Casey Teo is currently studying Biochemistry at University College London, and is graduating in 2026. This personal statement was part of her successful application to University College London, Imperial College London, University of Dundee, and Queen’s University Belfast for Biochemistry.
Learning about the mitotic cell cycle in a Biology lesson piqued my interest in telomeres and telomerase. It crossed my mind that if scientists could control telomerase activity, cancer could be cured and immortality would cease to be a myth. The idea was far-fetched and rather ludicrous, but it marked the onset of my pursuit of Biochemistry.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attain shadowing experience at the Pharmacology Lab in University of Science, Malaysia, especially amidst the pandemic. There, I expanded my practical skills such as running FTIR spectroscopy to determine the purity of various traditional Chinese herbs, and observing PCA and PLS-DA analytical graphs. Since there was ongoing drug research on hypertension treatment, I was shocked to discover first-hand just how ineffective in vivo drug testing was. Further reading led me to learn that 94% of drugs that pass pre-clinical trials, including animal tests, will fail during human clinical trials stages. As a vegetarian and an advocate against animal cruelty, I felt uneasy about the idea of so many animals dying in vain. With that in mind, I dived into alternatives to animal testing, and stumbled upon induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
Though the production of iPSCs still has a low efficiency rate and is laced with risks of cultivating cancerous cells, I was excited to learn that it could be the key to treating medical conditions like hearing loss, spinal cord injuries, severe burns and many more. Most importantly, I learnt that iPSCs derived from patients of long QT syndrome and Parkinson’s disease have been differentiated in labs to create disease models for further study, and that iPSCs have been used to successfully develop organoids such as Fallopian tubes and kidneys. Not only could iPSCs lead to patient-specific organs that minimise rejection issues during organ transplants, but also more efficient and effective drug testing if drugs could be directly tested on laboratory-grown organs, changing the face of in vivo testing entirely.
Yamanaka’s discovery of deploying transcription factors (Myc, Oct4, Sox2 and Klf4) in iPSC production prompted me to study more about gene expression. Thus, I picked up Richard Dawkins’ ‘The Selfish Gene’, where I gained insight into the role genes play in natural selection. It dawned on me that understanding proteins is the basis of understanding disease pathology and drug discovery. To do so, tools such as molecular cloning are essential as it allows us to produce many copies of protein-of-interest, which can be used to image its structure and from that, infer protein function and physiological mechanisms. Hence, I look forward to being equipped with these lab skills and knowledge of gene expression in the context of disease to be able to take part in medical research.
Pursuing classical ballet up to Grade 8 and piano up to diploma honed my time management skills that will enable me to cope with the rigour of tertiary education. I also worked as the Secretary of Student Welfare in my college’s student council and volunteered for Tzu Chi regularly, allowing me to speak up for people in need. Winning awards from participating in global and national essay-writing contests, as well as prose, poetry composition, and Mathematics competitions, enabled me to develop an analytical mind and eloquence in conveying ideas, which would aid me in analysing and presenting experimental results in the future.
For a long time, I held onto the misconception that researchers should have a sense of where they are going before they start. My time in the lab proved to me otherwise as I recognised that it was about breaking boundaries, taking visionary leaps, and transforming beliefs to reality. I am deeply inspired to pursue a degree in Biochemistry as I believe it will bestow me the knowledge and skills required to achieve my goal—enhancing drug testing and disease modelling methods so more lives can be saved at a lower cost.
DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KIND. UCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.