Merlyn

Biochemistry at Oxford

UCAS Personal Statement

Studying Biology and Chemistry at A-level has enabled me to learn about the importance of

biological molecules and chemical processes which make up the fundamentals of life, this

gives insight into something that has always fascinated me. In particular, as a dressage

rider, I must be meticulous about any medicines and supplements that my horse and I

consume and this helps me to understand at a molecular level why certain substances are

banned while others are acceptable in national and international competition.

 

I read the Chemistry and Biology review magazines. An article which particularly interested

me was "Chiral Chemistry", written by Russell Banta and Shane Daly. This explores the

origins of enantiomerically pure materials and sparked my enthusiasm for the significance of

correct chemical structures. Whilst learning about optical isomerism in class, we also

touched upon the potential consequences of negligent drug testing focusing on the issues

surrounding the prescription and use of thalidomide. This led me to research both the

medical applications of Biochemistry and the rigorous drug development standards needed

to ensure the safety of drug use in a medical environment. As part of my work experience I

was able to shadow a Roche employee who is managing a clinical trial for the treatment for

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). This trial was particularly interesting as I was able to

see how the procedures had to be tailored to deal with specific age groups as DMD typically

affects young boys from the age of 4 to young adulthood. This was a really rewarding

experience as it helped me to see both the varying career opportunities available in the

pharmaceutical industry as well as understand the stringent safety regulations and

procedures which have to be in place during these kinds of trials.

 

As part of my school's Dissection Club I have been able to see how various organisms work.

I have then been able to develop an appreciation of the chemical mechanisms and reactions

which take place within these organisms. This led me to read "What is life?" by Addy Pross,

which explores the connection between Biology and Chemistry whilst discussing the origins

of complex life from inanimate matter via abiogenesis. The aspect of the book which I found

most interesting was how the teleological character of living systems can be explained in the

way that a replicating system with an energy gathering capability can be considered “freed”

from thermodynamic restraints, therefore, making any actions appear purposeful.

 

Following this, I completed an online course run by the University of East Anglia and the

Biochemical Society. This gave me a good insight into what a Biochemistry degree would be

like at University and allowed me to take part in discussions about the importance and need

for Biochemistry in the real world. The topics I most enjoyed learning about on the course

included the history of Biochemistry, metabolism and bioenergetics.

 

As already mentioned, outside school, I regularly compete in dressage and this summer I

represented Great Britain in an international competition where I came 4th. I have had to

develop my time management skills to balance my competitive and academic endeavours.

This, along with being part of the senior prefect team and head of one of the three school

houses, also demonstrates my ability to work as part of a team effectively in varying

environments. I also play the drums for the school Jazz band, and have represented the

school playing hockey to county level.

 

I enjoy learning as much as I can about Biochemistry, and although I have already

discovered some aspects that I find particularly interesting, I cannot wait to learn more in the

coming years.

Behind the Statement

How did you make start on your personal statement or begin planning?

I tried to find a way to integrate a hobby or interest of mine into my interest for biochemistry - I ended up looking at what is and isn’t prohibited for drug testing and why in dressage which is the sport I do.

How did you decide what experiences to include in your personal statement? What did you cut out?

I wrote down everything relevant and then tried to rank which was most important or which I found most interesting and could potentially talk about in an interview. I cut out smaller things like talks I’d attended etc if I wasn’t as interested in them.

How did you get these experiences in the first place?

Through school, or googling definitely helps to find local places where you could get some experience. Online courses are also a good idea to get a feel for specific topics you’re interested in and want to learn more about.

How did you structure your personal statement? 

I did a brief intro talking about why I was first interested in biochemistry and how it relates to me - drug testing and dressage etc. Then I started going through experiences like work experience, courses and relevant books/articles I’d read and other extra curricular relating to biochemistry and why I’d found them interesting. Then I ended on more specifics about me so my other extra curriculars including sport and music.

How did you decide on an introduction for your personal statement?

I tried to briefly write about why biochemistry interested me and why I chose it as a subject, then I wrote a few versions and then got family, teachers and other people to read through and help work out was best.

How did you decide on a conclusion for your personal statement?

Same as the intro really but summing up why I wanted to read biochemistry and also more information about me. And then I did the same so wrote a few versions and got other people to help me work out which was best.

What do you think are the strengths of your personal statement?

I think mine covered quite a lot of relevant experiences as well as information about me to help interviewers get a feel of who I am as a person.

Is there anything you wish you knew beforehand/advice? 

I definitely wished I had tried to find a specific topic that I was really interested in to research more which could then be the focus of my personal statement that I could then build around, just so it could have flowed a bit better. This also helps a bit to guide the interviewer to this so there’s a bit more of a chance that that’s what they’d ask you about (obviously doesn’t always work so make sure you know about and are interested in everything you’ve written!). I’d also say it’s important to look a bit deeper when it comes to finding a topic to research because you want yours to stand out from the rest so you don’t want to pick something everyone else has written about.