by Ilham Alasow, Year 12 Generating Genius Student

I joined the Generating Genius programme in October and am currently studying Biology, Chemistry and Maths at A-Level as well as the EPQ qualification. I have attended a variety of different events through Generating Genius, a majority of which through the Destination Leeds programme. These ranged from Choosing Your STEM Degree to personal statement support, and most recently a series of STEM Workshops. These events allowed me to acquire knowledge and skills that gave me a deeper insight into degree options and how to approach my choices from a more informed perspective.


On the 15th and 16th February, I attended STEM Workshops hosted by the University of Leeds as part of the Destination Leeds programme. There were a total of six options, I chose to attend three: How Scientists Discover New Medicines, Introduction to Virology and Antibiotic Resistance: Our Fight Against Superbugs.


In How Scientists Discover New Medicines, I learnt how current medicines are improved and I was able to design a drug similar to aspirin using an online tool called emolecules. I was able to see how scientists use computer software to develop and test new medicines. Luckily, we were able to design a drug more effective than aspirin and test its effectiveness. I found this experience to be fascinating and lead more to research more about how it works.


Introduction to Virology was engaging and linked well to the current pandemic. It enabled us to understand how the virus behaves through molecular biology. Its direct relationship to current events gave me a view of the pandemic from a more scientific lens, adding to the experience as a whole. The practical was based on decoding the genetic code which I found to be fascinating. We were asked to decode a series of codons which ended up giving us a sentence, we were then asked to do it again but with a single change. This time the sentence no longer made sense. The practical showed me that changing even one aspect of genetic code can mean that the effectiveness of any treatment can immediately change because like pieces of a puzzle, they no longer fit together.


The workshop on Antibiotic Resistance: Our Fight Against Superbugs was arguably my favourite, I was captivated by the discovery of antibiotics and the mounting danger of humanity becoming resistant. During the workshop, I learnt about the two different types of resistance; natural and acquired, what causes the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and what happens if we run out of antibiotics. The practical element of this workshop made us think as if we were doctors, deciding which antibiotics would be effective for an illness. We were given multiple options to choose from a virtually analysed a petri-dish to assess the effectiveness of certain antibiotics.


Each STEM workshop linked well with my interest in medicine, making the sessions relevant to my ambitions. I also enjoyed the structure of the events as it mimics university life to an extent, providing an insight into the balance between lectures and practical in the labs. The Destination Leeds sessions overall have exposed me to a variety of different opportunities which has resulted in developing more skills and knowledge, meaning I can make a more informed decision when choosing what and where I would like to continue my studies.