And breathe. In through the nose and out through the mouth.
That’s what I told myself as I stepped into the Stopford Building for the first
My name is Danish Hafeez, I’m a 4th Year medical
student at the University of Manchester. I’m from London originally and the
first time I’d ever been to Manchester was for my interview. It was my first
medical school interview, so my parents insisted on coming with me and making a
trip out of it. So, in early frosty January we made our way along the M6 for the
4 hour drive to Manchester. In the end, I got to have dinner in the town centre
and lunch on the curry mile before my interview, which gave me an insight into
the places I’d be frequenting once I was a student there!
What can I expect from MMIs?
Like everyone else, I was very nervous about my interview,
it being my first official interview ever. More than anything I was nervous
about the infamous MMI: “Multiple Mini Interviews”. I had read on the online
forums, found interview books to help and practiced with teachers, family and
friends. Nothing is quite like that moment when my parents dropped me outside
the Stopford Building on Oxford Road, where you spend the majority of your
first 2 years as a medical student, and I walked through the glass doors for my
It was nothing like I expected; I was greeted by friendly
student ambassadors, who were current medical students, who helped me feel at
ease and spoke to myself and the other students waiting for their interview.
Seeing all the other students helped to put me at ease to know I wasn’t going
it alone. At the end of the day, the medicine interview isn’t about proving
that you’re ready to be a doctor but rather about showing you have the
potential to become one and the drive to work throughout medical school, which
will give you the skills and knowledge you need to be one.
After having some time to sit and get to know the other
students, we were all led down a short corridor to the communication skills
learning centre (CSLC) for our interviews. This is a mock ward area with lots
of smaller rooms coming off an atrium, closed only with curtains. The MMI is
made up of 8 stations, each one lasting 8 minutes. You are allocated a certain
station to start on and slowly move round to each one until you have done all
8. Not to worry though, there is plenty of time between stations to move
between each one and the helpful student ambassadors are on hand to help you
move between each one.
Outside each station will be a brief instruction of what you
must do in that particular station which you have a minute to read before
starting. My biggest piece of advice is to just take a few seconds to read the
instruction and have an idea of what is expected of you in that station, there
are no tricks and the medical school wants to help you to be able to demonstrate
your best self. In each station, there is usually an examiner and occasionally
an actor if there’s role play. Not to worry if the examiner seems serious or
doesn’t seem very chatty, they’re just doing their best to stay fair and assess
The stations themselves varied
greatly in their content. They included roleplaying a scenario, discussing my
personal statement, prioritisation, talking about GMC (General Medical Council)
principles and instructing other medical students to complete a task! You
might finish a station early which is completely fine and doesn’t mean anything
has changed. Although 8 stations in 8 minutes feels like a long time, you get
so absorbed in the station that the time flies by. Before I knew it, I was
thanking everyone and led by the ambassadors back to the front of the building
to be greeted by my parents and the long drive down to London.
Top Tips for MMIs
I think the most intimidating part of MMIs is how foreign
they are before you apply to medical school. Once at medical school, you’ll
have clinical exams that follow the same format (known as OSCEs). Therefore, the
best thing you can do is to practice some mock stations whether it be with a
friend, family member or teacher. Just practicing doing a few stations in 8
minutes just to feel more comfortable with the format. Other than that, be sure
to know your personal statement well and qualities that it demonstrates, ready
for any questions that come at you! Compared to traditional interviews, MMIs
give you an opportunity to make a good first impression 8 different times. This
is great because even if one particular station didn’t go so well, you have 7
other chances to impress the examiners! Try to treat each one as a fresh start
and not worry about what you’ve already done. In addition, MMIs are great at
giving you opportunities to demonstrate your skills by carrying out various
activities e.g. showing empathy when roleplaying, rather than just talking
about them as in more traditional panel interviews.
The MMI is a great chance to get a feel at a university you
might be at for the next 5 years! If you can try to take some time to walk
around the university, chat to the current students about anything you have
questions/concerns about and just try to do your best. You’ve already done all
the hard work of putting an application together and preparing for the
Note: This is reflective of my personal experience of the
Manchester MMI interview and the exact location/station format can be slightly
different each year!
name is Minahil Qureshi and I am currently a third year medical student at the
University of Manchester, and prior to this I hold a first class degree in BSc
Clinical Sciences. It is a huge privilege to attend a Russell Group university
that is so well known for its research, and through the Manchester Medical
School, have been lucky to do my own research as part of the course.
What is the Personal Excellence Plan?
During the five years of the medical course, we undertake a module called the
‘Personal Excellence Plan’ (PEP), which becomes more advanced as each year goes
by. This is a module that we have the ability to really make our own and can
tailor it to fit our future career goals and research interests.
During my first year, I carried out a group project to create a scientific
poster about the effects of the Mediterranean diet on the possible reversal of
diabetes. I also wrote a solo report summarizing my main findings. Creating a
scientific poster is very different from the kind you may create at school, but
thankfully we had a very knowledgeable tutor who helped to facilitate our work
and guide our research in the right direction. I really enjoyed this project,
as it gave a good taste of how to create and present scientific work, and also
how to collaborate with others on research, which is so important locally and
For my second year PEP, I wrote a mini dissertation about my chosen topic: ‘The
link between mental and physical health’. I am extremely passionate about
highlighting this relationship, because knowledge of the many factors affecting
the two forms of health can help us to combat the adverse effects on our
wellbeing. My work was greatly commended by my tutor, and they asked for it to
be showcased on the website for other medical students to look to as an example.
This piece of research is definitely a noteworthy highlight for me thus far as
a medical student!
This year, I was really excited to do my third year PEP, as I had transitioned
into the clinical years of my degree, and thus the PEP was also set to be more
clinical. The work from this project had the potential to directly impact
treatments and patient care, and could have even been published in a scientific
journal or presented at an international conference! These accolades would look
brilliant on any doctor job applications in the future, and so really
emphasises how useful this PEP module is at Manchester.
I had been lucky enough to secure my first choice research project, which was
going to be based at Salford Royal Hospital in my current favourite specialty:
neurology. Neurology is all about the brain and its function, and I truly find
nothing else more fascinating, thrilling and impactful. Unfortunately, due to
COVID-19, this dream research project was cancelled.
However, I was not distraught for long, due to the wonderful kindness of my research
supervisor. Despite the fact that my supervisor is a senior neurologist on the
frontline, they took the time out to email me about the possibility of writing
a mini report that could get published! This is now something I am doing
separately from the PEP module, but this has only been possible due to the
professional networking that this module gave me the opportunity for.
I hope this report goes well so that I can repay a little bit of my supervisor’s
kindness! At the University of Manchester, it is the eagerness to teach and
generosity of talented academics that really makes the experience of being a
student here one of a kind. Teamwork makes the dream work!
Hi everyone! I’m Ioana, a first year PhD student in the Division of Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology, at the University of Manchester. My PhD project focuses on the therapeutic side of ischemic stroke at preclinical level. I spend a lot of time working with animal models, as they offer information highly translatable to humans.
I was born and raised in Romania, but I moved to Manchester to do my undergraduate degree in Pharmacology with Industrial Experience. I loved the university and the city so much, that I decided to stay. The degree offered me the chance to learn various laboratory techniques and to experience working with animals in research. However, when I started it, I had NO IDEA what I wanted to do after.
Between my first and second year, I wanted to get more experience in science as I was trying to figure out what I wanted my future career to be. It wasn’t easy to find any internships available for first years, but I emailed my CV, emphasising my willingness to learn to 46 different places that were not advertising any opportunities at that moment. I only received 6 replies, but I was lucky enough to secure 4 internships. One of those was with a research group based within the University of Manchester, where I learned several laboratory techniques that I am still using today. The other 3 were with the nearby hospital. There I had a chance to learn how to obtain ethical approvals for a cardiovascular trial, to manage patient data for a health economic analysis and to shadow a research nurse as she was administering trial treatment to patients with leukaemia. I was learning so much while working for all these places at the same time, as they accommodated a flexible schedule for me. I also did some work in the charity sector with Citywise. All these experiences gave me a broad insight into various paths my career could take.
As part of my degree, I did a placement year at Mayo Clinic in the United States, doing a neuroscience research project working with both cells and animal models. That is when I realised that I really love working in a laboratory setting, especially in Neuroscience. I liked the flexibility of thinking and applying the knowledge in experimental planning and then undertaking the study. I loved it so much that I was sure I wanted to continue with a career in neuroscience research, so I went straight from my undergraduate degree to do a PhD project. I knew it won’t be easy at all, so finding a project I liked with a very supportive group that felt like a community was really important!
So, what is my project about?
In ischemic stroke, when the blood clot is formed, a drug is used to burst the clot, trying to restore the blood flow and to limit the damage. There is increasing evidence that inflammation also plays a role in enhancing the brain damage after stroke. So, there is an anti-inflammatory drug currently in clinical trials for different types of stroke. My project aims to find the most suitable way to combine the anti-inflammatory approach with the clot busting drug in a safe and efficient manner. To do this, I need to replicate the stroke observed in humans, as closely as possible, in animal models of disease. Using these, I can observe the interaction between the two therapeutic approaches at cerebral, vascular, cellular and molecular levels. For example, I am using imaging to monitor blood flow (image attached) and running MRI scans to see the extent of brain damage.
Monitoring blood flow in a mouse brain using Laser Speckle Imaging.
The PhD experience is not all just science. I love being active and involved within the community, hence why I participate in outreach activities, teaching, learning to code, organising events as part of a doctoral society and trying to learn French. Your PhD experience can be whatever you want it to be, tailored to your preferences and interests.
- Undertake your own research project by doing an EPQ (Extended Project Qualification), learn how and why?
- A list of undergraduate courses that would allow you to progress into a research career after:
- Learn more about stroke here:
- StrokeCasts - podcasts made by stroke survivors about their inspirational journey to recovery:
- Read about the research done by my supervisor and my colleagues here:
- Follow us on twitter:
How did we get here?! A question not necessarily
linked to cellular biology, but the answer is essential for all life. How do
proteins (molecular machines) travel inside the cell? How can we help when it
goes wrong? Can we hijack these pathways to produce revolutionary new drugs? My name is
Katie Downes. I’m a second year PhD student at the University of Manchester and
my research aim is to answer those questions.
Inside the world of the cell,
proteins are powerful machines performing all sorts of crazy processes where space
and time are key. Knowing how they get to where they need to be is fundamental
to life as we know it, as exemplified by what happens when it goes wrong.
Diseases such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and blindness are linked to issues with
intracellular transport. Yet the relatively simple question of how did that get
there is still puzzling scientists. Imagine rush hour on the metro then add 20,000
proteins and you’re still not quite imagining how much is going on.
Research in this field is highly
applicable to a number of real-life scenarios. Biopharmaceuticals, biological
drugs produced in cells, are increasingly being used to target difficult
diseases such as cancer. Currently these therapies are super expensive, as
production yields are low and development costs high. By gaining a greater
understanding of what determines how a protein is produced provides a torch
light in the dark for these emerging therapies.
Day to day my research involves fiddling
with some high-tech microscopes, watching fluorescent proteins move around
inside the cell and performing a series of complex analyses to generate of
library of movement. This library can then be used to interrogate various
methods of intracellular transport and ultimately create a comprehensive map of
How did I get here?
secondary school I was determined STEM wasn’t for me. However, one particularly
inspirational teacher unlocked what was to become a lifelong passion for the
sciences. I went on to study Biological Sciences at Durham University, with a
focus on Cell Biology and Biochemistry. My lectures would frequently blow my
mind at how awesomely clever biochemical systems and proteins are – defined by
logic and simplicity.
As you can see, I am a true nerd.
However, it wasn’t just my wonderment which drew me to Biology. Through
studying Biology, I realised I could help people and make a difference. During
my industrial placement year, I worked in the Research and Development
Department for a biopharmaceutical company, producing therapeutic antibodies
for clinical trials. From then on, I became fascinated with biopharmaceuticals
and the concept that we can harness all of that awesome biochemistry I had
learnt during my undergraduate and use it to tackle serious diseases. I was
shocked to find how much fundamental cell biology is still unknown. It became
clear to me that if true progress was to be made in global health, more
research was required and I wanted to be part of it. After graduating I jumped
at the chance at a PhD.
The world of intracellular
transport is a fascinating place. So much is yet to be discovered. But I can
provide a little teaser for those who are interested!
Throughout school you are taught
that cells are a nice sphere, with a nucleus at the centre and a few other
important bits, called organelles, floating around. In reality cells are
densely packed environments where everything is in motion. In-fact there is a
skeleton of sorts, a cytoskeleton which supports the overall structure of the
cell – imagine scaffolding running throughout the cell. Some of this
scaffolding also acts as a road, providing a track for molecular motors. These
motors waddle along the tracks carrying various cargo. When “long-distance”
transport is required, these motors are employed to pick up and drop off their
cargo. But, how do they know when they are needed? How do they know what to
pick up and where to put down? How do they know what are carrying?
more information on studying Biological Sciences at Durham University or the
University of Manchester:
To learn more about the research that is
happening in my faculty:
Interested in intracellular transport?
Want to learn more about biopharmaceuticals?
My name is Jessica Traynor and I am a second year PhD
student at the University of Manchester. My research is based on producing a
localised drug delivery system for people suffering from endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a common gynaecological condition that affects roughly 10% of
women at reproductive age. Endometriosis occurs when lesions grow outside of
the uterus. These lesions can cause painful periods, pelvic pain and fatigue.
Although this disease is common, the treatment options are still limited. Women
are most likely to be given anti-inflammatory drugs, hormone-based therapies
(such as the pill or the coil) or undergo surgery to remove the lesions. These
treatment options are not ideal, especially surgery, as there is a high chance
the lesions will grow back.
My lab work is trying to find a way to deliver old and new
drugs directly onto the lesions. This will hopefully stop the lesions from
growing as well as reduce the side effects of these drugs!
My initial interest in pharmacology (the study of drugs)
began in sixth form. I knew that I was interested in science in general during
my GCSEs, so I picked biology, chemistry, physics and maths. I realised that
although Biology wasn’t my strongest subject, I found it the most interesting,
especially topics surrounding the human body and disease. I decided to look
into biomedical sciences for University, which I soon realised included a lot
of other topics, such as genetics, biochemistry and immunology. When I looked at
the list, I found pharmacology the most interesting subject as I wanted to
learn more about the production of drugs and treating diseases. I chose to
study pharmacology at Newcastle University.
In my final year at Newcastle I started my research project,
which was based on lithium action within the brain and how this can help treat
bipolar disorder. This made me realise that I loved the research environment; I
loved researching a topic where the answer was unknown.
Overall, my degree taught me a lot of research techniques
that can be brought into any research environment, of course, not all labs are
the same but University provided me with the confidence to learn and master
techniques that I’d never seen before!
I graduated from Newcastle in 2017 with a first class degree
in Pharmacology, and if I’m truly honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do
next! I knew I wanted to carry on in research, but I wasn’t certain on where or
on what topic. I spent the year researching PhD topics whilst working within an
NHS virology lab as a research assistant. I found this PhD online and thought
it was right up my street! Not only was it a PhD based on drug design/delivery
but it was also based around an under-researched disease that affects so many
women. I had a skype interview with the supervisors and then was put forward
My lab group consists of people from different backgrounds,
whether that is pharmacology, cancer research or pharmacy. We all work
alongside other groups to gain a better understanding of disease and its
treatment. We all use a variety of different techniques throughout our
research, so every day is different. Personally, I find my day is split between
lab work, writing papers/reviews, planning future studies and teaching!
After my PhD, I don’t have a set plan on what I want to do
next! My opinions may change throughout the years and I could learn new skills
that change my perception on what I want my career to be!
If you want to find out more about endometriosis and its
effects on women, the BBC have recently produced a popular article explaining
what endometriosis is and the idea of the ‘gender pain gap’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/stories-49925760/endometriosis-the-condition-that-can-take-over-seven-years-to-diagnose)
To learn more about the research that is happening in my
If you want more information about Biomedical
Sciences/Pharmacology you can find that here (https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/2020/00532/bsc-biomedical-sciences/)
and here (https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/what-can-i-do-with-my-degree/pharmacology)
Something that sparked my interest in the treatment of
disease was a podcast that talks about medical history, you can give it a
listen if you’re interested, too! (https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/research/)