Matthew Reid - BMedSci Health and Human Sciences
When did you graduate?
Why did you choose the University of Sheffield?
Mostly I was attracted to Sheffield through a combination of the course’s features and the university’s standing and reputation. I think the BMedSci offers a unique opportunity to study the key concepts in biological and health sciences, within a multidisciplinary and intimate atmosphere. By creating a broad outlook that maintains a clear focus on clinical impact, the degree facilitates the development of skills and expertise, which enable progression into a broad range of potential careers. Similarly, by maintaining a program centered on excellent teaching provision, small lecture sizes, outstanding feedback and resources, the course truly enables students to develop their team-working skills as well as critical and academic reasoning. All of this comes with the social advantages of studying in Sheffield, alongside the currency that Russell Group universities hold, in relation to employment prospects and research.
What do you think of Sheffield?
The location and vibrancy of Sheffield as a city played a big role in my decision to apply to the university. One of its most appealing features is the proximity to the Peak District National Park and this is reflected very much in the feel of the city as a whole, especially its green, leafy nature. On the other hand, Sheffield most certainly is a large city, and I found it to possess all the amenities I’d need and most likely desire, without being burdened with the impracticalities of urban living. The accommodation is situated within some of the city’s most desirable districts and the concentrated nature of Sheffield itself means there’s little need for public transport. Having lived in multiple places since graduating from Sheffield, and studied at other universities, I still find it one of the most agreeable places to be, and often consider returning in the future.
What advice would you give to prospective Health and Human Sciences students?
Take advantage of the multidisciplinary nature of the course, and use it to your advantage to tailor the course to meet your requirements. One of the major selling points of the course is the possibility to arrange placement in, theoretically, any field you’d like, and this can be really advantageous when it comes to your future directions when you graduate. So, if there’s something you’re interested in, take steps to make this a reality as early as possible, and the courses lecturers will be able to help you with this. Likewise, don’t feel restricted to the career ideals of your peers, or that you are limited to a career in the healthcare professions. So many of my friends have gone into non-conventional career paths, including myself, and I think this highlights the fact that a degree like this really allows you to gain valuable life skills whilst pursuing an interest in a topic that fascinates you.
What was the most enjoyable and rewarding part of the course?
Unexpectedly, I perhaps found the final year dissertation the most enjoyable and rewarding aspect. I particularly valued the freedom we were given in terms of choosing our own topics, and defining our research questions was crucial in allowing me to steer my learning towards a topic of my interest. As a consequence, I really felt that I was doing valuable work in an area that genuinely interested me, which provides an essential source of motivation and drive towards finishing. So many students are burdened with a choice of a few very prescriptive projects and, realising this now, I feel very fortunate to have been involved in the academic process that goes along with formulating your own questions.
What are you doing now?
Following the BMedSci, I went on to complete a Master’s Degree in Clinical Neurology in the Medical School. Through this, I studied areas including neuroanatomy and cognitive neuroscience, whilst being in direct contact with patients in neurology clinics and wards; I learnt how to apply these principles to understand the underlying mechanisms involved in neuropsychiatric disorders. At the moment, I’m currently in the first year of my PhD in Clinical Neurosciences at The University of Oxford. I am based at the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute (SCNi) and my research is focused on sleep medicine and psychopathology, specifically on trying to establish causal relationships between insomnia, sleep deprivation and depression.
Do you think your degree helped (is helping you) further your career?
Most certainly, yes. I find it difficult to think of a way in which my undergraduate degree hasn’t helped guide my career trajectory. I think, most importantly, the adaptable nature of the assignments allowed me to develop my interests in mental health, neurology and psychiatry, without compromising the acquisition of knowledge in broader areas.
Similarly, I think having a focus on clinical themes is useful, and something that is lacking in degrees of a purely scientific or experimental focus. Not many subjects outside of medicine or clinical training programs allow you to develop these skills, and I have noticed in my field that a degree in pure sciences can lead to a lack of insights in these areas. This extends to topics such as healthcare management and health policy, which allows me to view the world of neuroscience and its clinical applications through a different lens, and focus on the translational impact of my research. Additionally, the chance to conduct a research focused placement, which enhanced my capabilities to design studies and prepare research proposals, has been instrumental in my success as an academic. It was great to have the opportunity to initiate this process so early in my career.