The field of genetics is expanding at an ever increasing pace with hardly a week going by without news of the discovery of a specific gene for a disease, the development of a new technique to manipulate genes or a gene target for therapy.
There are many ethical considerations being thrown up by these fascinating developments, and for those who enter this field there will be some difficult decisions to make. The list seems endless, but one thing is for sure these are extremely stimulating times in which to be a geneticist.
In this latest blog from Dr Elizabeth O’Brien (pictured), Programme Leader for Medical Genetics, find out what you should be considering before embarking on the course, as well as the kind of questions you should be asking yourself.
Do you have a real interest and enthusiasm for the subject? There are many concepts that you will need to understand as you progress, and this interest will help you to gain the necessary knowledge to truly understand the subject and to follow your own independent research in this area.
Do you enjoy collaborating with fellow learners? An important part of the course is examining case studies to enable both group learning and discussion of a topic in an informed manner.
Do you like to undertake practical work in a laboratory? This can be exciting particularly when doing independent research, but it may not always give you the result you were hoping for and can be disappointing at times.
Do you have a love for science, and in particular the biological sciences? Although your degree will primarily be in Medical Genetics, you will study many different modules along the way which all interrelate with genetics. Therefore a general interest in this area is important.
A good course in Medical Genetics, like that offered at University Centre Shrewsbury, will offer a comprehensive grounding in the structure of DNA and the journey from gene to protein; how and why evolution has altered the genome in response to environmental changes.
Building upon this it will consider the role of genes in the development of disease and how possible therapeutic targets are identified for further research. It will examine the use of bioinformatics and how this has impacted on genetic research and it will also look at the ethical questions which these new technologies are bringing to the fore. It should also enable students to carry out practical laboratory work so that they can become familiar with equipment and basic laboratory techniques. A final year research project enables students to apply the theoretical knowledge they have gained both in the field of genetics and research methods.
Careers in Medical Genetics are numerous. Apart from becoming a basic or clinical researcher there are many interdisciplinary fields such as patent law, medico legal practice and bioinformatics. You might also consider genetic counselling or teaching. Students with a science degree are in increasing demand as our economy becomes more knowledge-based and employers appreciate that science graduates come with the necessary critical thinking and research skills to make excellent employees.
You will also have an excellent base for postgraduate study which may take you in a different direction, but will require all the skill you have gained studying for your first degree. The British Society for Genetic Medicine is a great place to look as it allows scientists and health professionals to come together to exchange ideas and knowledge.
If you are interested in studying Medical Genetics at University Centre Shrewsbury then I would encourage you to attend our Open Evening on Thursday 8th June, where we will be able to answer your questions, give you a flavour of the course and what it would be like studying at University Centre Shrewsbury.
Elizabeth O’Brien, Programme Leader for Medical Genetics