Virology and Immunology

Author: Elisabeth Waller

Applied in: Winter 2013

University Offers: Bristol

We were asked to stay in the car park. A stranger in a white suit came to take a swab of my mouth, and a week later I as diagnosed with Swine Flu. The thing that stands out the most from this memory is the wonder I had when I saw that, just as I got better, my whole family came down with the same symptoms. And yet this isn't the only example. Being in a big family means that if one person falls, the others go down too. But it was the trauma of being swabbed and the swiftness of the contagion that really sparked a flame in my twelve-year old self, a flame that has know grown to be my passion.

Understanding how something so small can infect so many people so quickly is something we've skimmed through at school and in my opinion, not in enough depth. This encouraged me to do a scientific baccalaureate so that I would be able to continue to understand various aspects of microbiology and virology. Our school curriculum taught me the basics of the genetic basis of cancer, cystic fibrosis and diabetes, but, hungry to learn more, I took it upon myself to read up on virology and microbiology. I found "Les Maladies Genetiques" (ed. DOMINO) gave a really well constructed view on a wide range of genetic diseases. I am also subscribed to the Virology Journal.

One article that really captured my attention was "Differential cellular gene expression in duck trachea infected with a highly or low pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus", published on the 10th of September 2013. Not only did it enlighten me on the virus itself, but it also helped me understand better the work of a virologist or microbiologist after he or she has finished his or her studies. During an university open day, I attended a lecture on virology which gave students a taster of an area of the subject which in this case was the common cold virus. What surprised me most of all were the three different viruses that could cause the common cold, and, even more enticingly, we were told about how a new project was taking place which consisted of using the adenovirus, one of the viruses at the origin of the human cold, to awaken the immune system and teaching it to deal with certain cancerous cells.

Another reason for my interest in diseases and cellular biology is due to my work placement at Rothamstead Research Centre. During my time there I helped Laura Simmons, a PhD student, on her project which involved carrying out a genetic screen on the Arabidopsis thaliana to determine the role of very long chain fatty acids (VLCFAs) in plant development. Whilst I was at Rothamstead, I was lucky enough to be allowed also to visit the open field experiment with Laura. This experience not only allowed me to gain maturity about my chosen course but also showed me how passionate a scientist should be about his her subject, something which I am about virology. I will also be doing a placement with Dr Nicola Annels in the Royal Surrey County Hospital during the last two weeks of October this year, working with her on her immunotherapy project. I want to study my course in Great Britain for two reasons: firstly as it is where I found the course that most suited me, and secondly because studying in the United Kingdom would allow me to remain close to my family and friends.

My interests outside school are mainly centred around reading classical french texts, researching Greek mythology and drawing, although I was in my school's debating club and programming club, where we learned to program in Java using the Eclipse IDE. I hope my long interest in the subject, my previous experience of it, my extracurricular activities and my academic choices will make me an ideal student for your University and course. Furthermore, I plan to go on to do a PhD in my chosen subject after my course.

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