Martyna Ostrowska graduated from London Met after completing her Chemistry BSc (Hons) with us. She went on to do her master's and will be starting her PhD at the University of Nottingham in the autumn term. We caught up with her recently to ask her a few questions about her time at London Met and plans for the future.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and what led you to London Met?
I took a matriculation examination (equivalent to A-levels) in Poland in 2014 that included advanced chemistry and mathematics. My results weren’t great and I didn’t know what I wanted to do in the future. A few months later, I moved to England to take part in an Au Pair exchange programme to earn some extra money, improve my English and gain some work experience. Thanks to the support of my host family, I decided to go to university in the UK instead of going back to my home country and I ended up starting my chemistry degree at London Met in 2015.
What was your favourite project or work experience on the course – and why?
My favourite project was my final year research I did under the supervision of Dr Bhaven Patel. From the beginning I was up for a challenge and I was excited to spend the majority of my time in the laboratory. Of course, there were some setbacks and weeks without good results – or that’s what I thought at the time. This is when I really learned the truth about scientific research – things don’t always go as planned. However, even if you achieve what you were expecting, your outcomes still matter and can help people who will continue your research in the future.
Thanks to the support of my supervisor, I eventually started getting on the right track and that motivated me even more to turn up to the lab and carry out more experiments. The new techniques I learned and the confidence I gained during that time eventually helped me secure my first job in the industry shortly after I graduated. Nowadays, if I ever have a bad day in the lab, all I need to do is to recall those memories to remind myself that no matter how tough it gets, keep going and hard work will eventually pay off.
How did you find the facilities at London Met?
They were great. My favourite place was (naturally) the Superlab, but the library wasn’t that far behind. It was the place where I spent pretty much all my mornings and late evenings studying, working on assessments, and helping students as a success coach. I also made long-lasting friendships there that I still have now.
Did you gain any work experience or do any work-related learning on your course while at London Met?
The first work experience I did was a research placement at London Met supervised by Dr Sykes during summer 2017. At first, I felt really overwhelmed, as it was completely different from the practical classes but as the time passed, I really started enjoying it and the idea of creating something new that no one else has ever made really fascinated me. This was the first time I started considering research as a potential career pathway.
Additionally, in September 2017 I took part in a Residential Chemistry Training Experience organised by Glaxosmithkline. During this programme I could perform research work in the company’s laboratories and get to know chemists working on different aspects of drug discovery; I was also coached in interview technique, presentation skills and working in teams. This week-long programme was really inspiring and put things into perspective as I got to know how working in the pharmaceutical industry looks in real life.
Finally, over summer 2018 I did my final research experience with Dr Patel. I already knew I wanted to pursue a career in research and apply for a PhD in the future. I was extremely happy when I found out last year that our work was published. I felt honoured to contribute to current scientific literature and this is a great example of the accomplishments that students can achieve under supervision of lecturers from London Met’s chemical and pharmaceutical sciences cluster.
Was there anything you found surprising about the University?
What surprised me the most is the amount of extra help students can receive during their studies at London Met. Not only during lectures and tutorials but also all the workshops and drop-in sessions with either lecturers or success coaches. If you feel too shy to ask questions during classes, you can always seek individual support. I know this is not the case at every institution. That’s what made me appreciate my time at the University.
Did you feel supported by the lecturers on your course?
When I started my undergraduate degree, I was convinced that asking questions and admitting you don’t know/understand something puts you behind the rest of the class and means you’re simply not clever enough. Luckily, I quickly discovered how lecturers in the University’s chemistry department are open to helping students in reaching their academic goals. This also inspired me to become a success coach, so I could help other students.
Did you do any part-time work to support your studies?
During my first and second year, I worked as a housekeeper at a hospital. I then had to change my job and I became a support worker in a care home. I worked during weekends and some of my shifts were very long.
I was also working as a success soach and student ambassador at the University but these jobs were much more enjoyable and I could easily fit them around my studies.
Do you have a favourite place in London?
I really enjoy visiting London parks. My favourites are Regent’s Park and Holland Park.
Why did you pick London Met and particularly your course over other institutions and courses?
Once I decided to pursue a degree in chemistry, I applied to five institutions through UCAS but most of my offers were conditional and required me to re-take my matriculation exam, which I didn’t want to do whilst living and working in England. When I received an unconditional offer from London Met, I accepted. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made. Apart from my academic achievements and graduating with first-class honours, I grew there as a person, discovered my passion for research and met many amazing people. All three years I spent at London Met are some of the best of my life.
Can you tell us what your next step is?
After finishing my MRes in Catalysis course at Imperial College London this September, I will begin my PhD in Chemistry at University of Nottingham. The studentship is in collaboration with Syngenta (an agriculture company), and I will be working on the development of novel processes to synthesise agrochemically-relevant compounds.