Nipuni Welihinda

Portrait of alumna Nipuni WelihindaMy name is Nipuni Welihinda and I come from a Biomedical Science background. I am a British student and have a BSc Biomedical Science (Hons) degree from St Georges' Medical school London. After my Bachelor’s degree I worked in a NHS hospital in the UK for 2 years as an Auxiliary nurse before joining a private company as a recruitment consultant. I specialised as a consultant recruiting for Medical Science liaisons across the UK, and was able to gain a good insight into the pharmaceutical industry. After working in recruitment for nearly 2 years I moved to Sweden in August 2016 for my Master's studies.

I did the Master Programme in Biomedicine at Uppsala University.

I was always interested in biomedical science and the broad scope of therapy area expertise it provides. When I searched the Biomedicine programme content online, I also found out that this programme allowed students to choose from a wide range of optional courses during their study. The clinical drug development (CDD) course in particular caught my eye, as this was an area I wanted to learn more about. Furthermore, the programme was 2 years as opposed to 1 year, which I thought would provide me more time to identify a career path to take after graduation, and gather the relevant experience whilst doing the Master's. 

Besides from it being one of the most prestigious universities in the world and the oldest university in the whole of Sweden, I wanted to experience the student life in one of the largest student cities in Sweden. I've also heard about the student nations in Uppsala, so wanted to make the most out of my study abroad. The student nations are by far the best things I've ever experienced whilst studying at Uppsala University. I really enjoyed having fika at the nations and attending a gasque, which was certainly a unique experience. 

I certainly got to experience the campus atmosphere to the full at Uppsala University. The summer time was the best, when students could sit outside in the beautiful greenery and enjoy the sun whilst having lunch. I was based at BMC (Biomedicine Centrum) and it is one of the largest campuses at Uppsala University. The laboratory facilities were excellent and there were several large lecture halls as well as plenty of small side rooms for group discussions. I was acting as the Biomedical Science Master's group representative for years 2016-2018. I welcomed the new biomedical science students and organised a campus tour and fika. I was also a member of the Värmlands nation and attended regular salsa and bachata dancing classes on Sundays and Thursdays, and I still continue to do so whenever I can.

The Biomedicine programme coordinator Lina Thorvaldson was very helpful in providing help and guidance throughout my Master’s degree. The clinical drug development course was also extremely useful in providing a very good overview on clinical trials, as well as several organised visits to pharmaceutical companies in Uppsala and Stockholm.

I started working as a Clinical Research Associate (CRA/ Clinical monitor) for a pharmaceutical company soon after graduating.  As a CRA I work with doctors and nurses across Sweden and Denmark covering various therapeutic areas, monitoring the conduct of human clinical trials, to ensure high standards are met. This profession is personally satisfying as I am playing a major role in helping new drugs get into the market, which can help millions of patients across the world that are in need of new/alternative medication. For now, I have extended my stay abroad and have decided to work and live in Uppsala, and have no plans of moving back to the UK yet!

Working in clinical trials at Prof. Helgi Schiöth’s Neuropharmacology group was a great stepping stone for my career in clinical research. I worked on several longitudinal clinical trials during my time at Prof. Helgi’s group, and ended up designing and carrying out a pilot study using a cutting edge neuroimaging technique for my Master's thesis project. This really gave me the opportunity to get hands on experience in clinical trials. During the last few months in the Neuropharmacology group I was also promoted to a project lead role for a study, where I supervised and trained new students how to run the clinical study. This experience in clinical trials as well as the CDD course at Uppsala University certainly prepared me well for a role in the pharmaceutical industry. 

I think I certainly made the most out of it during my time at Uppsala University. The only thing I feel I missed out on was the Lapland tour organised by the international student’s society. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend this tour as the tour dates overlapped with exam times for the Biomedicine programme.  

I would like to say to future students that it is very important to figure out early enough what you want to do with your degree. Pick your optional courses wisely so that you really enjoy what you do, and then look into ways you can incorporate it in your future career. Try and get some work experience over the summer which could give an insight into different career options.

Read more about the Master's programme in Biomedicine.