Meet Rachel Nguyen, visual and performing arts afficionado and third year medical science student with a penchant for disease etiology. Since graduating from EIS as 2020 valedictorian, Rachel has embraced the best of both worlds – first taking a gap year to focus on dance, and now as a student at one of the world’s leading medical universities. The chance to live in London is the icing on the cake.
“London offers the perfect balance between having a world-class education while also immersing myself in the arts scene,” says Rachel.
A dream come true
Rachel’s lifelong dream of pursuing a career in health and medical sciences finally became a reality when she was accepted into UCL, a university that ranks 6th in the world for medicine. Now entering her third year of the BSc Applied Medical Sciences programme, Rachel’s tertiary journey has been pivotal in shaping her future.
“Human biology has always seemed so fascinating to me and being at UCL has offered me a forefront view of what’s happening in the current progress of disease unraveling and therapeutics,” she explains. “My first year was largely spent studying human physiology, disease progression and diagnosis, which made me realise that often medicine treats the symptoms, not the underlying cause.”
A change in tack
Her sights were initially set on forging a career as a physician, but UCL opened Rachel’s eyes to the rewards of research.
“I came into university thinking I wanted to enrol in a graduate medical entry, but now I’ve realised I really enjoy designing experiments and implementing technology to better understand the root of problems. That’s where my career trajectory is heading now.”
In her final year of university Rachel hopes to enrich her wet-lab research experience, laying firm foundations for a research scientist role in an academic institution or biotech company.
Beyond that? “In the far future, I hope to obtain a PhD and work in a pharmaceutical company to better understand disease etiology and develop appropriate therapeutic targets.”
Laying the groundwork for success
Rachel says the independent research skills she developed at EIS, and through the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), have been fundamental to her university success.
“The academic curriculum at EIS exposes you to independent research at a very early age. You’re taught to navigate different journal databases, evaluate the validity and reliability of the source, and critically analyse evidence in order to synthesize your own interpretation of a given topic. Not only are IBDP students assessed through exams, but components such as the internal assessment and the extended essay teach you to formulate your own research questions, design an experimental approach, evaluate findings, and explain how your conclusion contributes to the bigger picture. This encompasses almost 70% of my university coursework!”
At EIS she also developed her time management skills, learnt to manage a rigorous workload and took ownership of her learning.
“EIS teachers always try to create an environment where students are encouraged to research and study beyond what is taught in the classroom. This is one major factor that has helped me not only at university but also during several work placements.”
Embracing the London lifestyle
The cultural diversity and vibrant energy of London provides endless inspiration, and right now Rachel can’t imagine living anywhere else.
“There’s always something new to try out, be it a new bar, restaurant, café or art exhibition. My energy peaks in London – you’re surrounded by brilliant like-minded individuals which really motivates you to accelerate in terms of personal and professional development.”
Tips for success
As an EIS valedictorian and flourishing medical sciences student, striving for success has been a mainstay of Rachel’s educational journey. Here are a few of her top tips for those looking to follow in her footsteps.
- There’s no such thing as a dumb question.
- Go above and beyond, even if you’re not being assessed on something.
- Learn from your teachers, but also your peers. You might be one of the smartest people in high school, but that doesn’t mean you will be at university (and in life)!
- When you’re learning something new and you’re forced to step out of your comfort zone, learn to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Imposter syndrome doesn’t go away – you have to do it scared.