Ng Eu Keat is currently studying Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London. Eu Keat completed his A-Levels at Epsom College and will be graduating in 2022. This personal statement was part of his successful application to Imperial College London/UCL for Biomedical Engineering and University of Bath/UCL for Natural Sciences.
During my DoE Gold expedition, I camped in a cave with a colony of bats and noted their
skill of echolocation. Only knowing the basics of echolocation I decided to read ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ in which Dawkins highlights the use of the Doppler shift principle by bats to determine how far or near prey is. Additionally, bats are able to contract their ear bones to protect themselves from their shriek, a method which is applied to most sonar systems from boats to medical sonar. What made this so captivating was how it opened up a new perspective on nature-inspired innovations which sparked a desire for me to further understand the possible applications of biology, chemistry and physics.
As a person who appreciates the environment, I shadowed a group of scientists at the Danau Girang Field Centre in Borneo last January where I developed experimental techniques such as setting up camera traps and collecting and inspecting parasites in a lab. Setting up camera traps was challenging as my team and I needed to consider how the animals might respond to the traps. This required me to think inventively. All the time spent in the field had me wondering about the current situation of my country’s rainforest. In order to understand more I interviewed some doctoral students and scientist about their research. Consequently I learned about their plans for sustainable palm oil plantations which would not threaten forest biodiversity. The experience has heightened my understanding of the environment while helping me hone my communication and mediation skills: all necessary for work in research groups.
Those who spend time outside in Borneo understand the irritation of mosquitoes. Interestingly we do not feel the bites as mosquitoes have one pair of serrated needles which minimise contact with nerves, something I learnt at a talk by Dr. Moshrefi-Torbati on biomimicry. Auxiliary reading showed that the adaptation was the basis on which engineer Seiji Aoyagi created his pain free hypodermic needle. The talk made me wonder about the other instances of biomimicry in nature. Inspired, I undertook an EPQ researching the topic. An example would be the tasar silkworm, whose silk fibroin is the main component of certain heart scaffolds as the silk is biocompatible while being able to degrade safely. The EPQ has refined my ability to conduct independent research which I applied to expand my understanding on respiration. For instance, I made notes on the ten steps of glycolysis as I had not been satisfied with the simplified version learnt in class.
Being given the opportunity to learn about the workings of our world throughout my A-level has been especially engaging. However the ability to realise practical solutions from the theories learnt is what excites me. Therefore, I read Mark Miodownik’s ‘Stuff Matters’ learning about the medical applications of bio-glass and titanium in surgery. Miodownik further explores concepts such as the transparency of glass which really stretched my understanding of inorganic chemistry; I only knew that glass was transparent and, not how that property emerged. To complement my growing interest in materials science I completed an online course on 3D bio-printing to get an insight on how personalised prosthetics are made.
Quite simply it is the interdisciplinary approach to the sciences which fascinates me and, as an initiative to share my knowledge, my friend and I started an Instagram account where I set aside time to point out topics of interest such as: ‘Coral bleaching’ and ‘Tissue regeneration’. It was evident from my research that the environment is degrading due to human activity. Another problem I have observed is the growing threat of superbugs facilitated by the careless prescription of antibiotics by Malaysian doctors. It is my hope that one day I will be able to develop sustainable solutions for the environment, as well as new advances in medicine for Malaysia.
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