Lena Forsyth will be taking the stage to celebrate achieving academic distinction in her bachelor’s degree and is already planning to come back to RGU to pursue a Masters. This inspiring graduate has learned to balance her studies with work as a Student Ambassador and the NHS while living with a chronic illness. She is taking everything in her stride.
The 21-year-old from Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire, developed a love for science during secondary school and attending RGU’s Access To programme sealed the deal for her. Funded by the Scottish Funding Council, the programme seeks to widen participation in Higher Education by offering a first-hand experience of undergraduate courses and student life via after-school sessions.
“RGU’s Access to Life Sciences programme allowed me the insight I needed into life at university while improving my lab skills. After attending, I knew that if they offered me a place, I would take it. The programme was a catalyst for my journey at RGU, and in a full-circle moment, I was later able to go back as a Student Ambassador to share my experience and inspire other pupils.”
“RGU’s Biomedical Science Programme ticks all the boxes. A massive draw to the course was the placements in the clinical labs. Unlike most other universities, RGU offers a multi-disciplinary placement, allowing you to experience all the main areas of biomedical science. The degree is accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science and the Health and Care Professions Council, meaning you can register as a Biomedical Scientist upon completion, which allows for fantastic career prospects.”
Throughout her time at university, Lena received several accolades, including the Institute of Biomedical Science President Prize for academic distinction and the Aberdeen Branch Best Registration Training Portfolio Prize 2021. But the journey towards accomplishing her degree wasn't easy, as life also came with challenges, including living with a chronic illness and having her placement delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Inclusion Centre supported me throughout my four years. The team made the transition from school to university really easy, putting in similar exam arrangements and providing me with a range of information and advice to better help me as a student with a chronic illness.”
“I found the pandemic very isolating, but as usual, RGU pulled through. I began to have regular catch-ups with my tutor and participated in the Schwartz round sessions, which allowed me to feel part of a community of healthcare students and staff. The rounds gave me a confidential space to share my personal journey and led me to write an article for the Biomedical Scientist magazine.”
The Schwartz Rounds provide a structured forum to regularly come together to discuss the emotional and social aspects of work and study. With an original focus on healthcare, RGU is the first Higher Education Institution in the UK to make it available to all disciplines.
“I carried out my final placement during this unprecedented time and I'm beyond grateful for the training and experience I gained when the service was busy and stretched.”
Following her placement at NHS Grampian, Lena accepted an offer to stay on as a Biomedical Scientist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. She credits RGU’s Applied Biomedical Science course for allowing her to expand her knowledge with placements to hone industry-ready skills, saying: “RGU has prepared me as best as possible for the next steps in my career, largely due to its industry connections. My placement experience at NHS Grampian is the biggest highlight. Rotating around all the departments, including specialising in Haematology and Immunology, allowed me to focus my interests and get a real insight into what it is like to be a Biomedical Scientist in these departments.
“The many things I have done and achieved over the last 4 years would have seemed impossible to my younger self. I came to university unsure of what to expect and how I would manage, but I am so glad I took the leap of faith. I am immensely proud of how far I have come. I can’t really put it in words, but it’s a dream come true.”