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School: ACG Strathallan, New Zealand
Studied: Cambridge IGCSEs in Chemistry, Biology, English Literature, English Language, Mathematics, Physics; Cambridge International A Levels in Chemistry, Biology, English Literature, Chinese Literature, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics
Went on to: Currently studying for a MB/PhD (combined Medical degree and PhD) at the University of Cambridge
Career plans: To be an academic clinician specialising in oncology
I had always wanted to pursue a career in clinical medicine and academic research and the wide range of Cambridge subjects, and the flexibility of subject choice, allowed me to choose subjects that would give me the solid scientific foundation I needed for an academically rigorous university course. Additionally, as good academic writing is essential for scientific publications, I chose to study English Literature and Chinese Literature in order to fine-tune my writing skills.
The MB/PhD programme is a nine-year course which begins with four years of undergraduate medical study, followed by a three year full-time research PhD, and then two more years at medical school in order to qualify as a doctor. The course is specifically designed for aspiring doctors who are also interested in academic research, and aims to develop ‘a depth of scientific understanding with outstanding clinical and communication skills’ so that students can become the ‘future international leaders of their profession’.
Application is very competitive, with only around ten places made available every year. I applied because it was the ideal course for me, given my ambition to combine medicine with academia. I also hoped that by studying at Cambridge I would have the opportunity to be involved in world-class research. In fact I undertook my PhD at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, where Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA in 1953, and Fred Sanger developed the dideoxy technique which was used to sequence the entire human genome for the first time. It has been an honour to study here.
I found Cambridge International A Level courses to be very well designed, and they have proved to be highly relevant to university study. The flexibility of the Cambridge programme, and the range and depth of subjects on offer, gave me a good scientific foundation. I particularly liked having most of my exams at the end of the school year. This gave me time to develop good study strategies, and to further explore specific topics which interested me. This included mathematics, in particular statistics (vital for independent scientific research), and I went on to win Cambridge International’s ‘Top in the World’ award for Further Mathematics in 2013, and the ‘Top in New Zealand’ award for Mathematics in 2012.
Absolutely. Cambridge International offers an internationally recognised and highly regarded programme that prepares you for academic study at top universities worldwide. In addition, there is a wide range of subjects on offer, and students have the flexibility to choose the subject combination best suited to their personal goals. What more can you ask for?
The pandemic spanned almost half of my three-year PhD. Experimental research came to a halt, which greatly hindered my work, but I was able to stay in Cambridge (rather than return to New Zealand) which allowed me to make as much progress as possible. The University and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (where I am completing my PhD) were also very supportive, and as a result I am on track to complete my PhD on time, and return to medical school to complete my studies.
On graduating from the MB/PhD course I hope to specialise in oncology, and to pursue academic research alongside clinical medicine. I hope to be directly involved in treating patients, while having a wider impact through my research discoveries. It would be amazing if my research, even in a small way, could one day contribute to humanity’s quest to defeat cancer.