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Haroon joins Eltham College Science Week

Thursday, 23 March, 2017 -- Helen Wilson

Eltham College was delighted to welcome back Haroon Chugtai (2012), having left only five years previously to study BioMedical Engineering and then BioInformatics before joining the NHS. His detailed and complex talk explored the possibilities that exist between Engineering, Medicine and Computer Science, looking at some of the most interesting projects that are currently being worked on, such as Designer Bacteria and Personalised Medicine.

We spoke with Haroon when he returned to Eltham College for Science Week about what he has been up to since leaving in 2012.

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It was a pleasure returning to Eltham College in March 2017 to give a talk as part of Science Week to some of the Sixth Form. Having started at the Junior School in 2001, and left after my A-levels in 2012, it was an interesting experience to be standing on the other side of the room to the students. While the buildings and grounds of the school seems to have been frozen as I left them 5 years ago, it was great hearing and seeing the vision that the Head of Science had for STEM at Eltham. The science department and its teachers were certainly instrumental in my pursuing the path that I have.

The most immediate impact of Eltham, was assisting me in achieving my four A-Levels; leading me to gain a place to study Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London. The four years that I spent in the Department of Bioengineering in pursuit of my MEng degree have formed the bulk of my experiences and memories since leaving school.

My degree was highly interdisciplinary allowing me to learn about various fundamentals of engineering and science; from molecular biology, and computer science to mechanics, and electronics. Best of all, it taught me how to apply this knowledge to solving problems in medical and biological domains. My projects varied from constructing a mechanical horse simulator for riding therapy to developing a machine-learning algorithm to assist those with visual impairments.

University was not all work, and I continued with fencing (which I had been introduced to at EC), fencing for the Imperial Men’s Second and Third teams. Some of the most exciting experiences at university occurred during the summer. Thanks to contacts I met during the year, I had the opportunity to undertake freelance work in developing prototype medical ultrasound systems, and contribute to commercial software R&D.

The most defining extra-curricular activity I took part in was being selected to be on the Imperial 2014 team taking part in the international Genetically Engineered Machine competition. This synthetic biology competition was an intense, three-month long experience stretching me to my limits, and putting us on the world stage in Boston against 250 other teams. At the time, it was the most successful Imperial College team, coming second overall (we were happy to be outdone by the Imperial 2016 team).

Having graduated in summer 2016, I was selected for the NHS Scientist Training Programme in Clinical Bioinformatics (Physical Science). I have now been on this scheme for over six months, undertaking work-based training as well as working towards a MSc. I am mainly based in the Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering department at University College London Hospital. It feels immensely satisfying working in an environment where I can directly apply what I had learnt at university, and hopefully see some of my work directly improve patient care. In the future, once I am a Registered Clinical Scientist, I am hoping to be able to move into a position where I can combine NHS work with research activities.

It was great to visit and speak at Eltham, and I look forward to seeing how it evolves in the future."