Anna Varone

Anna Varone
Medical Engineering - GRADUATED
I first came to the UK when I was 12, and I loved it since; when I left I promised to myself to come back. Hence, at 15 years old I spent a full year as an exchange student; during this I lived in a family, attended a Catholic school in the Midlands and took 8 GCSEs. I had a fantastic experience and I didn't want to go back; in fact, here I am studying Medical Engineering at Queen Mary, University of London. I must be honest, engineering is one of the best causalities that life reserved for me; only after I started the course I became a complete engineering geek and I realised I couldn't have ended up doing anything more exciting. I have gained a lot out of my time at Queen Mary and I took every opportunity that came along. So far, I have been the Course Representative for my course for the last two years, I am the President and Finance Manager of the Formula Student Society, PASS mentor, student ambassador and ''occasional blogger''. I hope to share some of my experiences with you and be a source of inspiration for you all!

Big efforts, Big winners!

Sadly this has taken a year, but once again I am sharing the details of another great experience which I have been so lucky to take part in!

Winning an internal contest to attend the first student conference of your life it’s a unique feeling and would make everyone feel proud of you. But when you win a national medical engineering competition for best undergraduate student project it means you have aimed high and achieved it!

So how did I go about it?  Completely by accident!

For my third year project I am working on finding a new treatment to prevent osteoarthritis, which is a joint disease that causes agonising pain and the only available treatment to date is joint replacement prostheses.

The new technology involves treating cartilage with lithium chloride (LiCl) which is a chemical compound commonly used in clinic as a mood stabilizer to treat bipolar disorders.

Within the research group of Professor Martin Knight, the post-doctoral researcher Dr Clare Thompson, my colleague Habiba Yasmin and I conducted this research project.

The experiments involved taking pieces of cartilage from bovine joints and treating them with LiCl. After the culture period we discovered that LiCl had completely inhibited the degradation that had been artificially caused.

This was certainly a very exciting moment, surely it didn’t mean we had found a cure for osteoarthritis but we had defiantly found something which could turn into something awesome!

Circular bovine cartilage explants submerged in medium (to give nutrients), cytokine (to induced osteoarthritis) and LiCl (to prevent the disease).

Circular bovine cartilage explants submerged in medium (to give nutrients), cytokine (to induced osteoarthritis) and LiCl (to prevent the disease).

My supervisor suggested we would present the project to the 26th Annual Biomedical Engineering Student Project Competition organised by the IMechE. To be honest at first I thought: ‘’Oh… I’m already so busy why would I waste my time on this which I will never win?!?’’

Then Habiba suggested we could consider it and so I thought: ‘’why not? Let’s do it!’’

We presented the abstract and got shortlisted for the final. This involved presenting the project to the judges and all the other guests attending the event. I took the big responsibility of being the one presenting at the final. This required a lot of preparation and rehearsals during which Habiba and I spent  many late nights on Skype making sure I wouldn’t ‘mess up’ on the day!

I must say, I hadn’t been so nervous till the night before during which I only slept 3 hours and I decided that to overcome the fear of making mistakes, I would imagine speaking to an empty room.

I did so.

When I stepped off the stage after the presentation, one of the judges winked at me and whispered: ‘’Good stuff !‘’. I only smiled but with that smile my heart shouted to Habiba: ‘’OH WE MADE IT!!!’’

Myself (left), the judge who winked at me after the presentation (middle) and Habiba (right) holding the certificate and £500 check!


My first WES Conference: part 1

Today I would like to tell about the first conference I ever attended in my life; the Women in Engineering Society student conference.

On the 16th of November, I shall say that the day started very early and I was the first one to arrive at Aston University and this is when I introduced myself to Jan Peters (previous Wes President).

Particularly, I had registered for a preconference workshop on how to run a successful student group.

There were group of students talking about their experience of running or founding  a student networking group in their University. I had never thought of starting a society myself but after hearing their story I was truly inspired and I thought, why not? I could start my own student networking group in Queen Mary and run activities that would ‘tell about engineering and inspire the present and future generation’…!

In the afternoon, the conference officially started. There were two out of three workshops that we could take part to:

I.            Mentoring for success-Jacqui Hogan from Mentor SET

II.            Preparing to get you first job- Cara Morrison, Selex Galileo

III.            Insights to leadership- Jan Peters, Kataòytik and Aradhna Tayal, BBC

I attended I & III but I reckon that Insights to Leadership was the best one.

Especially I thought it was particularly useful and inherent to my situation at the time since I was going through a very stressful time with my university group project that consisted of 6 members. After this workshop I discovered that one of the main reasons why the project wasn’t going forward was because of lack of leadership skills.

The best part and what I have taken out of the workshop is enclosed in the following paragraph:

Leadership is about getting a group to believe in what you see is the way to go, getting extraordinary results out of ordinary people.

Leadership beyond authority  is one of the most successful types; being able to make things happen where there you have the title or not!!!

The next workshop that I have attended was called Mentoring for success. This one wasn’t as exciting as Insights into leadership.

In this workshop, they were describing the role of a mentor as well as the role of a mentee, they were explaining when mentoring might be needed and the key to success of a mentor/mentee relationship. I wasn’t aware of the mentoring scheme outside the University that would help people at work to improve themselves and move forward in their career. Being a PASS mentor myself I found that many skills that they were describing were already part of me. I thought why not?! Once I start working and I gain more experience I could be a mentor for Mentor SET (the mentoring program offered by WES).

Between one workshop and another there were coffee breaks that were a brilliant opportunity to network. In fact, on Friday afternoon I met Maria Kelly, Principal Antenna Engineer at Selex Galileo. The beautiful thing is that she started talking to me while I was drinking some coffee and started the conversation by asking what I thought about the workshop. While I was talking she was very impressed by the things that I was saying and she also agreed to most of my arguments. It was in such instance that I realized: ‘Wow she could have been an interviewer!‘.In fact, informally  she was an interviewer for me. On the next day, when the conference finished, I went to say bye to her and she gave me her business card and said:’ Just drop me and email, even if your field is not quite electronics consider having work experience with us, it will enhance you CV!’.

I had just passed a job interview informally!

Check out this fantastic video so get a feel of what a thrilling experience this conference has been

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