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A Journey from Biomedical Science to Medical Research in Neurodegenerative Disorders

30 May 2021

Ever since I learnt of the words ‘Ambition’ and ‘Occupation’, I knew I had to pursue my interest and passion for studies on the human brain. The thought of what I wanted to focus on however, from the time I was five till I finished high school, was just as vague as it was intriguing. Just as I graduated high school and was off to start my pre-university education, I learnt that my grandmother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Apart from having to witness the heartbreaking decline in her cognitive and motor functions, I watched as she gradually went from being the beloved grandmother who once looked forward to my visits, to one that no longer recognizes me.

What hit me worst about all this, was the fact that I could not do anything to stop it. I realized that despite the tremendous and extensive advancement over the past century in medical science, pharmacology, and medical technology, the onset of her symptoms despite possible slowing down, were ultimately inevitable. That was the moment I felt the desire and need to study neurodegenerative diseases, hoping to possibly find a light at the end of the tunnel someday, for others in the same predicament.

With that drive and ambition, I graduated with my pre-university qualification wanting to pursue a medical degree. Up until that point, I believed that I had to first become a medical doctor, before becoming a neuroscientist. Although that notion was not entirely wrong, I ended up changing my mind during the university application process as I stumbled upon a course which I had never heard of before; ‘Biomedical Science’. After some enlightening research, I decided to take up this course instead of Medicine, with the intentions of furthering to a MSc and PhD in Neuroscience later on.

My research led me to realize that Biomedical Science is a versatile degree that not only provides vast knowledge in the medical sciences, but also gives its graduates a wide scope of career opportunities to venture into. It covers numerous essential subjects like Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Haematology, Molecular Biology, Toxicology, and Forensic Science.

Graduates are hence provided with an extensive array of choices for their next step, be it in laboratory work, research, academics, bioinformatics, medical sales and marketing, or even a further degree or specialization. I chose to pursue this degree at the International Medical University (IMU) because of its reputable standards, outstanding recommendations from alumni, and Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) accreditation.

Along with the invaluable knowledge I had gained throughout my time at IMU, my passion for research and academic writing was enhanced in my final year, with the final-year project, review article-writing module, as well as the short internship placement, for which I had the opportunity to apply to any research laboratory/ institute of my preference. I am forever grateful to my former principal investigator at the University of Alberta for graciously accepting me as an intern during those three months. It is impossible to articulate the feelings I had when I first arrived in Edmonton for my internship. It was a combination of excitement and nervousness, mixed with the need to stay warm in the extremely cold weather. Growing up in a sheltered environment, I initially felt that the unfamiliar landscape was a world away from the small and warm comforts of home. Nevertheless, I grew to love Edmonton in a matter of days and enjoyed everything during my time there; the lovely wintery weather, beautiful landscapes, wonderful university, and all the kind people I had met. At the research lab, apart from gaining extensive knowledge in the field of neurodegenerative diseases, I also came to realize how much I enjoy thinking critically, solving problems, and delving deeper down in the recesses of my intellect. In my three months over there, I appreciated IMU all the more for having prepared me well in terms of both knowledge and skills.

As I sit in my room today and think of my time in IMU, I cannot help but reminisce the three wonderful years spent not only studying and learning, but developing into a better person in so many aspects. I remember entering IMU with the intentions of immersing myself in my passion and testing the infinite possibilities of my mind to pursue new knowledge to add to the repertoire of mankind. Although this was a little challenging at first, everything in IMU from the Biomedical Science course structure to my supportive lecturers, encouraging friends, and the available facilities, helped me gain a strong foundation of knowledge and be better equipped for all the challenges yet to come.

When I graduated with my degree at the end of 2020, I remember the bittersweet feeling of having to bid IMU a fond adieu. Every nook and corner of the university is filled with memories of early morning classes, exciting lab activities, long-awaited lunch breaks, unrelenting study nights, and comforting laughter with friends. All of which I will miss dearly.

Graduate School at the University of Alberta
Although my time in IMU was just one chapter in a long novel, it has impacted my life in the most wonderful ways possible and has left me with countless invaluable experiences. Several months after graduating from IMU, I got accepted into Graduate School at the University of Alberta. I am currently in the first semester of my graduate degree, and am working on a project using Drosophila Melanogaster (Fruit flies) as model organisms, to study the possibility of rescuing memory loss and Dementia in Parkinson’s Disease.

Although there is still a lot for me to learn, I will continue to strive and persevere to achieve the dreams that I hold dear. No matter where life takes me, I will always be grateful to my supportive family, dearest friends, encouraging lecturers, and all the kind people that I have met along the way, for everything they have done to help me throughout my journey.

Written by Akhila Eswaran (BM117)

Related article: Internship in Canada Enhances IMU Biomedical Science Student’s Interest in Neuroscience Research

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