Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Yebeen Ysabelle Boo

"In the summer of my second year on the BSc programme, I started as a Q-step intern at Aceso Global Health Consultants and since then have worked my way up to the position of senior consultant".

Photo of Yebeen Ysabelle Boo
Before UCL 

What were you doing before you became a student at UCL?
6 months before UCL I was living in Sydney and enjoying the sun and heat of Australia! I had hoped to continue studying in Melbourne, which is where I finished secondary school, and had made plans to study urban planning/civil engineering at the University of Melbourne. As you can see, I changed my plan quite a bit since then. I first heard about epidemiology through babysitting the children of an epidemiologist and the more I learnt about it, the more I was drawn to it, particularly as someone who loved human geography and biology. The fact that my secondary school maths project was about MERS-COV disease modelling is just another indicator that it was right for me! In the end, I decided to study BSc Population Health at UCL, as very few UK universities offer epidemiology-related courses at BSc level.

Your time at UCL

What attracted you to study the BSc Population Health programme at UCL?
I did not want to study just biology or geography, as I was always interested in how environments shape people’s health so something where the two overlap was what I was looking for. An added benefit of the degree was that it included an element of data science, which I knew would be very useful when applying for jobs in the future. Even though it was a fairly new programme at UCL when I applied, I knew from the start that I’d love it.

What’s the best thing about your programme?
The fact that it can be used to make a difference in people’s lives. The course itself is also great and it is very difficult to choose just one thing about the programme to be the best! There are some amazing guest lecturers; including Sir Michael Marmot, a world-renowned epidemiologist and pioneer of “Fair Society Healthy Lives”; whilst the small class sizes means that it’s possible to have many in-depth and full discussions and interactive practicals on a regular basis. There is also the option to choose the data science pathway (Q-step), which gives you quantitative analysis skills and experience of using R Studio. It’s not easy, but Q-step has proven to be really useful for me in my professional life. Finally, the degree also helped me to understand what health means from a social perspective, as well as showing me the need to understand the social determinants of health.

What can a student expect to learn on this course?
There’s a big range of things that a student could learn depending on the modules they choose, going from maternal and child health to health behaviours, whilst if you choose the data science pathway then there will be a much stronger emphasis on quantitative research methods in the social sciences. My favourite module was Child and Adolescent Public Health, which is actually very useful in my work right now, consulting for a local authority and using data and health research to help develop interventions to improve young people’s mental health and resilience. 

What is it like studying in London and how do you think it’s benefited your studies?
London really is an amazing city; I don’t think there are any students who would disagree: it’s so much fun and there are so many places to explore. One of the other great things about it is the diversity, understanding of which is very important for the degree.

Life after UCL 

What are your career plans once you’ve completed your current studies at UCL? 
In the summer of my second year, I started as a Q-step intern at Aceso Global Health Consultants and since then have worked my way up to the position of senior consultant. This is an exciting and growing public health company, with projects in the UK and internationally. My work at Aceso is mainly for the London Borough of Newham, using my data analysis skills to help with the development and implementation of an intervention to improve mental health and resilience among young people. 

I have also contributed to the company’s work on COVID-related issues with other UK local authorities, including assisting with the development of standard operating procedures, local outbreak control plans, and testing strategies at the London Borough of Lewisham and all of these and the set-up and running of asymptomatic testing in Kent and Medway. Aceso is also involved with the Childhood Pollution and Infections (CHIP) Consortium, which is taking a One Health, citizen science approach to addressing health issues affecting children under-5 in peri-urban slums in LMICs. The consortium includes academics from a number of famous institutions, including Professor Monica Lakhanpaul of UCL and Professor Pam Factor-Litvak of Columbia University in New York. As part of my role in CHIP, I got to go on international field trips to India, Indonesia and Turkey to work and engage with the communities and learn more about the issues facing them.

I am currently studying for my MSc in Global Health Sciences and Epidemiology at the University of Oxford with a scholarship and am planning to start my fully-funded DPhil in population health later this year, working on my project entitled “Developing an evidence-based comprehensive facility-based stillbirth review process: a mixed methods study in Assam, India”.

Student wisdom

What piece of advice would you give to new students? 
To enjoy university life! It might sound like something lots of people say but there is so much to do, and so many opportunities so don’t be afraid to try completely new things in your studies. I took an accounting course as my elective and now use the skills I learned in grant management. Try to think about what you enjoy and want to do in the long-term and work towards that if you can; perhaps find a mentor who understands your vision for your future and definitely look for the same in your friends. Also remember to look after your mental health and to ask for help if you feel lonely or exhausted, there are many excellent people and services to support you.