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Beyond the lab: Helping others pursue their passions

Fourth-year Biochemistry integrated masters (MSci) student Callum Bucklow has had an interest in biology from a young age. His fondest childhood memories include collecting gifts of pinecones and bird feathers for his grandmother, and feeding wading birds during family outings at the local park. These early experiences sparked an enthusiasm for biology which has shaped his life, and he now wants to encourage others to find and pursue their passions, despite the difficulties they may face.

Influential women

The eldest of three children, Callum was raised on a council estate in Derby, and has benefited from having strong maternal figures in his life. His mother, a dinner lady at the local primary school, provides practical and pragmatic support, while his grandmother gives moral and religious guidance.

My mother and grandmother were always present to support me and push me, even if they couldn’t really understand what I was doing or what I wanted to do. Both worked extremely hard to raise their families and without them I wouldn’t have the work ethic that has seen me through some turbulent times.– Callum

Inspiration is the key

Life at home wasn’t always easy, but Callum’s state-funded Catholic school offered an escape. Inspiring teachers spotted his aptitude and encouraged him to realise his potential.

Callum now regularly goes back to his school to give talks to students from similar backgrounds to show them that university is not beyond them and with the right support and motivation, you can achieve your dreams. Indeed, Callum now features on a display board of alumni, that sits in his former biology classroom.

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Beyond the lab

Alongside his degree, Callum has also worked as a subject ambassador for Biochemistry at King's.

“As part of my job, I’ve worked at open days to promote the study of biochemistry at King’s and tell students about the opportunities I’ve had whilst studying for my degree. I describe to prospective students what biochemistry actually is; many don’t really know. They just know that they enjoy biology and chemistry at A Level. It’s great to talk to them more about the many different fields that can fall under the umbrella of biochemistry.”

 

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In addition, Callum volunteers as a leader on the Peer Assisted Learners scheme at King’s, which provides workshop and tutorials for first year students to help them transition to university life and succeed academically. 

Pursuing his own passions

Callum originally enrolled on the King’s Biomedical Science BSc programme, which allows students to specialise after exploring ‘Common Year One’ modules during their first year. After enjoying lectures on gene regulation and metabolism, he chose the Biochemistry BSc programme and in his third year, transferred again to the Biochemistry Integrated Masters (MSci) degree.

Callum’s academic interests shifted during a spell at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after his first year, where he was introduced to other modules.  As a result, he tailored his third year at King’s around developmental biology and did a summer project (and now Master’s project) in a zebrafish developmental biology lab.

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Encouraged by his course leader, Callum was accepted on a highly competitive Wellcome Trust summer internship programme where he learned how science interfaces with government and international policy, how scientists develop careers outside research, and how non-governmental organisations such as Wellcome can help scientific research.

Callum will be starting a BBSRC fully funded DPhil Programme in Interdisciplinary Biosciences at the University of Oxford in September 2020. His research area will focus on evolutionary developmental biology, specifically how evolution intersects with the embryological development of animals

 

We are incredibly proud of Callum, and not just because of his academic achievements. He's made the most of his opportunities, he's kept going even when things were not easy, and now he's heading for a top postgraduate programme and an outstanding career. On top of everything he has never forgotten to care for fellow students and has helped them to make the most of their studies. It has been an absolute pleasure having him on the course.– Dr Alison Snape, Reader in Bioscience Education at King's

On his time at King's Callum said:

“No one from where I grew up really goes to university for undergraduate study, let alone to study for a doctorate. It still feels surreal. The programme at King’s has provided a fantastic opportunity to develop my academic interests, no matter how divergent they are.”

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