhD in Biochemistry from Sussex as well under the Genome Damage and Stability Centre (GDSC). My Master’s helped lay the foundation for my research career in the UK. My PhD supervisor, post-docs in the lab as well as the other researchers at the GDSC were really helpful and supportive.

The practical work and project work in the lab during my Master’s was such good preparation for my PhD! I’m now a Research Fellow at the Sussex Drug Discovery Centre in the School of Life Sciences! My current job is developing cellular assays for the Oncology-Wellcome Trust Portfolio.

What is the campus atmosphere like at the University of Sussex?

I grew up in Bombay (Mumbai now), which is a metropolitan city buzzing with people and surrounded with tall buildings. We don’t have lush green spaces in the middle of the city. But at Sussex University you are surrounded by a natural park and it was really refreshing being around so much greenery! I really enjoyed taking walks to Stanmer Park with my friends as a way to unwind and take a break from the studying!

Do you have a memorable moment to share with us from your academic studies at Sussex?

One of our modules on the course was particularly difficult to study. I’d approached my professor for some help with the revision and struggled to understand his accent. He recognised it and was kind enough to write down what he was saying, so I could understand him and that helped me prepare for my examination.

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