Emily Ng is currently studying MBioch Biochemistry (Molecular and Cellular) at the University of Oxford. Emily completed her A-Levels at Help Academy and will be graduating in 2023. This personal statement was part of her successful application to University of Oxford, Imperial College London, UCL, King’s College London, and University of St Andrews for Biochemistry.
My first riveting encounter with Biochemistry was during a conversation about the coiling of DNA around histones. It enables us to accomplish the otherwise impossible task of compacting 3 meters worth of DNA into a tiny nucleus that is only 10 microns in diameter! The discussion then progressed into a debate on how the development of this phenomena was critical in producing the organisms that we know today. I was fascinated by how Biochemistry looks at the mechanisms of life through a microscope, and that it represents the unseen architecture that builds up our complex life.
I was fortunate to have arranged work experience with a plastic surgeon at Sunway Medical Centre, and was amazed at the skin grafting technology that improved the quality of life of a patient suffering from Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Intrigued, I sought out to learn more. After extensive research, I was excited to find an article in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology on the use of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC) in Skin Regeneration. This brought me back to a Biology lesson, when I was first introduced to iPSC, and wondered, how do cells differentiate to take on such diverse roles in our bodies? And how do slight differences in a cell give rise to different organisms? It is questions like these that fuel my curiosity but it wasn’t very long before I realised an answer would surely, but rather ironically, lead to more questions. However, I believe that is the beauty of studying the complexity of life.
The article on iPSC also lead me to the ongoing research by Stanford University on using iPSC as a vaccine for cancer. Though many questions still surround their ability to replicate their success with mice in human cells, such topics spark my interest and I intend to follow its development closely and hopefully contribute to it one day.
When I picked up the book ‘Mitochondria and The Meaning of Life’ by Nick Lane, I learned that a single structural difference of the mitochondria – its double membrane, saved us, eukaryotes from the same slimy fate of bacteria. Reflecting on this, I realised how smart tiny cells are, and how by understanding their chemical compositions, we can harvest their ingenuity, just like this year’s Nobel Laureates. Their success in the manipulation of the T-cell proteins (CTLA-4 and PD-1) can change the future of cancer treatment! It dawned on me that not only must we constantly add to our wealth of knowledge but it is imperative that we’re able to transform it into something that can benefit the public. Hence, it affirmed my decision in pursuing a career in research and innovation.
My interest in innovation stemmed from my participation in the Seimens-STEM competition. We were challenged to design a sustainable ‘green’ city of the future, and my idea to harvest energy by using genetically engineered enzymes to digest waste in landfills secured me the winning prize. Moreover, participating in such competitions and various debates expanded my scientific and general knowledge as well as honed my presentation skills.
What I am today is built upon the foundation acquired in school as the Deputy Head Prefect, President of the Mathematics club, Vice President of the Red Cross Society and as a certified medic in First Aid and CPR. These experiences instilled a strong sense of responsibility and taught me how to work under pressure. In addition, pursuing piano up to Grade 8 (ABRSM) taught me to value persistence and discipline in achieving my goals.
Biochemistry is where all my interests align, and pursuing it in your esteemed university will give me the best chance to delve deeper into the realm of science and to pursue scientific mysteries. For all we know, scientific achievements such as identifying the cure to cancer are just at the ends of our fingertips, waiting to be found.
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