Student profile
Sara Healy

Sara Healy

"Contributing knowledge to an area which is completely new is hugely exciting and rewarding."

Choosing Surrey

After studying Veterinary Microbiology at Surrey, I knew the University would be a supportive and friendly environment to study for my PhD. Staying at Surrey for my postgraduate research has been an amazing experience so far, everyone is lovely and there is always someone to ask for help when needed.

I’ve always been keen to study for a PhD, so when the opportunity arose I grabbed it with both hands! I’m passionate about microbiology, parasitology and zoonotic disease (animal diseases transmissible to humans), and my research area is very understudied. Contributing knowledge to an area which is completely new is hugely exciting and rewarding.

My research

Many of the diseases affecting humans originate from animals, and yet we don’t always know for sure how people become infected with them. I work with a parasite called Toxocara, which comes from dogs, cats and foxes, but can accidentally infect humans. This can have severe consequences, including blindness and epilepsy. The role of food consumption in transmitting this parasite to people hasn’t been explored, yet could be an important route of infection that may require intervention measures. I hope my work in assessing the potential risk to people will benefit public health.

A highlight from my research at Surrey so far has been finding Toxocara eggs on vegetable produce for the first time in the UK. This was incredibly exciting, seeing my work progress from the lab to publication is so rewarding and makes all the hours of work worthwhile.

Last month, I was also delighted to win Surrey’s 2022 three-minute thesis competition – a real confidence boost!

Supportive supervisors 

I’m very lucky to have great supervisors, two of which are based at Surrey and one from Queen's University Belfast. I feel like they’re with me every step of the way providing support and guidance whilst also giving me the freedom to explore my own research questions. I’ve learned so much from them since I started my studies.

As well as being a research student, I’m also a mum with two children, and my supervisory team are happy for me to work flexibly when I need to. This has been incredibly helpful to balance the challenges of family life with a full-time PhD.

My advice 

If you’re considering postgraduate research, I would say - go for it! Follow your passions, wonderful things can happen and new doors will open to you. I’m really happy with my decision to study at Surrey. I always feel like everyone wants you to succeed, and through the ups and downs of a doctorate, there’s always someone there for me.

Find out more about postgraduate research at Surrey