Cai

Molecular Engineering undergraduate

Cai smiling at the camera.

I’m Cai and I’m from North Wales. I’m now in my third year of Molecular Bioengineering and it was this course specifically that drew me to Imperial. 

Bioengineering is this merge of biosciences with engineering principles, and this course shows you how to apply that discipline to global challenges – it really is unique.

Having resources around me like the Centre for Synthetic Biology – a field I'm really interested in – and the entrepreneurial resources really appealed. 

The prestige of Imperial and the reputation of the engineering school also spoke to me a lot. I used to hear about Imperial in the news a lot, especially around how well they are doing with supporting startups.  

Once I got here I became aware that there are an awful lot of people doing loads of really interesting things in different areas. And you become a part of that. 

Cai smiling and working with a virtual blackboard.
Cai and a colleague stood at a Multus Media presentation stand.

Founding a startup

Multus Media is a business that I set up, which stemmed from my involvement with the Synthetic Biology Society.  

The society runs an annual competition to get projects started in the Hackspace, and provides a small amount of funding.

My team designed a reinventing growth media to feed cells that can be grown as a food, and that way you can produce meat without the animal. It gives the same end product but it’s far more sustainable.   

In conjunction with that, we were working towards the Faculty of Natural Science’s Make a Difference Competition and the Venture Catalyst Competition (VCC). So lots of opportunities opened up in parallel.  

It was the VCC that got us involved with the Enterprise Lab, and made us think more commercially about what we were doing. Now we operate out of the Imperial Incubator, where we can do the lab work and refine our business model.

Multus Media started out as an idea for a student project and now it’s a startup company that's won several competitions. 

Cai and friends sat at a dining table in formal wear.
Cai overtaking another runner in the park.

Running with the club

I came to Imperial looking for some buddies to run competitively with and naturally gravitated towards the sports and athletics side of things.

Cross Country Club at Imperial is very big and very friendly. Every Sunday we go for a run and then to each other’s houses to have breakfast after. 

In terms of races, there's a London League, then the BUCS cross country championships each year, which is good fun. There's also the Hyde Park Relays, a 5k relay race organised by Imperial. 

I did the London Landmarks half marathon last year, but it's mostly about training for cross country and using the Thames path for me.

There are a number of bridges along there – you can do different kinds of circuits and loops and then go east towards Holland Park and Hyde Park. Imperial is in the perfect location for running.

Cai smiling with arms outstretched at the top of a mountain.

Living in the city 

In my first year, I was in Pembridge Hall in Notting Hill. 

Pembridge is one of the smaller halls. It's just under 100 people, but that means it's very social – the community is the whole building rather than one corridor or floor.

The commute to Imperial is just a 20-minute walk through Hyde Park in the morning, which is great.  

Before second year, I used Imperial's guides to explore different London areas, average rent prices where most Imperial students went to stay after first year.

The housing market in London does move very fast but there's always places to live. Now I live with another runner, and two other rowers and it's quite easy to get to the Imperial Putney boathouse or to White City for my Multus Media work.  

On campus, the farmers' market is a favourite. It's happens every Tuesday and you can get the typical fruit and veg and juices, but also hot food from all around the world, which is really nice. 

Cai posing in a nightclub with friends.

Working on team projects

Bioengineering is a very close-knit community. We're all housed within the Royal School of Mines and the whole class knows each other. We hang out beyond lectures, which is nice.  

We all get to do an engineering design project in second, third and fourth year. Within that, there's a scope of work to be done, but really it's up to us to define what the project looks like.

My team designed a method of detecting super-resistant or antimicrobial resistant bacteria in low resource areas. We're trying to do that using a new microfluidic device to make sure that the costs come down.

We set our own goals with support from our supervisor, and we're working towards getting into the lab to get results.  

The exterior of the Royal School of Mines building.
The main lecture theatre at the Royal School of Mines.

Finding my community

I'm a part of Imperial's Synthetic Biology Society, which I didn't know existed before I came here.

Every week we host lectures given by leaders in the field from around the world. You get pizza and beer, if you want it, and it's a nice way to spend a Tuesday afternoon – listening to something interesting.

You end up having these spontaneous conversations, or you go to an event where you really gel with somebody or you come up with an idea that you decide to take forward. 

My friend runs the Effective Altruism Society, which is about finding careers where you can do the most good and being effective in how you apply yourself in your work.

So far there's been a series of workshops and discussions, and a space for exploring ideas. It's a way to break out of the bubble of Imperial and think more broadly about how you can impact those around you. 

My social life is definitely busy, but studying at Imperial is about making the most of the resources beyond your course as well. 

It's important to use your time to explore the different opportunities that London, Imperial, and being in your position offers you. 

Cai drawing on a virtual whiteboard.
Cai holding an open laptop and leaning against a table.

Learning beyond my course

Having the option to look at different opportunities, like studying a language through Horizons, or studying abroad, or doing a module on Law and Ethics like I did, is wonderful.

I came out of that module with a better understanding of intellectual property law, which has helped my startup and will be useful for a career in technology. 

I went into to bioengineering specifically because I knew I wanted to apply biosciences to the wider world, but I didn't know how that might manifest.

The Imperial community and the startup community has been really great. Being a student is the best time to try to build something new because you get so much support.

It's a great learning experience and even if it doesn't work out it's still a win because employers love that kind of thing.   

I had this opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone and really extend myself and I have benefited from it massively. It's been one of the defining parts of my university life. 

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