Six tips for surviving and thriving MSc in Applied Biosciences and Biotechnology: insights from a current student

by Romita Trehan, MSc Applied Biosciences and Biotechnology.

As a Master’s student in Applied Biosciences and Biotechnology at Imperial College London, you’re about to embark on a challenging yet rewarding journey.

This course will equip you with cutting-edge knowledge and practical skills in various aspects of biotechnology, from genetic engineering to drug discovery, and will prepare you for a successful career in academia, industry, or entrepreneurship. However, as with any rigorous academic program, the MSc in Applied Biosciences and Biotechnology requires dedication, focus, and resilience. I have faced my own unique set of challenges and experiences. As much as it is demanding, it has also been incredibly rewarding. The fast-paced environment and the plethora of learning opportunities at Imperial along with interactive class discussion, pitching competitions and a good student support team ensure that you make the most out of your Master’s in one year.

In this blog article, I want to share some tips for surviving and thriving during your studies, as well as highlight how the unique perspectives and diverse cultures of students and staff on the course help to bring a new perspective to the world.

Stay up-to-date on the latest research

The field of biotechnology is constantly evolving, with new discoveries and breakthroughs emerging every day. To stay ahead of the curve and develop a deep understanding of your field, it’s important to stay updated on the latest research and trends. Read scientific papers, attend conferences, and follow experts in your field on social media and other platforms. Don’t limit yourself to your coursework or your lab work; explore different areas of biotechnology and seek interdisciplinary connections. Develop a critical and analytical mindset that allows you to evaluate the quality and relevance of scientific information and apply it to your own research projects and career goals. To ace the exams, you require substantial outside reading, both for understanding the depth of the topic as well as the practical applications of it. This will make you feel more prepared.

Develop your practical skills

The MSc in Applied Biosciences and Biotechnology places a strong emphasis on practical skills and computational techniques. Therefore, it’s important to develop your computational skills and practice them regularly. The course includes python programming sessions along with genome editing workshops and synthetic network building through the use of various software, all of which are exciting but require time and attention to understand. Attend these lab sessions with a curious and open mind and follow the instructions carefully. Don’t hesitate to ask for help or clarification if you’re unsure about a step or a concept. Make sure you understand the rationale behind each class and the data you generate. Document your experiments, observations, and results, and use it to reflect on your progress and identify areas for improvement.

Stay organised and plan ahead

One of the biggest challenges of the course is the amount of coursework and assignments. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so it’s important to stay organised and manage your time effectively. Set realistic goals for each day and prioritise your tasks. Use a planner or calendar to keep track of deadlines and plan ahead. By staying on top of your work, you can avoid last-minute stress and ensure that you are making progress towards your goals. As a student, you have access to Microsoft Office 365, where you can find all the tools necessary for planning and scheduling. It might be common sense, but make sure to add every meeting or event to your calendar. A simple thing like that could save a lot of confusion and you will never miss an important appointment, which happens when you get busy with coursework.

Take advantage of the resources available to you

Imperial has a wealth of resources available to students, so make sure to take advantage of them. The professional development courses offered by the Careers Service will help you prepare yourself for the next stage in life, so make sure to attend workshops and seminars to learn new skills and network with other students and professionals. Take advantage of library resources and academic support services, such as tutoring and writing centres. No matter what direction your career is heading in, be it a job, PhD or a startup, Imperial will provide you support and resources. Additionally, make sure to build relationships with your professors and peers, as they can provide valuable advice and guidance. Interact in classes and discuss your doubts and ideas with your professors, don’t hold back from asking!

Appreciate your peers

As we move towards a more interconnected and interdependent world, the perspectives and insights of individuals from different cultures and backgrounds are becoming increasingly valuable. By engaging with different viewpoints and experiences, I have been able to expand my own knowledge and challenge my own assumptions. Furthermore, the diversity of the cohort has allowed me to develop my communication and collaboration skills. Working with individuals from different backgrounds has taught me the importance of active listening and effective communication, skills that are essential in today’s globalised world. Importantly, holding study sessions where you clear your doubts and share knowledge proves beneficial.

Take care of yourself

While it’s important to work hard and stay focused, it’s also important to take breaks and find a balance between work and life. Make time for exercise, hobbies, and social activities. This will help you to recharge and stay motivated. Additionally, finding a supportive group of friends can help to alleviate stress and provide a sense of community. The department holds formal and informal networking and social events that you can attend, in addition to the welcome week. The group projects also help you interact more deeply with diverse people in your course and expand your social circle. There are various fun activities held by societies and clubs which contribute to your exciting year!

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