Biochemistry undergraduate

A photo of Anastasia smiling at the camera.

I was always sure I was going to do biochemistry.  

My college counsellor said to me – "you need to look at the rankings of the universities".

So when I was doing my applications, I chose a variety of universities and made sure I had a backup. But ultimately, each of the universities that I chose had something special that appealed to me.  

The academic excellence of Imperial was something that stood out to me. There are opportunities you wouldn't necessarily get at other universities.  

Entrepreneurship is a big part of it all. We have the Advanced Hackspace and Enterprise Lab at Imperial – there are so many resources for you to make use of. 

Anastasia and friends on the steps of her halls of residence.

Living in London 

I live about 15 minutes from campus, which is very convenient.    

I have a flat with three of my mates. They do a lot more computational stuff than me, which helps me because I can always ask them for help.   

Me and my friends have a kind of tradition. A week before our exams, we go on a study session to the centre of London.

We dress nice, go have lunch and then sit in a café somewhere and study. Just quiz each other and stuff like that.  

It's quite cool to feel important – to feel the hustle and bustle of the city.     

Anastasia on a night out in London with friends.
Students exploring stalls during Welcome Season.

Getting settled in

I visited Imperial for an offer holder day, which was one of the things that cemented my choice for me. I really liked the vibe of Imperial – it just felt comfortable being there. 

It's mind-blowing how much stuff actually happens on campus every day. You've got all these teams competing in different challenges and a lot of them go on to do very impressive things. 

When I arrived here, I thought I was going to be a lot more scared and not know what to get involved in. But I was lucky because my halls were very social and me and my flatmates bonded quite quickly.

During Welcome Season, there was stuff going on every single minute and it was so vibrant that I wanted more hours in the day in order to do everything! 

When my classes started, at first I thought – "okay, this seems quite familiar, this is something that we've covered in school".

Our lecturers kind of eased us into it. Then it started getting progressively harder but we didn't really notice it, which was nice. 

Exploring my creative side

Although I am most interested in science, I do have other passions I want to pursue, and the Horizons programme has been invaluable for that.   

In my first year, I took a creative thinking course, which was super fun. Every day was a different theme and we made a creative piece using our sources of inspiration.   

It centred on sources of creativity that we might have in our lives – from person-to-person interactions or your surroundings.

I also took a professional and business skills for scientists course, covering how getting a job works, writing your CV and creating video interviews. It provided a connection to the Careers Service, which made it a lot easier to approach them when I needed help. 

In second and third year, I got really into the Changemakers Horizons stream. I took the Innovation Challenge course, where I got to design a solution to socioeconomic problems experienced by people living in Makers Valley, Johannesburg.

It was a unique experience, and the projects could later be pitched at the Engineers Without Borders competition.  

Anastasia posing with friends.

Getting to grips with lab work

The labs we use are very good in terms of the facilities available.

In your first few years, you need to get your basic skills polished – things like pipetting. We had a whole lab on just how to pipette properly, which was engaging because it was done interactively.

They said that we'd be pipetting a virus, but it wasn't really a virus, it was a glow-in-the-dark solution. When they came out with a UV light, you could see the fluorescence. And if you'd spilled something, it didn't look very good!  

My department is very collaborative, even more so in the second year. There are group projects and sometimes during tutorials they'll ask you to solve something as a group.  

In the second year, you have the opportunity to work with your lab partners and there’s a thing called journal clubs where you discuss a piece of research that you've been assigned.  

A person with gloved hands using a pipette.
Anastasia studying in the library.

Discovering new hobbies

I had grand plans for my extra-curriculars because of Welcome Season, where every club and society gets to present the work that they do, and hand you out a schedule of when and where their meetings are. 

I signed up for water polo and archery, because I've been obsessed with the Hunger Games for a large chunk of my teenage years.  I also joined the writers’ Society, because I've been writing since I was in middle school.      

I've kept most of the hobbies that I started in my fresher year. It turned out I had great potential in water polo, and I now teach archery.

I started with the beginner’s archery course but the instructor said – "no, you clearly know how to do this!". So I went to the regular sessions for a little bit and when he graduated I took over his job. 

Anastasia and her swim team posing for a photo.

Working as an ambassador

As much as you can contribute on your own, you also depend on other people to fully appreciate the scope and the breadth of the research and experiences you're exposed to.  

I'm now a Student Ambassador, which pays. So I help run campus tours and outreach events, as well as events for recruiting new students as well.  

Recently we had an open day event and I helped my department run a webinar, where they were talking about our department as a whole.

We held a Q&A session where current students were able to answer questions about student life and things like that. Which was nice because I got to work with different people from different departments as well. 

Students exploring stall during Welcome Season.

Setting up ICUsToo

I am the secretary for ICUsToo, which is a student-led campaign group tackling sexual harassment, sexual violence, and domestic abuse within Imperial College and the wider higher education community.   

We’ve worked together with the union to develop their sexual misconduct policy, and since then we've been doing a lot more awareness and educational work.    

We’re just trying to play a part in stopping that being something that happens to more people and create a safer environment for all of us, no matter our gender or sexuality. 

Anastasia writing in a notepad in the library.
Anastasia smiling while holding books in the library.

Honing my interests

At Imperial, you can be as human or as robotic as you want, because the library is open 24/7! 

After my third year, I discovered an interest in plants, food security and bioinformatics. I am now off to do an MRes in big data biology at the University of Southampton.

I’m hoping to go into industry after and work in the field of food crop research and agritech.   

I’ve really enjoyed my time at Imperial and made some lasting friendships here. The academic side, while challenging, has helped me understand what parts of biochemistry interest me most.

It’s great to know what interests you, but there’s no shame in changing your areas of interest as often as you like.  

I came into university set on having a career in genetics and genetic medicine – throughout my degree I discovered microbiomes, bioinformatics, and plant immunity.

Imperial has given me great opportunities to develop as a scientist and as a person.  

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