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Student stories - a summer of biomedical science in India

6 September 2013

One of our Biomedical Science students – Rebecca Molden – has spent the summer working in a virology lab in India as part of the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE).

Here, she tells us what she’s been up to and how she got involved.

“I’ve been in India working in the Department of Virus Research at Kasturba Medical College in Manipal University since the beginning of July. The lab has various different functions, but the diagnostic section, where I’m based, receives samples including blood and stool, as well as throat swabs and vesicle swabs, from hospitals across districts of Southern India for diagnosis of a variety of viral illnesses.

“I’m working on a small project, which involves genotyping cases of the measles virus from all over Karnataka. This district has a land area and population about the same as the UK, and finding out about the genotype of the virus can help establish whether each individual measles case is related, and whether it’s a strain which naturally occurs in India, or whether it’s been imported from another country/area.

“I got the chance to come to India through a company called IAESTE, which organises paid, course-related training overseas.

“I was able to apply for up to five placements and I chose India, Ghana, Tanzania, Germany and Poland. One student per placement is nominated to then apply for that placement, and I was nominated for India. I really didn’t expect to get any placement at all so when I was nominated for India I was excited, but also terrified! I almost didn’t take the offer because three months in such an exotic country seemed like quite a scary prospect, but in the end I was persuaded to do it and I’m extremely glad that I did.

“Doing this placement isn’t a required part of my course, but I’m really hopeful that it will be useful for my future. There is no question that I’m learning so much more here than I would be if I had stayed at home and taken a summer job as I usually do. I’m not only learning about scientific concepts and ideas, but also about a different country and culture, and gaining the skills needed to interact with people who are from hugely different backgrounds.

“Although I’m still not completely sure about exactly what I want to do after I graduate, being here has definitely given me some ideas – often things I would never have considered before. For example after meeting interns from all over the world and learning about their cultures, cities and lives it’s made me realise that I don’t have to limit myself to the UK, or other English speaking countries for future studies and work.

“Even though I spend weekdays in the lab, I’ve still had plenty of opportunities to be a ‘tourist’ in India. Pretty much every weekend has been spent travelling around the country, for example I’ve visited Goa, the ancient ruins at Hampi, Jog falls, Mysore Palace and markets, the hill station at Ooty, and the Taj Mahal.

“I would definitely recommend my course at Abertay () as I’ve gained the knowledge and skills to have some excellent experiences. However, as with anything, studying is what you make of it. I worked hard during my first years at university and the hard work seems now to be paying off.

“Because of Abertay, I was able to undertake a work placement in an NHS microbiology lab and partially complete my Biomedical Scientist registration portfolio which, I believe helped a great deal when I applied for this opportunity in India, which will hopefully allow me to go on to greater and better things.

“Overall, I wouldn’t change a thing, and I’m really not looking forward to coming home at all! I’ve made some wonderful friends here in India and it will be really sad when I have to leave everything and everybody behind and return to everyday Scottish life which currently doesn’t seem nearly as exciting as my life in India.”

IAESTE is supported in the UK by the British Council. It is an exchange organisation which provides students studying for technical degrees, with paid, course-related, training abroad. To find out more about the opportunities available and how to apply, click here.

As well as encouraging Abertay students to apply for placements overseas, we also offer students from around the world the opportunity to come and work on some of the exciting research that’s happening here at the university. You can read about the international student we have hosted at the university this summer here.

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