Paulina Chilarska's enthusiasm for her time at Edinburgh is evident, and she feel empowered by the positive experiences her subsequent career has given her.
|Year of Graduation||2009|
Your time at the University
I had never been to Edinburgh or even Scotland before my first day as an undergraduate, so I remember feelings of both excitement and bewilderment when flying there for the first time to start a new, real, grown-up life. Edinburgh was number one on my list of university choices and has proven to be a fantastic one. I encountered remarkable lecturers who inspired me to be who I am today. After my first year of studies a new stipend programme was created especially for me to enable me to continue until my graduation. I will never forget how this changed my life and served as a catapult for all of my future successes.
I was probably the youngest “volunteer lab technician”, a position I literally invented by myself and speculatively applied for after my first year of studies. I must say it was indeed very brave of Professor Finnegan to have agreed to accept my enthusiastic lab help. Working in a real research laboratory at the age of barely 19 was a great chance to understand how scientific discoveries happen and how much it takes to push the science forwards.
Intensive intellectual exchange between the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University where I did my thesis project and the Stem Cell Institute in Cambridge paved my way to the prestigious Wellcome Trust four-Year PhD Programme in Stem Cell Biology at the University of Cambridge, which in turn has shaped my biotech startup company which I currently run. I see a clear career progression in all of these events and value my Edinburgh experience as the cornerstone of my career.
One beautiful memory from my undergrad times is studying under canopies of blooming cherry blossom trees. I used to take a break to cycle around “cherry blossom sightseeing”. The whole city was like a garden!
Now, I’m still in touch with my friends from these colourful times. One of them went on to study intellectual property law and has recently advised me on patent filings for my company. Edinburgh has provided me with much more than a degree. It has given me a network and the courage to ask for more from life.
Edinburgh has provided me with much more than a degree. It has given me a network and the courage to ask for more from life.
Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University
As an undergraduate I participated in an international exchange with the University of California Berkeley, followed by a 10-week internship with the Nobel Prize winning Sir Professor Paul Nurse. MPhil and PhD, both from the University of Cambridge. Now I am running Cambridge Biolabs, a biotech startup fulfilling my dreams of delivering a better, more ethical skincare to the world. We are developing automated skin diagnosis software, which creates a personalised cosmetic formulation for the customer thus decreasing the cost of both diagnosis and skincare, making the luxury of healthy skin accessible to the general population. We are currently raising £400,000 for development and commercialisation of this ground-breaking product.
My time in Edinburgh was formative in the way it prepared me for these exciting challenges. I arrived there as a thrilled but also slightly scared 18-year-old. The moment I left I was already an entrepreneurially-minded young scientist with a vision of changing the world for better.
As a woman in science and the CEO and Founder of a dynamic biotech company, achieving all of that at merely 29, I can only say one thing: never let prejudices prevent you from becoming who you want to be. Have the courage to excel, whatever your background, and you will make your lucky star shine brighter than ever before.