UCL Faculty of Life Sciences


Sylvia Lim, Biological Sciences MSci

Sylvia graduated from UCL with a degree in Biological Sciences MSci, and is now working as a Secondary Science Teacher.

What inspired you to study at UCL?

What really attracted me to studying at UCL was the 'global' nature of the university. When I began researching universities, I was drawn to UCL because of how culturally diverse it was and how academics and students were from all walks of life and had so many experiences to share. The first time I visited UCL on an Open Day, I felt really at home. I could really see myself fitting into the busy, fun life in the heart of London and also making new friends from all walks of life. It was also great to see research being at the forefront of much of the teaching, with many leading academics in their fields interacting with students directly during seminars, lectures and talks. 

What attracted you to the Faculty of Life Sciences?

I've always had a curiosity for life and the Faculty of Life Sciences had such an amazing array of scientists from all different specialisms and fields which I really wanted to take advantage of. During my interview, I spoke to several researchers (both academics and PhD students) within each of the labs and during my interview, who were so happy to share and discuss their research. It was a really welcoming and warm environment. I'd also conducted a summer project at the Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology (LMCB) on-site at UCL the previous summer before I applied to UCL, which really secured my desire to study at UCL due to the positive experience I had investigating Schwann cells in mice using electron microscopy. 

What did you enjoy most about studying in London?

Even though I grew up in East London, studying at UCL in Central London was such a great experience. It was really fun to be in the capital and within walking distance to locations such as Chinatown and Camden. During extended breaks throughout the day, it was fantastic to be able to hop on a bus or walk down to try different cuisines in different restaurants. These made for some really great memories with friends. Within my course itself, it was also great to be able to take advantage of locations in London such as ZSL's London Zoo for a biodiversity module (for free)! 

What is your favourite memory of UCL?

There are too many to chose from! I made some really fantastic lifelong friends at UCL, many of whom have since spread far and wide around the globe but who I catch up with every chance we get. All of the little events are the most memorable - within the Biological Sciences department, I had the opportunity to be Secretary of the Biology Society during my undergraduate 2nd year. It was a really great experience to be able to work with a tight-knit team of fellow undergrads and organise events like the Annual Boat Ball, the Christmas Party and pub quizzes/lectures for our fellow students on our course. Graduation Day was also amazing. It was an emotional goodbye, but our Vice Provost at the time gave a shout out to myself and two of my fellow classmates because together, we'd worked on setting up a wellbeing/mental health initiative in our final year of our degree called 'Project Wellness' to improve mental wellbeing support for undergraduate students. It was amazing to get that recognition. My absolute favourite memory at UCL, however, will probably have to be meeting my now fiancé (and future husband!) during our first year in a Biochemistry lecture. It was one of the toughest lecutres on the Krebs Cycle, but memorable for good reasons too! 

What advice would you give to current or prospective students?

Take the time to ask as many questions as you can - whether you are a current or a prospective student, everyone at UCL within the Faculty of Life Sciences will always be happy to support you by answering any questions. Utilise all of the resources around you; speak to your fellow students or prospective students, and don't be afraid to ask for help when you require it. UCL is a very supportive environment if you seek guidance and be honest about when you need help, and you should never be afraid or shy to do so. 

What is your current job title and company name?

Secondary Science Teacher at Robert Clack School, Dagenham

Can you provide a brief summary of your core duties and the skills you use?

I am currently the KS5 Biology Curriculum Coordinator at my school, helping to organise and run the A-level Biology course for our sixth form pupils in Years 12 and 13 preparing to apply for university. 

Briefly describe your journey, from graduating to where you are now

Back in 2016 (the final year of my course), I applied for the Teach First Leadership Development Programme which places graduates in secondary schools in lower socioeconomic backgrounds. I completed my training in the summer of 2016 and entered the classroom as an unqualified teacher September 2016. It was a tough year of training to be a teacher whilst completing my Postgraduate Certificate in Secondary Education (PGCE), but I graduated with my PGCE in August 2017 and have since remained in the school that I trained in working my way slowly up through the Science department to the role I'm in today. 

How do you think UCL has helped you in your career to date?

UCL taught me resilience which I definitely need as a teacher. Many of the assignments and topics which I studied at UCL, particularly in my final year (where I conducted my own MSci Masters research project with Professor Nick Lane) were both challenging but rewarding. Teaching very much has the highs and lows that you experience as an undergraduate. The many assignments, lab reports, projects and examinations that I experienced at UCL definitely gave me the skills to remain determined in the face of a challenge. I definitely grew in confidence whilst at UCL, particularly in public speaking and scientific communication, which are all essential as a Science teacher. Also having the experience of being the Biology Society Secretary during my second undergrad year also gave me a taste of what it would have been like to be in a multi-functional team, which definitely prepared me a great deal for my first year of teaching when I was finding my feet.