Bioengineering Thank You Awards: Julia Sun

The Bioengineering COVID-19 awards were developed to recognise the extraordinary efforts of students and staff in the Bioengineering department in the context of COVID-19.

Staff in the department were invited to nominate their colleagues and students for a Bioengineering Thank You Award. In their nomination, staff members had to state why they felt the work and actions of their nominee were so exceptional. These reasons could be: delivering critical departmental services despite challenging circumstances, working additional hours to ensure new processes were delivered, being involved in activities outside their role to support staff or students, or contributing to College and national COVID-19 related efforts.

I interviewed Julia Sun, a PhD student in the Almquist Lab who was nominated for a Thank You Award due to the volunteer work she carried out during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic at St Mary’s Hospital and as a member of St John’s Ambulance.

Portrait of Julia Sun. Julia stands outdoors smiling. She is wearing a dress that is blue and has white floral details
Julia Sun, a PhD student in the Almquist Lab

Kemi: How do you feel about being given a COVID-19 Thank You award?

Julia: I feel humbled and honoured by this recognition, and am delighted to receive this award!


Kemi: How was adjusting to our “new normal” and juggling working from home alongside volunteering with St Marys along with your additional role with St John’s ambulance?

Julia: I am very fortunate to have two amazing supervisors who supported my volunteering work at St Mary’s Hospital during some of the most stressful and uncertain times of the closure. As with any changes, it was initially challenging to start a different way of living, but going to the hospital helped me settle into a new routine and gave me the opportunity to do purposeful, fulfilling work even when my PhD progress was halted.


Kemi: Were you anxious about the risk of catching COVID during your commutes or while you were working on the frontline?

Julia: I was initially anxious since many of the frontline healthcare workers were becoming ill and the nature of working in a COVID-affected hospital makes it impossible to avoid risk. However, the nurses and staff at St Mary’s Hospital were incredible and took great care to ensure I was comfortable and as safe as possible with the risks we were taking.

Julia and a colleague volunteering at St Mary's hospital. They are both wearing disposable scrubs, head coverings, masks and goggles
Julia and a colleague volunteering at St Mary’s hospital


Kemi: What or who was inspiring your hard work and kept you going during the lockdown?

Julia: In the height of the pandemic, I felt deeply the pain and suffering experienced by those affected by COVID-19, and I felt a sense of duty and responsibility to act. The patients that I had the opportunity to get to know in the hospital wards were who kept me going back shift after shift. The hospital’s no-visitors policy was hard on everyone, healthcare workers and patients alike, and I was incredibly thankful for the opportunity to use my time and skills to meet the needs of my community.

Selfie by Julia Sun. Julia is standing outside smiling, her hair is pulled into a ponytail. She is wearing a black jacket with a green lining and the words "St Johns Ambulance" are embroidered on the left hand side. She is wearing a black and red backpack. There is a red double decker bus in the background
Julia at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington

Kemi: What are you most looking forward to once things return to “normal”?

Julia: Eating together with friends at my favourite Korean hotpot restaurant and experiencing live theatre again!

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