Biological Sciences Personal Statement
What I am most grateful for as a scientific hopeful is that I have retained my childhood curiosity. Why do lions have manes and (crucially) how can we find out? Why is heritability important for evolution? These are excerpts from a notebook of similar questions, which I have been keeping for the past few years.
I am very fortunate to be spending my gap year as a researcher at [University of X], where this curiosity is nurtured by [Prof. Y]. The [Y] Lab researches the genetic basis of children's [cancers]. Inexperienced, and eager to catch up with my post-doc colleagues, I set about acquiring the knowledge required to become a fully functioning researcher. I was particularly interested in the project on DNA methylation in our tumour samples and so took a Coursera course on epigenetics, which I passed with distinction. The continuation of my education has also included tutorials with [Prof. Y], which have given me the luxury of being able to explore any part of biology that interests me, programming in R, and the reading of textbooks, review articles and primary source material. My experiments in the lab have allowed me to hone my practical skills: I have recently performed PCRs, run the products on gels and sequenced them.
Although the methylation study is approaching its conclusion, I have been recently entrusted with another project, where I am to investigate cyclin D1 in our tumours. It is hoped that I shall author a publication from my work during the year.
Shortly after receiving my A-level results this summer, I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia. This was more illuminating than frustrating; a case for me to be granted extra time and the right to use a computer when I retake some units next summer (and in exams at university) will be argued, and it is a possible explanation for my problems with timing and consequent underachievement in exams so far, despite my success in the classroom. Crucially, it will allow me to begin my undergraduate study aware of my learning difficulty and to utilise any available learning support services, in order to minimise the impact of the disability on my academic performance.
Despite my dyslexia, I love to write. In my final year at school, I wrote on the title 'Can Science tell us about Morality?' for St. Peter's College, Oxford's Philosophy Essay Competition, critiquing neuroscientist Sam Harris's idea that science alone can formally determine how we ought to behave. This taught me how to conduct independent research; weeks were spent in London's Wellcome Library in preparation for writing. The essay won second prize.
My designs of becoming a science writer are supported by reading. The coincidence of my working in genetics and reading 'The Selfish Gene' and 'The Extended Phenotype' profoundly changed the way I think about evolution; I now think about evolution as changes in the genome and the gene as the unit of selection, and tumours as the result of natural selection favouring 'selfish' cells. Yet this reduction has not diminshed my wonder for a process, which, by such a simple mechanism, has produced such extraordinary complexity on Earth that has not been found for millions of miles around.
Besides biology, music is my passion. I have been studying the classical guitar under [Prof. Z] at [music school] for the past six years. In this time I have: achieved Grade 8 with distinction, won my school's guitar prize three times and performed in concerts and masterclasses. Recently I was 'highly commended' in the [school’s] 'Guitar, Harp and Harpsichord Prize' and was a section leader in the National Youth Guitar Ensemble. Despite having no formal training in philosophy, I take great interest in the subject. I am a founding member of my school's Philosophy Reading Group, where significant philosophical papers are discussed, including those on the philosophy of science.
Universities Applied to:
- St Hugh's College, University of Oxford (Biological Sciences) - Offer (conditional on my retaking maths and chemistry and achieving AA) Firm
- St Chad's College, Durham University (Biology) - Offer (conditional on my retaking maths and chemistry and achieving AA)
- University of Bristol (Biology) - Offer (conditional on my retaking maths and chemistry and achieving A) Insurance
- University of Manchester (Biology) - Offer (conditional on my retaking maths and chemistry and achieving AA)
- University of Nottingham (Biology) - Offer (conditional on my retaking maths and chemistry and achieving A)
- Biology (A2) - A*
- Chemistry (A2) - B
- Maths (A2) - B
- Music (AS) - A
- English Lit. (AS) - B
NB the undiagnosed learning difficulties.