Lily Ha

Lily Ha

About your course/programme

Why did you choose to study your course?

Prior to this course, I had studied biochemistry at an undergraduate level and had industrial experience in molecular biology. However, I wanted to move away from the lab and explore the field of bioinformatics. Therefore, I chose this course to advance my computational, statistical and data analysis skills.

What do you enjoy about your course?

I enjoyed the variety of course content, from statistics to genomics, cancer and biopharmaceutical development, there was a good range of topics of interest.

What have been the highlights of the course so far?

My highlights have been the research project and the statistics modules, as I feel these were beneficial in developing transferable skills. Another highlight was the industrial insights gained from the Covance lecturers during the biopharmaceutical development module.

What has been the greatest challenges throughout your course so far?

The greatest challenge was learning statistics from a non-mathematical background, as these were quite difficult concepts at first. However, the lecturers Benjamin Thorpe and Seppo Vertanin were excellent at explaining these with plenty of examples, guidance and feedback. Additionally, learning R programming was initially challenging, however with time and practice it became much more intuitive.

How do you think the MSc has improved your understanding of data analytics as applied to genomics?

The MSc has improved my understanding of how data analytics can be used in the field of genomics and healthcare. It has also taught me practical skills and how to apply these concepts in real-world situations.

What is your research project about and what has it involved?

My research project involved the decontamination of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) archival tumour samples. This was mainly carried out using R programming, where I used statistical methods to curate whitelists of taxa from fresh cancer samples, these were then used as a “gold-standard” microbiome profile to decontaminate the archival FFPE samples. I then investigated how this decontamination affected the downstream analysis of the FFPE series microbiome data, mainly looking at alpha and beta diversity as well as the relative abundance of species.

How do you think doing a research project has benefited you/will benefit you in the future?

This research project taught me many transferable skills, primarily, I became quite proficient in R syntax and gained confidence in writing R scripts. Moreover, I had an excellent supervisor who was very helpful and knowledgeable about the field of microbiology and will be a great contact to have if I stay in this area of research. Additionally, as all supervisor meetings were carried out virtually, I had to be quite self-sufficient which developed my research and time-keeping skills.

What do you think of the projects available in terms of interest and relevance to the course and future research careers?

I thought there was a good variety of topics and supervisors to choose from in terms of research projects. My main interests were in microbiology and oncology, so I gravitated towards those projects. However, there were plenty of other options that I would have been happy to have been assigned. I’m not sure about other projects, but I thought my project was relevant to the course as I felt well equipped from the lectures to carry out the research.

Did you receive any funding for your studies? If so, how has this impacted your studies?

I received funding from student finance wales, which covered tuition and some of my maintenance fees. I also had the alumni bursary discount towards tuition fees, which was a main factor as to why I chose to remain in Leeds for my Masters.

About the University

Why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I had just graduated with a BSc in Biochemistry from the University of Leeds and decided to stay for the Masters program as I had enjoyed my previous three years of study at the university. This was also one of the most relevant courses that I found for my future career plan at the time, which was to pursue a PhD in bacterial genomics.

What key aspects of your experience at Leeds would you highlight to students thinking about coming to do the same course?

I would highlight that even though this is a data analytical course, it was quite accessible to students from a life-sciences background. I had not studied mathematics since A-Levels and while the statistics modules were difficult at first, the lecturers made the content very comprehensive, and with practice, the concepts became more intuitive and understandable.

What are your career aims (short term/long term) and do you think the MSc has prepared you for this?

My short-term career aims are to apply for data analysis, bioinformatician or statistical programming jobs within the biotechnology industry, where I am planning on staying for 1-2 years before applying to PhD programs. I am exploring various fields of interest and would eventually like to transition into studying the use of data analytics in sports and exercise science.