Elizabeth Kapasa, 2002 Leaver

Job/Degree Title: Biomaterials Science and Tissue Engineering (MEng)

Employer/University: University of Sheffield

What was your favourite subject at Queen’s Gate and why?

I enjoyed most subjects, but I think DT was probably my favourite subject because I like the challenge of putting theory into practice.

Who was your favourite teacher and why?

Miss Harris was my favourite teacher because she was always so nice and kind.

What is your fondest memory of Queen’s Gate?

I don’t think I could choose one! But I did really enjoy dressing up for Book day, and doing school plays, and the trip to Juniper Hall.

Looking back, what do you feel Queen’s Gate has given you?

I think from a young age QG instilled a love for learning that continues to thrive, and a drive to use my potential to the full, as well as friendships for life. QG is a good school that has real heart for their pupils to enjoy learning and to excel both in and out of the classroom.
I miss the friendly environment between the pupils as well as with the teachers.

How do you think Queen’s Gate helped you get where you are today?

I think from a young age QG instilled a love for learning that continues to thrive, and a drive to use my potential to the full. I believe that being involved in a range of extra-curricular activities from a young age remains with age to become an essential and enriching part of life. My persevering involvement in a range of extra-curricular activities has given me the opportunity to develop a variety of skills that can also be utilised in a working environment.

Did you get involved in any extra-curricular activities such as music, debating or sport?

Yes! I did choir, flute (Grade 1), piano (Grade 3), recorder, recorder quartet, debating, netball, fencing, computer club, French club, photography club, speech (LAMDA speaking Grade 3), and the school drama productions.

What do you think Queen’s Gate’s unique selling point is?

I think that QG has real heart for their pupils to enjoy learning and to excel both in and out of the classroom. I think QG really enhances learning by taking school trips that make the world a classroom. In addition, QG celebrates individuality by providing an extensive list of extra-curricular activities to get involved in.

What made you decide on your undergraduate university course?

How and why things work has always sparked great curiosity in me and has propelled me to search deeper into the outer appearance of objects, with the human body being the most intriguing of them all. I am particularly interested in furthering medicine to improve health care and the quality of life of individuals. I found this course combined my passion for biology and people with the practical engineering ability to provide solutions to medical problems. I chose to come to Sheffield because I liked the sound of the course, and I knew Sheffield is one of the top three materials departments in the country. I also liked the extracurricular opportunities on offer at Sheffield University as well as the city.

And your postgraduate courses?

I have really enjoyed my degree, and want to continue to develop my knowledge, understanding and research skills in the field. Therefore I applied and successfully got a ESPRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) funded scholarship to study a PhD in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine at the Doctoral Training Centre between the University of Leeds, Sheffield and York, which starts in September 2013.
Talk us though a typical day studying.

There is not really a typical day when you are in your final year, since you have to plan and complete your lab work for your final year project around lectures and tutorials. The beauty of science is that things work in theory but not always in practice, so my days are quite dynamic, which I think keeps things exciting and interesting. However, in general I will go into labs to do some electrospinning or load nanoparticles or do cell culture, with lectures, tutorials and meetings dispersed through the day.

Can you tell us more about what you are studying?

Biomaterials Science and Tissue Engineering is about developing materials to repair or replace damaged or diseased tissues in the body. This ranges from mechanical devices, such as joint implants and heart valves, to tissue-engineered devices, such as engineered skin and nerve replacements. This course is very multidisciplinary, combining materials engineering, medicine, and natural sciences. This is because you need to understand the materials and engineering that you are using and the clinical need you are addressing, as well as the interface between materials and the human body.

Do you have any advice for those thinking of a career in your industry or contemplating a PhD?

Like any career, I think it is really important to find work experience in the field you want to work in. This enables you to discover what kind of work you want to be involved in and the skills you will need to develop and demonstrate to an employer. In addition, it is worth taking opportunities for work experience in fields you do not think you want to work in, since you will always develop transferable skills, and it is also useful to know what you do not like doing!

Furthermore, when people enjoy science and people they generally choose to do medicine, but it is worth considering other jobs in and around the medical field. There is a real lack of women in science and engineering, therefore it is a field I would strongly recommend girls to consider. There are networking groups and events that help women in science and engineering too.

If you are thinking about doing a PhD, it would be ideal to do a summer research placement to get a taste of working in a research environment for a longer period of time. Also, try to maintain a good average throughout your degree across your modules, since PhD and funding applications often ask for a complete list of your modules and grades. A PhD is a great opportunity to continue to develop your knowledge and understanding as well as practical research skills. A PhD is required if you want to continue in research and development in academia and some industries. After a PhD it does not mean you have to stay in that field since it will give you a range a transferable skills, and you are likely to earn a higher salary in the future.

Professionally, what would you like to be doing in 5 and 10 years?

I am thinking about maybe continuing in this field (biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine) in academia or industry, or even pursue a career in something like clinical engineering which works alongside doctors and patients in hospitals. I have really enjoyed my course, so I know what ever I do, I want to remain in the field. I hope to contribute to advancing health care by solving medical problems and subsequently improving the quality of life of individuals. Eventually I hope to lead my own research group.