My name is Maria Ilemosoglou and I am a 27-year old girl from Greece. I moved to Sweden 2.5 years ago, in August 2016, to start my Master’s degree at Uppsala University after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics department from Democritus University of Thrace. I am currently working as a Junior Clinical Study Manager at Swedish Orphan Biovitrum (Sobi), a pharmaceutical company in Stockholm that develops drugs for rare diseases.
I completed the Master Programme in Biomedicine last June. As part of my studies, I also attended the Clinical Drug Development course, a 30-credit course that offers a certification which is key for someone who wants to work in clinical trials.
After finishing my Bachelor’s degree, I was quite uncertain of what direction I would like to follow in my professional career. I wanted to attend a Master’s programme that would expose me to different fields in order to help me find my calling. I looked into the curriculums of many Master’s programmes throughout Europe and my interest was caught by the biomedical programme at Uppsala University as it offered a variety of courses in different fields that were not only research-oriented.
The decision to choose Uppsala University came from a combination of many factors. I thought it was fascinating to become part of Sweden’s oldest university that ranks among the Top 100 in the world. I also had friends from home that were students at UU at the time and really recommended both the university and life in Sweden.
I enjoyed so many things about my time as a Master’s student! Regarding the programme, I really liked that it exposed us to different scientific fields. It was flexible so that we could choose ourselves some elective courses in areas we were interested. The courses often offered practical experience, with many case studies and study visits instead of being purely theoretical or lab-based. From an organisational perspective, it was also on point as we had a fantastic programme administrator that ran everything smoothly. In general, I enjoyed the multiculturalism and the fact that you meet so many international students here. A whole new world gets introduced to you.
The atmosphere in class and generally in campus gives a vibrant and youthful sense. The campus is always full of people who you will see reading, mingling, playing – you name it. A number of societies and organisations, including the student nations which contribute the most in Uppsala’s great student life, offer fun events year-round. My favourite extracurricular activity was Smålands nation’s quizzes every Wednesday night – I missed only a handful. I also enjoyed attending gasques, which are formal dinners organised by the nations with various themes and on different occasions.
Uppsala University puts a lot of attention on career guidance. There are career counsellors working in a special office at the university who offer a variety of fairs and events for networking and career support as well as personal meetings with students seeking advice. I attended a series of events called “Career Tuesdays” which focus on CV and cover letter writing and other advice on job hunting. The programme and course administrators are always available for discussion as well. Actually, I was informed about the opening of my job position by the administrator of the Clinical Drug Development course. She was regularly emailing us for open positions and one of them happened to be the one I got!
After graduation, I worked for the summer with the research group I did my Master’s thesis with. Then I had some vacation to travel around Greece to relax and recharge my batteries. Upon my return to Sweden, I started intensive classes in Swedish and started looking for a job. Indeed, a few days before Christmas I received a job offer from the company I am working at now.
I think one of the most important factors about my time at Uppsala University was the fact that many courses included study visits to companies or organisations in their curriculum. That was a good way to network and explore our professional options. Through my studies, I realised the high competition there is on the market. I was studying along so many highly qualified peers that I realised we all have to give a little extra to succeed, but in the meantime, so many doors opened after my graduation since I was holding a Master’s that has high value on the job market.
Although I reminisce my time as a student at UU, the one thing I would do differently if I could go back regards my adaptation period here. Coming from a Mediterranean country, it can be quite challenging to adjust to Sweden’s weather and culture. So, I would push my boundaries a bit more and sooner. Eventually, I came to love life in Sweden and that is why I chose to stay after my studies, but it took some time before getting used to the winter.
My advice to other students is that to get involved with clinical trials demands a degree in life sciences along with special education and training, such as the Clinical Drug Development course. It is a fascinating field with a lot of potential, but the market is also highly competitive. You must be persistent, patient and determined. Job hunting can be a frustrating period, but if you do not give up and try to constantly develop yourself, results will come. Work hard and network. Every application and every contact counts!
Read more about the Master's programme in Biomedicine