UCL Faculty of Life Sciences


Jwalin Patel, Biochemistry BSc

Jwalin studied Biochemistry BSc at UCL, graduating in 2014. After graduation he went back to India and set up a charity with some of his friends.

Head and shoulder shot of Jwalin Patel
What inspired you to study at UCL?

I was looking primarily at UK-based universities, and what attracted me to UCL was the extent of research taking place in the Faculty of Life Sciences. I was very interested in Biosciences, but as a prospective undergraduate student I didn’t have an in-depth understanding of my research interests. I applied to UCL because I hoped that the exposure to different kinds of research studies would help me better understand and develop my research interests.

What attracted you to your degree course?

Originally, I was very passionate about physics and astrophysics, but I lost a couple of family members to various illnesses and that made me want to study biosciences. I wanted to try and see if I could gain a deeper understanding of certain diseases, and contribute to preventing, managing, or curing any of them. That’s when I decided to study biochemistry.

At UCL there’s a lot of flexibility within the undergraduate courses to swap between courses, or transfer onto specific pathways [dependent on grades] and I really liked that.

Did you undertake any placements or internships whilst at UCL?

I interned in research labs at UCL during the academic year and in my summer breaks, which I found really interesting and helpful. It gave me the opportunity to apply much of what I was learning on my course into practise.

What did you particularly enjoy about studying in London?

I enjoyed the international nature of both the city and the university. There were plenty of opportunities to meet, interact with, understand, and bond with people from different cultures. I found it fascinating; I was coming from Western India, so hadn’t really experienced many other cultures until I came to London. Luckily, I also found a community and a group of friends, which led to a sense of belonging

I also took part in a lot of extra-curricular activities during my time at UCL. I spent a year in a church, two years with an Islamic meditation community and a year with a Buddhist community. My time in London enabled me to gain exposure to different kinds of spiritual practices, meditational practices, people and cultures and I’m grateful for that.

What is your favourite memory of UCL?

It would have to be the time spent in labs; I absolutely loved being in the research labs.

I audited a lot of extra courses and that would be a close second. I audited courses in molecular biology, biotechnology, pharmacology, and neuroscience. They were really interesting, and I got to meet a lot of different students and faculty staff. I hold many of the faculty staff in high regard, and still keep in touch with some of them, which I think says a lot about the environment at UCL.

I also joined a lot of clubs at UCL and I think that would be a third. I joined the gliding, wing chun, archery, and other clubs.

What advice would you give to current or prospective students?

One thing I didn’t do, which I think I should have, is to look at other research opportunities beyond the Faculty of Life Sciences. There are so many different departments at UCL, many of whom are conducting different clinical studies and I wish I’d looked at those too.

Also remember that there’s more to life than your course. Make sure you join different clubs and societies, interact with your peers and really discover yourself.

What have you been up to since graduating from UCL?

When I finished at UCL I decided to come back to India. I started to think about the quality of life that people have in the slums and villages here and it made me realise that I wanted to try and make a difference – to improve people’s quality of life.

I started working for a couple of charities based in India, before setting up my own charity with some of my friends called the Together in Development and Education (TIDE) Foundation. I work as the President of the foundation and oversee elements such as planning, operations, fundraising and human resources. The charity works on foundational access to basic education, literacy and numeracy, teaching quality and teacher training.

From running the foundation, I realised I didn’t know enough about education, so I decided to undertake an M Phil, PhD and a post-doctoral position at the University of Cambridge. I now also run a couple of independent research studies; we recently were awarded an international research grant to explore children and teachers’ perspectives and experiences of a large scale social emotional learning intervention in India.

How do you think your undergraduate degree helped you to get where you are today?

I took a lot away from my time at UCL. Currently, I have a very busy schedule and I think UCL taught me how to manage my time between lab work, course work and being part of various clubs and societies.

I also learnt a lot of team-building skills at UCL, and I rely on them a lot today as I lead teams through my work in the foundation. Also auditing various courses, meeting colleagues pursuing different courses, and spending extended periods of time in the library reading about other subjects has helped me to see things differently and understand different perspectives.