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Rebecca Stafford

Biology with Forensic Biology

What appealed to you about Northumbria University / studying in Newcastle?

Northumbria University appealed to me due to its great reputation with regards to graduates being able to gain jobs more or less straight after their degree has finished. This is due to their ‘sandwich course’ degrees. It also offered a wider range of opportunities to further my skills both on an educational and social basis. I did not live locally so when selecting the University to study at for the next three to four years I wanted to look for somewhere that felt as comfortable and as safe as home, in this case Newcastle seemed the perfect candidate.

What was it about the course / subject area that particularly appealed?

The aspect of the course that was most appealing to me was the fact that it was an applied subject. This meant that I got to spend plenty of time putting newly learnt theories into practice through continuous lab sessions. Also, due to the term ‘applied’ it meant that for someone like me who always seems to feel uncomfortable about exams, I had the chance to take the pressure off due to the presence of assignments (coursework) which counted towards the total module result.  

What qualifications did you have?

I was fortunate enough to apply through UCAS and I was completely relieved to know I achieved the required points to enable me onto my course of choice. From the point of achieving my acceptance from Northumbria I couldn’t wait to develop my knowledge further, especially while it was fresh.

How did you feel during your first week at Northumbria?

During my first week at Northumbria I was filled with a mix of emotions, excitement, nerves and an undoubtedly strong sense of determination to succeed in my chosen degree. However, I would also say a feeling of the unknown made the whole prospect of University lifestyle seem very daunting, yet this soon subsided as the week progressed. 

What do you like most about the course?

The best thing about the course is getting a good balance between learning new theory and then implementing this through the extensive lab time available. The aspect of the course that I particularly enjoy is the imitation crime scenes as it makes the aspect of learning so much more appealing.  

Can you give an example of a piece of work you’ve been involved with recently?

I am currently working on a Chromatography lab assessment which involves the use of new equipment such as GCMS and HPLC machines. These machines are used for identification of substances found in a solution, i.e. alcohol or drugs in blood sample. In effect these machines can help in identifying whether a death is the result of a drug overdose. This is an assessment that feeds well into my end of module result, yet at the same time it has developed my skills to use techniques which are useful in a forensic lab. In general I would say that the course has been hard work but because it is an area of interest it doesn’t seem really like work.  

How do you get on with your tutors?

I get on well with my tutors, I believe this is due to the fact that they all seem genuinely pleasant, which makes them much more approachable than when I was at school. The tutors are all very knowledgeable within their area of study, this means asking questions/queries seem that bit more productive because their experience is more valuable than any textbook. They also have a lot of life experience behind them which helps them to deliver a high standard of help far beyond their academic knowledge.

Do you have the opportunity for any work placements during your course?

I have the opportunity to take a year in industry next year. I am currently working on applications to companies like Procter and Gamble or Reckitt and Benckiser as the opportunity to work within the forensic field is unfeasible due to the strict regulations and guidelines that the companies must adhere to. This is the reason I have chosen to apply for work placements within the Bioscience area as there are more work experience placements available within this field. Plus it seems increasingly vital to employers that graduates have had some form of previous experience within their chosen field, hence a year in industry seemed the ideal choice.  

What do you do when you’re not studying?

In my spare time I usually hit the gym for a nice workout, sometimes participating in classes like yoga. I also get involved with work for the University e.g. helping out at Open Days. Although on most occasions I will spend my free time shopping in Newcastle or visiting places like Whitley Bay just for a change of scenery as everywhere is easily accessible.

What’s your accommodation like?

As I am currently a second year student I am no longer in student accommodation; instead I am living in a flat about ten minutes from the University. The location of all the student accommodation is perfect because everywhere is within walking distance or close to a metro station. Therefore, although the city seems vast, everywhere is actually closer than you think. My accommodation is located close enough to all the local amenities and to a large supermarket.

What would you like to do when you graduate?

I am currently enjoying my University experience, however I aim to hopefully have achieved or secured a position with the company that I undertake my year in industry with. However, if this doesn’t happen I have considered continuing with my education and gaining a masters in my degree.

Have you used Student Services during your course?

So far whilst studying my degree, I have used the student careers office to help in my application process for a year in industry placement. They proved a valuable asset as they gave great advice and were able to give me practice interviews to help me when it comes to the real thing. Student services do however offer many other areas of expertise which are widely advertised around the University and through the email system. They also help to solve any social problems through the welfare office, and can provide you with information of courses that can improve areas of your academic skills free of charge, i.e. referencing, writing CVs, note taking and many, many more.

Do you have any advice for anyone applying for your course, or for university in general?

It’s a fabulous course and I am thoroughly enjoying it because of its link to real life scenarios. My advice to anyone applying for my course is the Biology with Forensic Biology is not how it is depicted on the television. You need to have a genuine love for science a quizzical mind, and ultimately be ready to start your university life running.

What three words would you use to describe your time at Northumbria?

Challenging, Friendly and Fun!


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