Jessica Zhang is a Research Postgraduate in the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction.

She is currently studying for an MRes in Clinical Research In 2021, she was awarded the Dr Jean Alero Thomas Scholarship, which is funded by a generous legacy gift. 

We caught up with Jessica about her studies at Imperial, her future career plans and the impact of the scholarship.

Dr Jean Alero Thomas Scholar
Jessica Zhang (MRes Clinical Research)

Why did you choose to study at Imperial? How did it feel when you got your place?

 I aspire to be a researcher in the future, and Imperial has always been at the forefront of biomedical research. My course provided me with the opportunity to complete a lab-based project with any faculty member in the Department, and it was an incredible chance to be involved in excellent research teams.

What was your background before you came to Imperial? Where did you live, what did your parents do, what did your family think of you going to university?  

I was raised in China, where my parents both work in the education sector, and I studied Biomedical Sciences at Oxford University before coming to Imperial.

What’s your favourite part of your course and who inspired you to study in your chosen field?

My favourite part of the course is the 9-month lab project. My research interest lies in the field of cardiovascular sciences, and I am currently studying the molecular mechanisms behind human endothelial cell regeneration in Professor Anna Randi ’s lab.

I first became interested in clinical-related research in the cardiovascular system after witnessing my grandmother suffering from high blood pressure. From my university lectures, I learned that cardiovascular-related death has been one of the top causes of mortality across the world for many years. I realised how breakthroughs in the field could potentially improve the quality of life of a huge number of patients.

Are you working on any placements or projects at the moment that you find particularly interesting? What are you working on and why is it important? Is it something you would want to pursue further in your career?

 My current project is about finding the transcriptional and epigenetic factors that confer regenerative potential to human endothelial cells (EC). The project is particularly interesting because it is a combination of computational approaches and wet-lab work, which allows me to develop research skills in both areas.

It is important to study endothelial cell regeneration, as they line the inner blood vessel and play important roles in blood vessel formation. Understanding the mechanism could contribute to the discovery of novel therapeutic targets to assist blood vessel regeneration after vasodegeneration (e.g. due to myocardial infarction, stroke, or peripheral artery disease).

Are you a member of clubs/societies? How are you finding them?

I have been participating in the School of Medicine’s SORA (Society of Research and Academia). It is a society that aims to help students with medical or scientific backgrounds to get research experience. They run weekly seminars on research skills, and we have discussion groups to meet and chat regularly about our progress in study and career development. It is a great place to find like-minded peers, and a great opportunity to discover more about having a career in research if you are not familiar with the field yet. 

Do you have any ideas at the moment about what you may want to do after you finish your degree?

I am currently applying to PhD programmes to continue my passion for solving problems in the field of cardiovascular sciences. I hope that the work I do will contribute to the progress of our understanding of the human body, and more importantly, be translated into clinical treatments for patients with related diseases and improve their  quality of life.

How has the Dr Jean Alero Thomas Scholarship helped you? What impact will it have? 

The Dr Jean Alero Thomas Scholarship has strengthened my desire to pursue my dream of becoming a researcher. Apart from significantly relieving the financial burden, the sense of recognition that the scholarship brings has given me the motivation to do my best in my course and in future studies.

Your scholarship at Imperial has been awarded to you by a legacy pledger. What message do you have for donors that have pledged to leave a legacy gift in their will or considering to do so? 

I would like to thank donors who have left a gift in their will to support students. Words cannot describe how much this scholarship is going to change my academic career in a positive way, as it has provided me the opportunity to work with some of the best researchers in my field of interest. It is an honour to receive the scholarship, and I hope to give back to society by helping the future generations of aspiring students one day.

The Dr Jean Alero Thomas Scholarship ensures students like Jessica in the Faculty of Medicine are supported to succeed and thrive on their academic journey. Find out more about the impact of legacy giving for students like Jessica.