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!
Applying to medical school can often be a daunting
experience that seems like never-ending hurdles! However, piecing apart a good
application can be helpful in finding out what will make you stand out from the
crowd. My name is Cameron and I’m a final year medical student at the
University of Manchester, in this blog I will focus on a key part of any
medical school application: work experience.
Classically work experience is perceived to be countless
hours following doctors around a hospital. Although this can be useful, many
other activities are equally acceptable to talk about in a personal statement
or at interview. The key concept universities are interested in is
demonstrating that you have experience in a caring environment. This can range
from volunteering in an elderly care home, shadowing a GP or other healthcare
professional in primary or secondary care, or caring for a friend or relative
with additional needs. The idea behind this is to gain an insight into what it
is like to care for someone else and crucially what you learned from it.
When it comes to work experience its quality over quantity.
Describing your time in a few settings is much more beneficial for your
application than listing all the departments you visited in a hospital. The
most important part to write about, and a crucial skill to develop for a career
in medicine, is the ability to reflect. How did the caring experience make you
feel? What did you learn from it? How has this benefited you? And crucially,
what have you observed that will change how you act next time? Reflection is a
crucial skill that is continuously needed in a medical career. Showing that you
can talk about not only what work experience you did but how it gave you an
insight into medicine, showed you what skills are required as a doctor, will
make your application stand out from the rest.
Finding Work Experience
It can be hard to find work experience opportunities, but
here are some tips that can help:
- Ask the relevant member of staff at your
school about possible opportunities in a caring environment or any work
experience schemes ran with the local NHS trust.
- Look online to find
opportunities for shadowing and volunteering.
- Phone up your local care home or
charity to see if they are willing to allow you to come and help out, whether this
is something as simple as chatting to elderly residents and supporting their
- Charities are always welcoming additional support so this experience should
be easy to find.
Currently during lockdown, it is difficult to find these
opportunities however you can still use your time effectively. Take up a new
skill or hobby that you can demonstrate requires the vital skills of a doctor.
There are numerous volunteering opportunities observing social distancing that
you can take part in, for example participating in schemes that telephone
isolated individuals who are particularly vulnerable in lockdown. Also, keep an
eye on university websites and social media channels to see what is suggested
for those seeking to study medicine.
It’s good to bear in mind that any form of work or
volunteering can be discussed at the interview or in your personal statement to
demonstrate the skills and experience you have. Whether this is working is a
supermarket or helping out with your local sports team. Think out how skills such
as leadership, teamwork, reflection, timekeeping, and organisation can be
discussed and applied to why you would make a great medical student.
My name is Sirat Lodhi and I am a medical student at the
University of Manchester. After completing four years of medical school, I realised
I wanted to take a break from Medicine to study a new degree. This is known as
intercalation. I decided to pursue a Master of Research degree in Tissue
Engineering for Regenerative Medicine. Following this year, I hope to complete my
final year of Medicine so that I can graduate as a doctor.
Many medical students complete an intercalated degree so
that they can study a new subject which they may not have had the opportunity
(or time!) to study at medical school. As a medical student, I especially enjoyed
the small research projects I completed. However, I did not consider
intercalating until a supervisor suggested that a research degree may be for me!
Now, I am hoping to develop my research skills because I am certain that I
would like to pursue an academic career. I am interested in learning how to
repair and replace parts of the body that have been damaged by trauma or
disease. My research is in the field of kidney transplant surgery.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE DONOR KIDNEY?
Good kidney function is important because the kidneys filter
our blood so that toxic waste can be removed from the body. Also, the kidneys
make urine. Unfortunately, there are over 60,000 people in the UK who are
suffering from kidney failure. These individuals need a kidney transplant to allow
them to survive - this is when someone donates their kidney to the patient. Once
the kidney has been removed from the body of the donor, it is stored in ice.
This is done because if the kidney is kept in a good environment, it will work
better in the person who receives it.
However, keeping the kidney in a cold environment is
damaging. Instead, it may be better to connect the kidney to a machine so that
warm blood can flow through it. This means the kidney can work just like it
would in the warm body. Although we know that cold storage can be damaging for donor
organs, this technique is still used in the NHS. Fortunately, there is
increasing research looking at developing techniques to keep organs alive in
WHAT DOES MY RESEARCH FOCUS ON?
Overtime, blood breaks down and damages the donor kidney. To
prevent this from happening, a ‘fake’ blood has been developed. My research
tests whether a warm solution of ‘fake’ blood can be pumped through pig kidneys
without causing damage. If the ‘fake’ blood is found to be safe, it could be
used to make donor kidneys work better in the new body. Most importantly, kidneys which are not good
enough to be donated could be improved using this technique so that more people
can receive a life-saving kidney transplant.
This is a very exciting time to be conducting transplant
research because the organ donation law is changing from spring 2020. England
will move to an ‘opt out’ organ donation system. This means that most adults will
be considered as being potential organ donors when they die. It is hoped that
this will increase the number of organs transplanted. This is very important
because there is a shortage in donor organs. For example, every year, around
60% of people on the kidney transplant waiting list are not offered a kidney so
they must continue waiting.
If you would to learn more about anything I have discussed
in this blog, please visit the links below!
An article about the transplant research lab that I am
working in can be found at:
If you are interested in studying Medicine, this is a good
website to look at:
If you are interested in becoming a scientist, this is a
good website to look at:
For more information about the NHS organ donation scheme,
please look at:
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: