Safeenah Safiyan has just come to the end of her one-year course at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, where she studied for a MSc in Agriculture for Sustainable Development. She took five minutes out of her pre-graduation preparation to talk to NRI Communications Officer, Linden Kemkaran, about her time here at the University.
On my first day at NRI I remember turning up to registration and feeling nervous, but I needn’t have as everyone was really nice and the staff were very welcoming especially during the orientation period. I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed, I was suddenly with all these people from different countries I wondered how we would all fit in with each other.
I grew up in Nigeria and studied agriculture as an undergraduate, so I just Googled courses for ‘Masters in Agriculture London’ and applied for the four top courses that came up. NRI was the one that I got the best feedback from so I chose to study here.
My favourite part of the MSc programme was researching my project entitled “Aphid Response to Semiochemicals Released from Ladybirds”. Semiochemicals are natural chemicals released by an organism that affect the behaviours of other individuals. I studied the response of aphids to the semiochemicals left by ladybirds on plants and I was fascinated to learn that aphids avoided areas where the footprints of ladybirds had been.
I also studied aphid behaviour and discovered that they exhibit altruistic behaviour in that they will sacrifice themselves to protect the colony. Aphids are very small-bodied insects, and I enjoyed rearing my own aphids to study in one of the laboratories here at NRI. The lab facilities at NRI are really excellent and the teachers are always willing to help. My programme leader Professor Chris Atkinson, now retired, and my supervisor, Dr Mandela Fernandez-Grandon both went out of their way to help me at every stage. Tracey Squires, the Teaching Programmes Administrator was also incredibly helpful and knowledgeable, and I knew I could ask her anything.
When I applied to do my MSc at NRI I had no idea of what my future career might be but now I’m about to graduate I feel I’ve found a new ambition to work in entomology and chemical ecology. NRI puts on career workshops for people like me who have finished studying where we can learn how to write our CV and cover letters so that when we apply for jobs, we put our best selves forward.
I would encourage anyone reading this who is considering a Masters or Doctorate in the natural sciences to apply to NRI. It’s not easy, I don’t want to scare anyone but if you work hard for it you will get what you want. You can’t relax too much on these courses, you have to be focused. I had to be super-focused, which will stand me in good stead if I decide to study for a PhD in the future; I’ll know how much work is involved and for me that’s a big plus.
NRI has great lecturers and every member of staff is willing to help. If you’re shy, don’t worry. I’m a very shy person but I had to learn how to speak up and overcome my shyness as I had to do many presentations in class. Every single time I would feel so nervous, but I knew that I had the support from my lecturers and friends, so I was able to speak confidently in public.
NRI is a place where you can build your future career. This programme makes you realise what you can achieve and all the great possibilities the future holds and how you can get there. I’m so grateful and it’s an honour to graduate from NRI.
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