My MSc has helped me to think like a scientist and improved my confidence

Marga Albu
Marga Albu
PhD student, Max Planck Institute, Germany
Human and Molecular Genetics MSc
Marga is taking the next step in her cardiac developmental genetics research career with a PhD at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research - one of the top developmental genetics laboratories in the world. Marga believes that the guidance she received from her MSc tutors Dr Adam Hodgson and Dr David Turton, and her summer internships within Dr Emily Noël's laboratory, really helped her to stand out and secure her PhD.
Marga Albu

MSc Human and Molecular Genetics was a great choice for me as it provides a great deal of laboratory training and experience to support a future career in genetics research. In particular, I have found the training in bacteria and yeast culture, PCR, western blotting and CRISPR both in theory and in practice, to have been really helpful. At the beginning of the course I chose to study 3 lecture modules out of 7. I have really enjoyed these lectures, which have given me a comprehensive understanding of molecular genetics. This has improved my confidence and I now feel comfortable in tackling any research article or conversation related to this field. Finally, my MSc research project, which focuses on the development of a functional genomics assay for patients suffering from fatty acid metabolism diseases, has helped me to grow both as a scientist and as a person. I have become more independent throughout the project in terms of experimental planning, data analysis and presentation, and working in a team.

Following my previous bachelors degree (Biomedical Science) and my two summer cardiac development internships in Dr Emily Noël’s laboratory I developed a long-term career goal of working as a researcher in cardiac developmental biology. My MSc has improved my chances of realising this ambition. Recently, I applied to the Max Planck Institute to join my dream lab as a PhD researcher. The lab is one of the top developmental genetics laboratories in the world and is led by Dr Didier Stainier. After submitting my application and passing my Skype interview I was invited to attend the final recruitment event at the Institute over the summer. I was delighted when I was told that I had passed the final examination and I am very excited to start my PhD in Germany later this year!

Overall, this MSc helped develop my theoretical and practical knowledge of molecular genetics. It has helped me to think like a scientist and has improved my confidence.

Because I am at the very beginning of my career the interview was a relatively new experience for me, so I wanted to write something that may help others with similar career goals with some advice on a key step – the interview!

As part of my interview for my PhD I was asked to deliver a five minute presentation on my MSc research project. This was a very difficult challenge as five minutes didn’t seem long enough to say everything I felt I needed to. I asked my supervisor Dr Adam Hodgson and my research teacher Dr David Turton for help. Both Dr Hodgson and Dr Turton provided me with an enormous amount of support and advice. I met with each of them twice, which makes a total of four feedback sessions, each lasting around 40 minutes. From these meetings I learned how to focus on a central message, and that sometimes too much detail can be confusing, particularly to an audience who is unfamiliar with your research. I decided to dedicate most of my talk to the discussion of the impact of my work, how patients will benefit from my research, and my key experimental objectives. I was also advised to prepare extra slides for question handling which was the ‘cherry on top’. As a result, my interviewers massively congratulated me on my presentation, and I was really honoured to be asked so many questions by interested members of the audience. I firmly believe that the advice and feedback I received from Dr Hodgson and Dr Turton made me stand out of the crowd, and I will certainly bear this in mind for future presentations.

So, my advice to anyone in a similar situation in the future is to keep it simple, try and see your presentation from someone else’s perspective. Ask yourself what is it they want to understand and how likely are they to grasp the central points you are trying to communicate. To do this you need to take a step back, don’t be afraid to ask for help and make sure you leave plenty of time to prepare!

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