School of Biomedical Sciences

Amy Swanston

Amy Swanston

BSc Biochemistry – Graduated July 2014 with an Upper Second Class Honours Degree

Current Position: PhD student at University of St Andrews

When I was at High School everyone was frantically puzzling over what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives. In the midst of it all I made some poor choices and ended up doing a whole host of things I didn’t really like before ending at Newcastle University studying Biochemistry. Instead of asking myself 'what do I want to do in life?' I should have been thinking 'what do I enjoy?'.

It’s that passion for science that has gotten me through my degree. I like to think is why I was accepted for a three year funded PhD studying chromatin remodelling enzymes that I will be starting at the University of St. Andrews in September.

My degree has given me a great opportunity to explore a lot of different topics within biomedicine as well as different lab techniques. I have no doubt these will come in handy over the next three years. Biochemistry gives a great amount of depth into a lot of different cellular processes, which is what I really enjoyed about my course.

While friends on other degrees went into more broad information about cells and signalling pathways, the workings of the body and its diseases, Biochemistry is more about the fundamentals of what makes a cell work, what the proteins and molecules within it do, and more importantly how they do it.

I love the nitty gritty details, of being able to look into a single protein and find out its structure, mechanism, and its interactions with other molecules… it takes me back to being a teenager and taking apart our computer just to see how it fitted back together (sorry dad!).

Studying whilst working part time was hard for me at times, and it took a lot of drive to get all of my extra work done whilst still finding some time for myself, being at uni Monday through Friday and working the weekends as well as some evenings.

If nothing else, it’s given me excellent time management skills (even if everyone writes that on their CV). While a lot of my fellow students spent their summer during second year in a lab on placement, I was raising the cash I needed to live for another year by working in a local supermarket.

Because I felt I was lacking in experience and I knew I wanted to apply for further study after university, I came up with the idea of starting a science blog, and along with some of my fellow students we created Antisense Science. To date we’ve had more than 20,000 views on our articles and have now taken on more students from the faculty to write for us.

I also dabble in photography and graphics design, and was asked to get involved in creating the images for Beauty by the Geeks, a beauty science start-up business also from Newcastle University. I would have loved to have had more lab experience over my time at Newcastle, and had time allowed I would have done so, but lacking that I decided to make my own opportunities, and it seems to have served me well! I don’t think future employers can doubt your passion for science when all of your hobbies revolve around it!

I know it sounds cheesy, but my time at University has really changed who I am as a person, and has given me not only the skills I will use throughout my career but the confidence that I was lacking to apply them.

Our lecturers and course leaders have been brilliant, not only in giving the information that we need, but also in supporting us in our development (and providing a few laughs along the way). I can’t recommend my course more highly.