Graduate profile
The Rik Medlik building

Rebecca Ellerington

"The placement year was by far the best part of my course. I learnt so much being in a working lab that you can’t learn in lectures or teaching labs."

Biomedical Science
Graduation year
Study abroad location
Leuven, Belgium

What subject did you study at the University of Surrey and what year did you graduate?

I read Biomedical Sciences and graduated in 2015

What were the best things about your course?

The placement year was by far the best part of my course. I learnt so much being in a working lab that you can’t learn in lectures or teaching labs. It definitely helped me to get my PhD position and my work was even published in a textbook. I also loved how many contact hours my course had, lecturers were always on hand to help or answer questions and that made such a difference in my overall experience.

Why did you decide to take an Erasmus study/work abroad exchange?

I wanted to do a placement to gain experience in a working laboratory, however I chose to go abroad for this in order to immerse myself in another culture and try to learn another language.

I chose an Erasmus placement because the grant allowed me to do this - I wouldn’t have been able to afford it otherwise.

Where did you go and what did you do on the Erasmus scheme?

Leuven in Belgium

How did your Erasmus experience help you develop personally or professionally during your time as a Surrey student, and has this influenced your choice of career?

I was working in a forensics lab on a research project to develop a new technique to identify someone from their DNA in very small and degraded blood samples. Doing a research project made me consider research science as an option for my career and my supervisor on placement encouraged me to consider a PhD.  I still keep in contact with my supervisor who helped me with references and advice when I was applying for PhDs. I also had a chapter published in a text book (‘Forensic DNA Typing Protocols, Methods in Molecular Biology’ by William Goodwin) based on the work I conducted. This gave me an advantage in interviews and allowed me to proceed straight to a PhD without first getting a master’s degree.

What do you do now and what do you find most enjoyable about your line of work?

I am currently trying to gain experience in jobs which involve developing partnerships between industry and academic research as this is what I would like to do after my PhD

How can students hoping to work in your profession make the most of their time at Surrey?

Do a placement year in a lab. The practical experience really sets you above others in interviews.

What advice would you give to current students thinking about a study/work abroad placement? Do you have any top tips to offer?

If you have time over the summer, you could also try asking a lecturer if you could shadow them in the lab for a week or two as this will help you to obtain the best placements on offer. Also try your best in first year to get a good overall grade as it helps when applying to placements, don’t write off first year as not counting for anything just because it doesn’t go towards your final degree mark.