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Natural Sciences Degree
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Joanna Brunker

MSci Natural Sciences 2010, PhD, UCL Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering


I have always enjoyed having my fingers in many different pies; that’s why I chose to study Natural Sciences at UCL. Within the course I selected Medical Physics and Physical Chemistry as my two “streams”, and these enabled me to explore a broad range of subjects across science - and beyond (I took an option in French!). During the summer of my second year I spent 8 weeks’ paid work in the UCL Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering, and here I found freedom to “invent” my own experiments under the name of biomedical research. The hands-on approach really appealed to me and my supervisor suggested that I consider starting a PhD after finishing Natural Sciences with a BSc. Even at the end of my third year I was still reluctant to specialise, but after a further 8 weeks’ work, this time in the Cambridge Department of Chemistry, I settled for Medical Physics as my major stream. The fourth year project finally convinced me beyond all doubt that, yes, research was for me. I applied to a number of different institutions, but eventually found myself starting back at UCL in September 2009 with my MSci supervisor.

The first year of my PhD in the Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering has been challenging but fulfilling. My project involves pre-clinical characterisation of tumours using photoacoustic imaging, and so far I have been making Doppler velocity measurements on blood-simulating phantoms. The topic encompasses areas including optics, acoustics and cancer biology and entails activities such as computational modelling, laboratory experiments and small animal studies; this year has included a strong training component enabling me to develop skills in each of these areas. My broad Natural Sciences foundation has been invaluable in helping me to tackle a multidisciplinary programme of work among world experts in their fields. In January I was able to present some of my results at an international conference in San Francisco.

Page last modified on 02 jul 13 16:14