James Nicol

Cancer Biology MSc

The quality of the teaching and the support and passion with which the course content is delivered, really keeps you motivated.

What attracted you to this course? What made you want to go into this area of study?

Cell biology has always interested me, but to study in detail cells that have altered their characteristics with such variation and success, as you find in cancer, makes it all the more interesting. With the added medical and clinical application of cancer and its therapies, cancer biology was an obvious choice.

Why did you choose to study at Kent?

Having completed my undergraduate degree at Kent, I knew the staff running the cancer biology Master’s and knew them to be excellent teachers offering a good level of support. Also, a chance to be on the Canterbury campus for another year is always a bonus.

 What are you particularly enjoying (or did you enjoy) about your studies/time here?

The smaller groups on the Master’s course means that instead of lectures we have seminars and more chances of a one-to-one discussion with students and members of staff. That personal touch and the transition from seminar to laboratory work really appealed to me.

Which modules have you enjoyed the most so far, and why?

Targeted Cancer Therapies and the Genomic Stability and Cancer, which examines the use of DNA damaging agents in cancer therapies, were modules of particular interest to me because of their industrial and clinical applications and the, sometimes, controversial discussion they inspired. The four-month research project was also a highlight and a great stepping stone into the world of scientific research.

What about the teaching?

The quality of the teaching and the support and passion with which the course content is delivered, really keeps you motivated in the subject and keen to explore new avenues of research.

How would you describe your fellow students?

As a small group of students from different backgrounds and areas of interest we mixed together well in seminars and later as small research groups in the laboratory; I am still in contact with most of the group, despite being at opposite ends of the country.

What are the facilities like in your school and on campus generally?

The school supplies well equipped and spacious labs as well as various study areas, including postgraduate-only quieter areas.

How does postgraduate study differ from undergraduate study?

My favourite part of being a postgrad was having more say in the direction of my work and how to get there – whether it worked or not – I was able to make my own mistakes and learn from them. You also get to know the members of staff far better, which adds a nice personal touch to life around the school.

What is the level of support like here for postgraduates?

The Graduate School offers a range of support and additional classes if you want to look at something completely different to your main line of work. The lecturers were also happy to help at any time with any problems you experienced.

How do you think your studies at Kent will affect your employment prospects?

Involvement in the postgraduate Global Skills Award and having to demonstrate practical skills for undergraduate students, my Master’s has enhanced my CV far more than academic qualifications alone ever could.

What does doing a further degree give you that a first degree doesn’t?

The additional academic qualifications of a second degree is always useful, but more important than that, I grew more confident in my work, both theoretical and practical and delivering that to others through presentation and discussion also helped to boost my confidence. It also allowed me to see what life would be like as a researcher and helped me make my career decision, something I was far less sure about after completing my undergraduate degree.

What are you planning to do next?

I am currently doing a PhD at Queen’s University, Belfast, looking at using nanoparticles to treat cancer and, thanks to the confidence my Master’s course gave me, I am loving it.

Any advice for those thinking about taking this course?

If cancer biology is your thing I cannot recommend the course highly enough. If you’re looking for a stepping stone from undergraduate into full-time research a taught Master’s is perfect. Or, if you love the subject but don’t want a career in the lab, again this course is for you.