Science Insights

2015 Alumni: Sofia Sintoris

PhD student Sofia talks about her experience in Science Insights 2015.

Science Insights allowed me to develop a range of specific and cross-disciplinary skills which I believe have helped me to progress to where I am today.

My name is Sofia, I am a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh and Immunology graduate. When I took part in Science Insights back in 2015, I did not imagine it would lead me on this path from Edinburgh to Glasgow and back again!

Real-world research

Science Insights was the first time I saw immunology in action, I remember seeing stained macrophages down a microscope or on a slide and thinking about how interesting it was that these cells we could visualise are the same cells that help to protect us from disease. From this, my interest in Immunology grew and I went on to study it at university and now within my PhD.

Exposure to real-world research put my learning into perspective. Science Insights taught me how key lab techniques were being applied to experiments relevant to human health and helped me to better understand how the biology covered at school (in Higher and AH) forms the background to both exploratory and translational research. As I experienced Science Insights, I feel I have a better understanding of the realities of academic research due to early first-hand interactions. 

Video: 2015 Science Insights Alumni: Sofia Sintoris
Short clip of what Sofia gained from Science Insights 2015

Insights

I enjoyed Biology at school, and I thought I wanted to study it at university, but I did not really know what research involved. Not only did Science Insights give me an insight into academic research and practical lab experience, it also increased my confidence to ask questions and contribute to challenging discussions. My experiences also helped me to understand which elements of life sciences I was most interested in, in a way that just isn’t possible in a classroom. I also believe that I have an improved perspective having been in the position of a Science Insights student so I know how intimidating it can be to interact with the academic research community. I hope that I can apply this improved understanding as I progress further.

Confidence

Science Insights gave me the confidence and skills required to believe that I could be an academic researcher. The programme enhanced my knowledge and interest in Immunology and excellent research at University of Edinburgh which prompted me to apply for a PhD at the University of Edinburgh. I also believe that the perspective Science Insights gave me influenced my understanding of the importance of public engagement in encouraging individuals to pursue a STEM which has led me to the PhD programme I am on today.

I gained confidence by meeting and working with a cohort of my peers. We discussed challenging topics in science (including the ethics of use of animals in research) and worked as a team to complete different practical lab tasks in different campuses across UoE. I also got the chance to meet and interact with academic researchers which increased my confidence and understanding of academic research. By the end of my time at Science Insights, I felt more comfortable engaging researchers in a two-way dialogue which is something that previously intimidated me before.

Career guidance

My time on Science Insights opened my eyes to different fields within life sciences and gave me the confidence and practical skills to choose to study Immunology at the University of Glasgow. I graduated (virtually!) with a First from the University of Glasgow last summer and knew I wanted to stay in science but also engage and involve the public in research, in the same way Science Insights allowed me to engage with research.

I have now started a PhD back at the University of Edinburgh looking at ways we can alter antimicrobial peptides to fight respiratory viral infections. One of the best parts of my PhD is that I am doing public engagement work alongside my research so I can contribute to programmes like Science Insights, which will hopefully mean others can benefit in the same way I did.

I would strongly recommend anyone thinking of applying to Science Insights to go for it. The experiences you have and skills you learn may even shape the future you can imagine yourself in.

Images of Sofia Sintoris at Science Insights in 2015 and on her graduation from the University of Glasgow
Sofia Sintoris at Science Insights in 2015 and on her graduation from the University of Glasgow