Postgraduate Lives: 'I love working in the lab – but it can be tough'

Sarah Eshtan, MSc at the University of Sheffield
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The Independent Online

Sarah Eshtan, 22, is doing an MSc in stem cell and regenerative medicine at the University of Sheffield.

So what does the course involve?

It's learning about the basic biology of stem cells and how they can be used for biomedical research. Stem cells are at the forefront of this area right now, and regenerative medicine is a hot subject, so there are excellent opportunities for people interested in research.

Why did you choose this course?

It's always been my dream to learn about stem cells. I did my first degree in biotechnology in India, and I wanted to do a postgraduate taught course in stem cells rather than a research degree. Sheffield was an easy option, because it's one of the first universities in the UK to offer such a course, and has a great reputation for stem cell research. It doesn't limit what you can go into afterwards either – I have a particular interest in stem cells, but you can go into any biomedical field you want.

How is the course taught?

It has a very good mix of taught modules and practical sessions. The taught modules help you improve your basic knowledge of the science, while the practical sessions familiarise you with doing stuff in the lab.

Is there a project?

Yes, it lasts for six months. I'm working in the lab, focusing on how human auditory stem cells – inside the ear – can be used to repair any damage to someone's hearing.

What do you like best about the course?

I love working in the lab, so the lab project is the best part for me. It's really tough because a lot of the time your experiments don't work, but the support network is good and my supervisor is supportive.

And what is the most difficult thing about it?

It's difficult to juggle equal amounts of time between the lab and the course modules. I spend a lot of time running between the lab and the library – but in a way, that makes things more exciting too.

Will it set you up well for the future?

Yes. I was unsure if I wanted to do a PhD, because it takes so much commitment. But doing this course has motivated me and interested me so much, that I'm now probably going to stay here and do a research PhD at Sheffield.

How much does it cost?

As I'm an international student it was going to cost me £12,430, but the university offers a lot of studentships and all Indian students get a £2,000 discount. For UK and EU students, it's only £6,300.

What qualities do you need to do the course?

You need to have a passion for science, and if you're keen on doing research into stem cells, this could be the perfect course for you. You just need the commitment and the passion.