For medical students, the opportunity to inercalate after their third year is one that comes at a perfect time. The stresses of being a medical student can’t be downplayed and the chance to branch out and learn about something completely new is something that often refreshes the mind before the final years of a hefty medical degree.

Mat Hartshorne opted to study Genomics during his intercalation year, here he discusses what initially drew him in to the course and how he’s finding all the components that make up such a complex subject, including his independent project. Or, if you’re more interested in studying part time, look out for a Q and A with part time Genomics student, Stuart Ingram, who might provide you with some inspiration for project ideas. 

Why are you interested in the area?

I was originally drawn to genomics through the extended projects that I undertook in my previous years at medical school. My first project looked into the causes of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Although this had a neurological focus, I found that it was the genetics that underlay the mechanisms involved that I found interesting. In my second year, I explored this further in a project looking at the application of induced pluripotent stem cells for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. This was group based work and my role meant that I was researching the epigenetics behind prospective treatments. Most recently, I was able to work with the 100,000 Genomes Project at the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine. This was really exciting as I was able to attend clinics and experience some of the clinical aspects of genomics whilst seeing first-hand the coordination and management involved in carrying out a nationwide sequencing project.

Mat Hartshorne

Things that I have found attractive about the course?

The course offers a wide range of modules that teach you applicable skills for entering into a career in genomics, with the Omics module being a particular highlight.

With my background as a medical student, I was originally concerned that my grasp on genetics would be too basic for a Master’s degree. I remember being reassured that this would not be case when I learnt about the Fundamentals of Human Genetics module at the start of the degree.  This is specifically designed to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that your knowledge is up to scratch, no matter what your previous experience is.

My interaction with other students

The students on the course come from a wide range of backgrounds. Many are doctors who are studying the course under Health Education England but there

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are also graduates from other degrees; I know of biochemistry and genetics graduates using this degree to build their application for a place on a Genomics Counselling course. The cohort isn’t very large and the emphasis on group work within some of the modules means that you get to share knowledge from a wide range of expertise.

There is also a student rep elected for each year and so far they have been very useful in collecting feedback and reporting back on meetings between themselves and the programme management team.

The reasons you chose your project

I was really lucky in that one of my previous projects had left me with a contact within the 100,000 Genomes Project. They have agreed to be my supervisor for my dissertation which will involve me using whole exome data to try and analyse potential variants for pathogenicity within genes linked to a specific urological disorder. This will get me using the skills that I have learnt over this year to explore a relatively unexplored area of medicine using cutting edge technology. I believe that this is a unique experience that I am incredibly excited to get started on.

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The support you receive on the project

As well as my project supervisor, I will be working with and learning from PhD and postdoc researchers within the same department. So far, everyone has been very eager and happy to help. The administration team for the course has also been very attentive and useful in addressing any issues I have had.

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Advice to people who are looking at this course

If you are thinking about making an application, have a good read through the modules available and try to identify the optional modules that you might be interested in early on. There were a couple that filled up very quickly (specifically the genomic counselling module) and it might be a good idea to e-mail ahead to try and secure a place.