Studying at University of Sheffield has been a transformative experience

Photo of current MSc student Belva outside a university building
Belva Clearesta
Masters student
MSc Drug Discovery Science
MSc Drug Discovery student, Belva Clearesta, moved to Sheffield from Indonesia. She chose Sheffield based on the programme, the Chemistry department and really liked the balance between vibrant city life and nature that Sheffield offers.
Photo of current MSc student Belva outside a university building

We caught up with Belva and asked her some questions about why she chose Sheffield and how she's finding her course: 

What did you do before you started the MSc Drug Discovery? 

I did my bachelor in pharmaceutical sciences in Bandung Institute of Technology in Indonesia where I am from. After graduating, my internships in the pharma and cosmetic industry made me realise that I want to explore more about the discovery of drugs. I believe getting a higher degree in that area would help prepare myself to work in the research field of the industry.

Why did you choose Drug Discovery & Sheffield? 

I came across MSc in Drug Discovery Science at the University of Sheffield, which offers an integrated curriculum that will help me prepare for my career path. They have modules in drug design which has helped me in understanding ways to optimise the efficacy of drugs. Moreover, the flexibility to choose up to three optional modules is also one thing that I like about the course. This enabled me to explore other modules related to the course that interest me the most. 

And about Sheffield, honestly, this is the only university I applied for in the UK for MSc in Drug Discovery. I saw the programme, the school, the city and all of them seem like a good environment for me. Sheffield itself has quite a balance between the vibrant city life and nature, which I really like.

What have been your favourite things about the course? 

The computer-aided modelling is definitely one thing I like about the course. I think knowledge in computational chemistry is important in drug discovery, and might be one of the highly sought-after skills in the near future. Plus it’s fun and cool to do molecular modelling with the computer.

I also got to attend the 2023 European Peptide Synthesis Conference in Leeds together with my fellow coursemates. Thanks to our course director, we had a pleasant taster experience of a scientific conference and how to network with professionals.

Has anything been surprising to you about the course? 

Although focusing on the chemistry underpinning drug design, the course also incorporated some aspects of pharmacology, toxicology, and a bit of drug formulation which surprised me a bit, in a good way. Naturally, I love it because it feels familiar to me, given my background in pharmaceutical science during my BSc studies.

Have you learnt any new skills on the course aside from the Chemical knowledge you've gained? 

Definitely! In addition to gaining chemical knowledge, the course has helped me develop skills in critical thinking, problem-solving, and data analysis. Effective communication, both written and verbal, has also been emphasised with the module in research, presentation, and professional skills. Overall, I've gained a wide range of skills that will be super useful as I move forward in the field of chemistry.

How have you found the research project? 

I am currently working on the design and synthesis of boronic acid derivatives as antimicrobial agents. As I carry out both computational and lab-based projects, I have found it is interesting to see how my computational result links to my synthesis work. The project has allowed me to develop more hands-on skills in the lab and has honed my analytical skills.

Moreover, I have received a lot of support from my supervisory team, both from the department and the industry I am working with. I have no experience in performing organic chemistry and am eager to learn every bit of it, and everyone has been so supportive and encouraging, which keeps me motivated to give my best for the experiment and my thesis.

How does your MSc compare to your BSc? 

While my BSc had more lab time and teachings, I need to manage my own time well in my MSc program. We do have lectures, but to deepen my understanding, self-study is always on my to-do list. I think it is also nice that I have the flexibility to arrange my own study schedule and to delve deeper into topics that captivate my interest. Another thing I'd like to highlight is the small cohort. We have around 30 students, which is almost one-third of my undergrad class size and I feel more engaged as this allows more intimate discussions.

As an international student, how did you find the transition to the UK and to the University of Sheffield? 

It has been a transformative experience, I would say. The international office for Southeast Asia had some pre-departure webinars which helped me a lot, in addition to some guidance from seniors from my country. The orientation week especially facilitated the transition from living with my parents to moving abroad smoother and less stressful. Through that event, I’ve found my best friends from different countries and educational backgrounds, and that helped me to adapt quicker with all the differences. Moreover, Sheffield's multicultural environment and welcoming community has created a positive learning environment for me.

Have you had any other experiences / opportunities whilst studying here that you’d like to share? 

Yes, while studying here, I had an opportunity to contribute to the Students’ Union as the PGT representative councillor. We have had a lot of interesting conversations on shaping our uni better. I learnt a lot about improving my communication skills and managing my time along the way. I also had the chance to be a participant in the 'Broadening the Horizons in Chemical Sciences' programme, offered by the Royal Society of Chemistry. The programme aims to deepen our knowledge in preparing careers in the field of chemical science and give the opportunity to network and explore different professional development. While this scheme is not a part of the MSc programme, the Department of Chemistry let us know about this opportunity, which I am very grateful for. 

I have visited different cities in Europe and in the UK while studying here too. To name some, I have been to Edinburgh, London, Bath, Belfast, Birmingham and nearby cities like York, Manchester, Nottingham and Leeds. Hopefully, the adventure will keep going as I finish my degree!

What are your favourite things to do in Sheffield? 

As a big fan of sweet drinks, going to cafes for lattes or bubble tea shops are one of those! I also enjoy travelling around Sheffield with my friends, even just for a stroll – that’s how lovely and walkable the city is. 

What do you hope you do after you graduate? 

After I graduate, my plan is to land an internship or a job in the pharmaceutical industry, specifically in the field of drug research and development. I'm excited to put the knowledge and skills I've gained during my studies into action and play a part in making advancements in this field.

Four students laughing while sat at a bench, outside the Students' Union

International scholarships

We offer a generous package of financial support for international students, including undergraduate and postgraduate taught scholarships towards the annual tuition fee. Applications are open for existing offer holders.