Bijoy Das

From Clearing to PhD

Best friend, flatmate, bandmate. Met at Queen Mary.Best friend, flatmate, bandmate. Met at Queen Mary.

I still remember the day I opened my UCAS page on results day and realised I had missed both my university choices - by just a couple of marks. Stressed and upset, I began to explore my other options and by sheer luck, I found Queen Mary’s Biomedical Engineering course still available through clearing. I hastily got in touch, and within months was packing to begin my life in East London.

Starting the course having entered through clearing was a little bit daunting. I felt lucky to have found my course of choice in clearing, but also felt like perhaps I wasn’t smart enough, or would be looked down on. People around me would talk about whether Queen Mary was their first or second choice and I would dread to bring up the fact I was rejected from both of mine. 

Bijoy at a festivalSecond year Bijoy

But within a few months I began to realise just how lucky I was. The teaching at Queen Mary was at a challenging but workable pace, with support available whenever I needed it.

"I loved the atmosphere of the university, and the unparalleled cultural diversity of the students. It turned out that Queen Mary was exactly the place where I could thrive, and instead of always feeling quite not good enough, I could achieve as much as a set my mind to."

In my second year, I won the Principles Prize for top biomedical engineer, and had the privilege of working under Prof. Martin Knight for my third-year dissertation. The project was based in finding a novel treatment for osteoarthritis and was a one-of-a-kind experience; imagine having a severed cows’ legs in a bag waiting for you every week to clean, cut open, extract cartilage cells to then propagate and experiment on. By the end, I was well trained in handling live cell cultures and had my name and work included in a published research paper. By this time I had also been working as a Student Ambassador for over a year, and had gained hugely valuable skills in public speaking and leading groups and activities.

Bijoy and a group of friends China trip with Queen Mary Summer School. University of Sichuan, ChengduChina trip with Queen Mary Summer School. University of Sichuan, Chengdu.

With the confidence of winning awards and carrying out a successful project, I opted to continue for the MEng programme and branch out my skills for the fourth year; choosing an open-ended design and materials based project on “Designing a futuristic concept bike”, in partnership with Nanoforce. Working under Dr Emiliano Bilotti and Dr Han Zhang was a great learning experience and a huge pleasure, and little did I know what it would result in.

The project received industrial sponsorship from multiple industry-leading companies, won the Top Prize for MEng projects and had potential to be carried further into a start-up initiative.

Unfortunately lack of time and group members leaving the UK stopped this from happening.

I also received another opportunity in this year – to visit China as part of the Sichuan Summer School. I stayed in China for the best part of a month and had an unforgettable experience – truly, I will have a matching tattoo with some of the others from that trip for the rest of my life. 

Bijoy at graduationGraduation Day!

Upon graduating, I had another piece of good fortune in the form of an opening in the SEMS School Office as an administrator. Having worked closely with the staff there as a student ambassador, I was able to secure the role and spent the best part of two years gaining workplace and networking skills, while also helping the School grow and improve.  

My whole journey however really all fell into place when I reconnected with my Master’s supervisor, Dr. Bilotti – who informed me he had an interesting, industry funded PhD opening available. After graduating I had considered a PhD, but was too burnt out to continue learning and research. But after two years of working, I was ready to jump back into STEM and was accepted for the PhD position.

Which comes to now – beginning my second year of PhD research, and in the process of writing 4 different papers, with my lab research being manufactured into an industry product.

Bijoy in the labIn the lab. PhD life.

The takeaway from all of this for me is that it did not matter at all how I got to Queen Mary, nor what I had (or hadn’t) achieved before I got here. This institution however gave me the chance to excel academically, carry out important scientific research, secure a first-class degree, be employed immediately after graduating, go on the trip of my lifetime, and now is supporting me on my way to a doctorate. Not to mention the contacts, friends and even partner I have found here along the way.

Your time at Queen Mary is what you make of it and you can truly achieve anything here.

Best of luck!

Bijoy Das