Jeslyn Kho is currently studying Biochemistry at Imperial College London. Jeslyn completed her A-Levels at Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar and will be graduating in 2022. This personal statement was part of her successful application to Imperial College London, UCL, King’s College London, University of Bristol and University of Warwick for Biochemistry.
I am intrigued by how chemical processes and complicated networks of reactions within a single cell contribute to the function of a tissue, and consequently an entire organism, and by how understanding the fundamentals of a system creates a building block to understanding the structure as a whole. This was confirmed to me through reading Dawkins’ ‘The Blind Watchmaker’, in which he states that complex objects can be explained and understood by hierarchical reduction. I strongly agree with his proposal that we can come to understand an intricate subject by observing it in terms of its more elementary components which we do understand. This led me to develop an interest in the complex field of Biochemistry.
During a three week internship in the Molecular Biology lab at the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre, it was especially interesting to independently extract DNA from a shark sample. Learning to handle chemicals I had never been exposed to before was both intriguing and challenging: for example, using Proteinase K – a broad-spectrum serine protease – to remove contaminating proteins and to deactivate DNases. Drawing conclusions from gel electrophoresis also developed my analytical skills and proved my ability to follow instructions accurately. Experiments such as these broadened and refined my practical skills. My ability in statistics also proved helpful when displaying data in the form of a calibration curve, where I used and built upon existing knowledge. I now look forward to refining my practical proficiency further during my degree.
During my placement, I was part of the organising committee for the International Conference on Beneficial Microbes. This deepened my desire to study a wider range of topics at university. In a keynote titled ‘Prebiotic activity of glycan extracted from glycoprotein of edible bird’s nest,’ it was intriguing to see how traditional methods have influenced research. This was further illustrated to me during my investigation of the anti-inflammatory properties of plants endemic to Sarawakian rainforests. Plants like Scoparia dulcis have been used by indigenous Sarawakians and birds nests have been taken since the Tang dynasty. I feel that this demonstrates the importance of research that recognises, respects and builds upon existing, and often unacknowledged, practices to reach credible results.
As an ethnically-Chinese person who uses traditional Chinese medicine, Tu Youyou’s work is inspiring; it is the epitome of ancient knowledge inspiring modern medicine. Her discovery of Artemisinin from a common Chinese herb – Sweet wormwood – and its ability to inhibit the malarial parasite has saved millions of lives in malaria endemic countries – effectively shifting the paradigm of conventional malarial treatment. As a woman, and the first Chinese person to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, her inspiring work shows me the diligence needed in research, as she persisted through a lack of funding during the cultural revolution. Collaboration within the scientific community was crucial to her success: after the successful clinical trial, different chemists identified the substance’s structure after purification. Such collaborative work to achieve a common goal resonates deeply with me. Tu Youyou’s amazing feat in utilising both traditional knowledge and modern scientific methods to propel medical progress and improve the quality of life for generations ahead has deeply inspired and motivated me to pursue a degree in this field. I look forward to using the tenacity which I have gained as a netball player to face the academic challenges in university, and I am excited to be exposed to new cultures. Being able to work with people from diverse backgrounds and consider issues from different perspectives nurtures the empathy and understanding that are crucial for ethical research. In the future, I hope to use my skills and knowledge in biochemistry to help overcome pressing global health issues.
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