I did my undergraduate degree at Kent and so I’d already experienced the high level of research activity in the School. I felt very comfortable integrating into the lab and the project that I was offered was very much in line with what I wanted for my future career.
The project I am working on is analysing vitamin B12 forms in microbiomes. Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin that’s needed for the healthy function of the brain, the nerve tissues, and the production of red blood cells. My aim is to find any correlation between the types of bacteria found in the large intestine and the forms of vitamin B12 found in stool samples of humans and some animals.
For B12 deficient patients, the project could provide supporting data to create better treatments and improve outcomes. The analysis of the animal samples can open up comparisons between wild and domestic animals, or help us look at the effect of diet. The findings could have implications for maintaining the health status of the animal.
I expected the Master’s by Research to be about independent learning and this is really the case. You have to read on your own and approach your supervisor yourself if you have queries. So far, my supervisor has been very helpful with any questions and raised a lot of things that I can think about to make my time here even more rewarding.
My supervisor will always help as much as he can. We have a very professional relationship and he regularly comes around to check if things are running smoothly or for a chat. There are also two post-docs who I’m assigned to; they’ve been very kind and helped me to get started on my project, teaching me new techniques and guiding me whenever they can.
It’s nice that the Master’s gives you time to explore options for the future. At the moment my plan is to be involved in clinical research. The Master’s will make me a more independent researcher, so when I get a job I’ll be confident in taking on research tasks by myself. And I also hope to improve my knowledge of Vitamin B12.
The community in Kent is very diverse, so it’s normal to be an international student – you get used to meeting people from many different nationalities. Just in our lab, we have people who are from five or six different countries, so everyone understands what it’s like to move to the UK. In terms of support, everyone has been very welcoming. As a new student, I felt settled within a week, so I could focus on making friends, getting to know the town and travelling around.
The facilities are brilliant. Compared to other universities, they’re also very up-to-date. In the lab there’s a wide range of equipment that’s being used, so when you go to any lab around the world, you’ll know how to use it.
Be aware that this will be very different to your undergraduate experience. You won’t be spoon-fed but you are given information to stimulate your interest. You’re encouraged to ask questions like: ‘Why should I do this next?’ and ‘Why do I take this step?’ It will be a very different and quite exciting experience for any new student. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – and start writing as early as possible.