UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


Sandugash Mussabekova

Sandugash graduated from our Science, Engineering and Public Policy MPA in 2017. She is currently working as an International Consultant at a Food and Agriculture organisation for the United Nations.

Sandugash Mussabekova outside the Portico
What attracted you to the Department of STEaPP at UCL?

When applying for my MPA I had a background in Economics and had worked for six years in a national company. I saw a gap between government and citizens, and I wanted to know how the authorities work, analyse, build strategic planning and negotiate.

As someone interested in the intersection of science, engineering and public policy, the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Public Policy (STEaPP) at University College London (UCL) was an obvious choice for me. The Department's commitment to promoting innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to address complex societal challenges resonated with my own passion for finding solutions to real-world problems.

One of the key factors that attracted me to STEaPP was its reputation as a leading institution in research and teaching related to science, technology, and public policy. As a student, I had the opportunity to learn from renowned academics and practitioners, who provided me with valuable insights into the complex interplay between science, technology, and public policy.

Another important aspect that drew me to STEaPP was its interdisciplinary approach to teaching and research. The Department brings together experts from a range of disciplines, including science and engineering, social sciences, and policy studies, to address pressing global challenges. This collaborative approach provided me with a rich and diverse learning experience, and exposed me to different perspectives and ways of thinking.

Finally, as a global institution, UCL provided me with the opportunity to engage with students and academics from all over the world. The Department's international outlook and focus on global issues aligned with my own interests in exploring the impact of science, engineering, and public policy on a global scale.

What was your favourite aspect of your course? 

Throughout my course I was exposed to a wide range of topics and skills that I found fascinating and useful. We explored how to assess and manage risks associated with emerging technologies and how to balance the interests of different stakeholders in the development and implementation of public policy.

Another aspect of the course that I enjoyed was the emphasis on teamwork and collaboration. We were frequently assigned group projects and tasks with tight deadlines, which taught me valuable skills in communication, time management and problem-solving. Through these group activities, I learned how to write briefs and reports effectively, how to present ideas clearly and persuasively, and how to work with others to achieve common goals.

We engaged in thought-provoking discussions and debates on a range of topics, including the ethics of science and technology, the role of evidence in policymaking, and the challenges of implementing sustainable development goals. The course gave me a deeper understanding of the complex interactions between science, engineering and public policy, and how they shape the world around us.

One of the unforgettable memories from my course was our cohort's trip to the World Government Summit in 2017, which took place in the United Arab Emirates. This was an incredible opportunity for us to hear from some of the world's most renowned leaders and thinkers in fields such as technology, policy, and business. Among the many esteemed speakers we heard from were Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, and Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Their talks were both inspiring and insightful, and they challenged us to think deeply about the future of our society.

Through my Science, Engineering, and Public Policy MPA, I received a comprehensive education that has equipped me with the skills and knowledge to excel in a wide range of career paths. The program brought together a diverse cohort of students from various backgrounds and cultures, providing a unique opportunity for engaging in thought-provoking discussions and exchanging ideas. By learning from each other, we were able to broaden our horizons, deepen our understanding of complex issues, and expand our network of professional connections. Today, these experiences continue to serve as valuable assets as we pursue our careers in the dynamic field of science, engineering, and public policy.

What did you enjoy most about studying in London?

London is a truly unique and vibrant city that offers an abundance of opportunities for students. There are many things to enjoy about studying in London, but some of the most common include:

Cultural diversity: London is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities, which creates a rich and dynamic environment for learning and socialising. Students have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and learn about different customs and traditions.

Academic excellence: London is home to some of the world's leading universities and research institutions, which attract top talent from around the globe. Studying in London provides access to cutting-edge research and world-class facilities, as well as a chance to learn from renowned experts in your field.

Career opportunities: London is a global hub for business and innovation, which provides ample opportunities for internships, networking, and career development. Many companies and organisations have offices in London, which can open doors to exciting job prospects and career paths.

For students of public policy, London is an excellent match: The city boasts a rich history of public policy development, from the establishment of the first modern police force to the creation of the National Health Service. Additionally, London is home to numerous government agencies, think tanks, and NGOs, providing ample opportunities for students to gain real-world experience and network with professionals in their field. Furthermore, the city's diversity and multiculturalism offer a unique perspective on the challenges facing policymakers in an increasingly globalised world.

Overall, studying in London is an incredible experience that offers a unique combination of academic excellence, cultural diversity, and exciting social and career opportunities. It is a city that truly has something for everyone, and provides a fantastic backdrop for learning, growth, and personal development.

Please provide your current job title and the name of your organisation.

Letters of Agreement (LoA) Procurement Specialist at a Food and Agriculture organisation for the United Nations.

Please provide a brief summary of your role and the skills that you use.

In my role as an International Consultant at FAO, specializing in the procurement of non-commercial services through LoAs (Letters of Agreement), I've come to understand that a strong sense of responsibility is paramount. This is particularly relevant as I operate from HQ, handling projects that frequently surpass the thresholds of decentralised offices. Attention to detail, effective teamwork, and analytical skills are also integral qualities that I apply daily to ensure successful outcomes. My MPA studies have equipped me with the proficiency to meticulously analyze both qualitative and quantitative data, enabling me to provide concise, well-informed recommendations to decision-makers. These skills are proving invaluable as I assess agreements spanning a diverse array of global projects and offer insights to key decision-makers.

Moreover, my education at UCL instilled the value of clear and succinct communication, especially when adhering to regulations and making strategic compromises. This foundation has been pivotal as I navigate the responsibilities of my role. During my time in the MPA program, we engaged in rigorous analysis of projects and scenarios across diverse countries, each with distinct governmental and legal landscapes. This experience is a significant asset at FAO, where our projects span continents, including Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas. This geographic diversity necessitates meticulous consideration of varying political and social contexts in the decision-making process.

How has your degree at STEaPP shaped your experiences since leaving UCL?

Overall, my experience at STEaPP and UCL was a rewarding one. The Department's commitment to interdisciplinary research and teaching, coupled with its focus on the impact of science and technology on public policy, made it the ideal place for me to pursue my academic and professional goals.

The MPA at STEaPP provided me a good chance to have interesting jobs with international scope. Many thanks for that. It helped to expand globally my professional path.
I worked for consulting companies and national companies for four years: working with WTO, EAEU rules, analysing trade balances, and I have participated in the submission of the country report about industrial subsidies to WTO. I have also analysed the governmental agreements for big projects in terms of the WTO rules, and was in the team who contributed to the National Export Strategy in 2017 when I was at consulting , then in 2020 in a team who contributed to the Environmental code. I worked with the implementation of the OECD recommendations, engaging with the Ministries of Education, Ecology, Labor. In cooperation with my colleague I published Comparative analysis of world oil and gas market, Economy and Finance journal, 2020.

Since July 2021, I am working for the UN FAO as a National Consultant Programme Assistant, where I am supporting the projects and programmes at national, subregional and regional level, contributing to the concept notes, budgeting, monitoring the projects, verifying the financial reports, contributing to the country reports and assessments. I also work with the programmes of other donors as GEF, GCF to follow their standards and requirements.

What advice would you give to current or prospective students?

Engage with the material: UCL STEaPP offers a rigorous and challenging curriculum that covers a wide range of topics related to science, technology, engineering, and public policy. To get the most out of your education, make sure to engage with the material in a meaningful way by asking questions, participating in class discussions, and doing the required readings.

Take advantage of resources: UCL offers a range of resources and services to support your academic and professional development. Make use of these resources to enhance your educational experience and connect with other students and professionals in your field.

Collaborate with your peers: Collaborating with your peers can be a great way to deepen your understanding of course material and develop your teamwork skills. Take advantage of opportunities to work in groups or on team projects, and make an effort to communicate effectively and respectfully with your peers.

Build your professional network: Networking is an important aspect of UCL STEaPP that can help you establish connections with peers, professors, and professionals in your field. Attend events, join clubs, and participate in activities that allow you to meet new people and build your professional network.

Develop your professional skills: UCL offers opportunities to develop your skills in research, project management, communications and plenty other elective courses. Take advantage of these courses and seek out additional resources to enhance your abilities.

Finally, remember to enjoy the journey: UCL STEaPP offers a unique and challenging educational experience that can be both rewarding and fulfilling. Make sure to take time to enjoy the journey and appreciate the opportunities and experiences that come your way.