Hi, my name is Yash! I’m a 2nd Year undergraduate about to start the final year of my Biological Sciences degree. Before coming to Imperial, I attended sixth form in my hometown of Reading – a large town located near London. I identify as a Widening Participation student as I am the first person in my family to attend university. This year, I enjoyed engaging with my Molecular Microbiology module and I hope to take more Microbiology-related modules in my final year and perhaps apply for a Master’s degree in this field of study to complete after I graduate!

What motivated you to go to university and why did you choose Imperial?

I was motivated to apply to university during Sixth Form as I thoroughly enjoyed my Biology A-Level and wanted to study the subject at a higher level. I also undertook a lab-based work experience during the summer of Year 12 which involved investigating a novel vaccine for Tuberculosis infection (a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis). As a result, I became highly interested in Microbiology and was further inspired to apply for a Biological Sciences degree to pursue a career in microbiological research. Yash Gupta

While I was aware of Imperial’s good reputation, I ultimately chose to study Biological Sciences at Imperial as I was excited by the broad structure of the course as well as the large variety of Microbiology-related final year modules on offer. Additionally, I wanted the opportunity to continue studying French while at university and I was greatly impressed by the wide selection of language courses available to study through the Imperial Horizon’s programme. Moreover, Imperial offered an excellent student bursary of up to £5000 as well as affordable, high-quality accommodation options which, together, would allow me to comfortably afford to live in London. Most importantly, I found the Life Sciences department to be very welcoming on both the open day and offer holder day. I found that after visiting the university, I could see myself studying at Imperial and I would say that this is usually the best indicator of whether a university is the right fit for you!

What do you wish you had known when you first started university?

One piece of advice I would give to incoming first-year students is to not be afraid of asking questions! When I was a Fresher, I found it frightening to ask my lecturers questions in front of my entire year group in fear of seeming like I couldn’t keep up. However, I soon realised that many students also felt the same way and often had the same questions as I did! Asking questions is a fantastic way to further your and your peers’ understanding of a topic while building up the confidence to approach your lecturers more easily – a skill that is very important while transitioning to a more independent style of learning!

Another important piece of advice is to not be afraid to ask for help. As a Widening Participation student, you are often more likely to need additional help with problems that extend beyond academic-related issues and rest assured, there are many great services available at Imperial to support you. This can include your Personal Tutor, the Education Office or even the Counselling Service (a service that has been really helpful for me this year!). Always ask for help no matter how small you think the problem may be as you can trust that everyone within the Department is invested in your wellbeing (both mental and physical) and want to help you in any way they can!

What were the highlights of your university experience?

Exploring London with all of the wonderful friends I have made both within Biological Sciences and throughout Imperial life has definitely been the highlight of my university experience so far. I’ve also really enjoyed undertaking a wide range of laboratory practicals such as dissecting a squid, analysing mammal skulls, and producing my own sample of Taq Polymerase. A highlight from my first summer at university was undertaking an internship within the Neuroscience and Mental Health Division at Wellcome. Here, I was able to further explore my interest in Microbiology in a professional setting while tasked with compiling a report on the effect of rabies infection on mental health. Despite the impact of COVID on my university life this year, I am very excited to see what new opportunities and experiences my final year at Imperial will bring!

How has your background helped you?

As a Widening Participation student, I found that I adjusted very well to the independence of university life as I had experience with managing my own money and having responsibilities through part-time work while attending Sixth Form. My experiences also encouraged me to become a Recruitment and Outreach Ambassador at Imperial. This position allows me to volunteer at Imperial’s summer schools while utilising my experiences as a Widening Participation student to support disadvantaged students in London to achieve their dreams of attending a top UK university, just like I did.

A challenge that I faced when I first began studying Biological Sciences at Imperial, was noticing that many of my peers came from more privileged backgrounds than I did. I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in well with the cohort and so I initially avoided sharing my experiences of being a Widening Participation student with others. However, I very quickly found a great community of friends (some who shared a similar background to me), both within my degree and across the university, who were very supportive. They helped me to realise that I should take pride in being a Widening Participation student as, despite all the challenges I had faced, I was still equally deserving of a place at Imperial as my more privileged peers. This realisation helped to greatly boost my confidence in my ability to succeed as a Widening Participation student at university!