Please tell us about yourself
I completed my Bachelors in Zoology from the University of Mumbai and then moved to Pune to pursue a reputed Masters degree in Bioinformatics. Post my course, I was campus-recruited in the Life Sciences domain of a reputed IT firm, Persistent Systems Limited, Pune, India and I worked there for three years. I have now taken a sabbatical to pursue my dream course, MSc (Res) Cognitive Neuroscience and Human Neuroimaging at the University of Sheffield (UoS). I look forward to a great journey ahead leading to a Ph.D.
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How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?
With regards to why I chose Sheffield, I will let you in on a little secret; I had obtained offers from all the UK universities that I had applied to. However, UoS’s excellent student services set it a class apart from rest of the universities in the UK. Within a few days of my offer letter, I realized that the UoS cares for a prospective student like no other university. Promptness of assistance from the University staff, the range of information sent to me from time-to-time and personal phone calls to address any application queries were few features that only this University offered at the time. Another big reason to choose Sheffield was my course. I was looking for a balanced blend of theory and techniques in a Neuroscience stream and this course was just perfect for my interests! It was not too hard for me to choose this lovely place. I am very happy with my decision.
How was the experience at University of Sheffield?
Thinking about my course, it is highly interdisciplinary. We have students with backgrounds ranging from Engineering to Biology and Psychology to Mathematics and Medicine. With such a diverse cohort, it is an enriching experience to look at the same subject with a variety of perspectives. Everyone has some take-away from each class and the lecturers / professors are brilliant. The best part about my course is that I will get to work on an extended project using appropriate neuroimaging techniques, probably alongside neurologists or neurosurgeons. We had a special neuroanatomy laboratory demonstration and I held a human brain in my hands! I was elated!
I have learnt some skills here, which my previous universities / colleges never taught me. I think that my course and most courses in the University prepare you with a range of relevant tasks in your field. In my field, the most important skill is academic writing. We were strongly encouraged to participate in a review-writing task, analytical writing tasks like presenting results of your MatLab codes, writing critical essays and defending perspectives. Our lecturers have given us guidance on writing like steering clear of inappropriate practices – plagiarism and collusion. Likewise, attending internal and external weekly seminars have exposed us to a rich repertoire of current research in fields of neuroscience, applied psychology and psychiatry. There is indeed a good balance of textbook material and reading from journal articles in my course. These skills prepare you well in time for your project-dissertation.
The teaching and study methods here are excellent. Professors are very knowledgeable, friendly and quite approachable. Classroom teaching, assignments, laboratory sessions, practical demonstrations, internal and external seminars, group discussions are some methods that have been very useful to us. Appropriate references and textbook reading are included for most of the classes. Modules often differ in their modes of assessment. Some modules are completely assignment-based, some are assessed by an examination at the end of the semester. Others are a mixed set of both assessment methods. Modules also might have different host departments and it is interesting to experience learning at more than one department, for most interdisciplinary courses.
What do you expect to learn from the degree?
For me a major benefit of studying here is that The University prepares you for the real-world in your field of interest. Each course is designed carefully with the bigger objectives in mind. Department and module-leaders often take feedback at regular times during the course to ensure that the students are pleased with the course progress. The University of Sheffield is highly ranked in the UK and is in the top 100 Universities in the world. Thus, a UoS graduate has excellent scope for graduate jobs and higher education prospects.
With regards to the city, this university and the entire city is bustling with students. There are no gates to the University and you are welcome to visit most of the University buildings or departments. You have everything that you might need while you are here as a student. From a superb 24-hour library facility to great take-away food joints to career and accommodation fairs, it is a one-stop shop for your academic year(s). There are good pubs and night-clubs around for party-lovers and there is a great deal of activity at the Student’s Union, run by students themselves. There is something for everyone here.
By the end of the course, I hope to achieve good mastery over neuroimaging techniques and experiments in neuroscience research. I am quite sure that it would be a firm stepping stone for my career, leading to a PhD. A degree from this University would certainly place me well ahead of my competitors from most universities in the UK.
Advice to prospective students?
I feel that prospective students should come prepared to experience a fulfilling student-life. Understand the scope and objectives of your course well. As modules would largely differ in objectives, develop different strategies to make optimum use of each module. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Many professors encourage you to develop your own perspectives. Most of them do really like a healthy argument where you support your stand by giving appropriate evidence of reading and / or research. Having a good rapport with classmates may be quite useful if your course requires a group assignment or presentation. I strongly recommend that international students should attend the Orientation session organized just before your course begins. What you would learn in one week of Orientation would come in very handy throughout your stay here. Be on a lookout for great student deals while you are here. Travel around the city in your first two months of stay. It would give you a sense of belongingness in a seemingly new place!
What are you doing now?
I work as a QA lead and Business Analyst for a project in the life sciences software domain