Laia Rigat Nogareda is a Postgraduate in the Department of Immunology and Inflammation in the Faculty of Medicine.

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

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

Dr Jean Alero Thomas Scholar
Laia Rigat Nogareda (MSc in Immunology)

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

I came to Imperial to study my undergraduate course in Medical Biosciences. I liked how the course focused on self-guided learning, with an emphasis on practical learning to enhance personal development. When it came to choosing my course, the MSc in Immunology at Imperial seemed like the perfect choice to me to study how infection places our health at risk. After witnessing the College’s contribution to COVID-19 research, through vaccine development, studies of viral transmission and advising world leaders, applying to study at Imperial an obvious choice!

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 come from a small city in the north of Spain, Girona. The usual educational pathway in Girona is to go to university either in the town or Barcelona. When I told my family that I wanted to study in another country and had been accepted at Imperial, it was a bit of a surprise. But they were all extremely happy and supportive of my decision.

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

The course gives us both the theoretical and practical preparation that we need to pursue a career in science. I really enjoy being challenged in the lab and finding answers to scientific questions, thinking of possible explanations to unexpected results and testing ways to tackle them. The seven-month research project in the MSc will allow me to put all of this into practice and become a better scientist.

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?

For my MSc project, I will be studying how genetic variants can increase susceptibility to invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) and their role in facilitating bacterial invasion. This is particularly relevant as IMD can be life-threatening and mainly affects children. Researching the role of these mutations could enhance the understanding of the mechanisms enabling bacterial invasion and potentially guide preventive or therapeutic measures.

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

During my time at Imperial, I have tried a range of societies where I have met many wonderful like-minded people. However, I have played basketball practically all my life, so when I saw there was a Basketball Society at Imperial, I knew it was for me! Being part of the society has been great. It has given me a perfect break from lectures, allowing me to play the sport I love and be part of a team of amazing people. I have also been part of the committee as the 1st Team Captain, enabling me to contribute to the club and take responsibility for the team. A great achievement for us is that we have won Division 1 for the last few years, making all the late-night practices worth it!

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

After finishing the MSc, I would like to pursue a PhD studying the immune response against pathogens and develop improved treatment or prevention strategies against infection. 

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

The Dr Jean Alero Thomas Scholarship has supported me in pursuing research that I am extremely passionate about. Studying without a financial burden has enabled me to focus on my learning.

Receiving the scholarship was a big surprise and honour, which gave meaning to the effort placed into my personal and professional development. And most importantly, seeing that there are people who see potential and believe in me is extremely rewarding and motivates me to use every opportunity provided.

What message do you have for donors that have pledged to leave a legacy gift in their will or considering to do so?

Being awarded a scholarship is extremely meaningful. These gifts are a selfless way of placing trust, encouragement, and supporting the next generation of scientists. I am incredibly thankful for this support and this opportunity, and I hope to make the most of it.

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