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Finding a focus

Gaia De Angelis, MChem Chemistry with a Year in Industry graduate

Gaia De Angelis donated blood following an earthquake in central Italy that killed nearly 300 people and injured hundreds more. In doing so, Gaia was not only responding to an urgent need, she was also finding a focus for her future career in chemistry.

“I'm very interested in artificial blood. Researchers are working on it right now, but they haven't found a substitute that is capable of replacing all the functions of blood yet.

"After the earthquake in Italy, I realised I was very interested in this topic and knew I wanted to get into this type of work. But it's also something that would potentially help other people, so for me it's a win-win situation.”

A supportive environment

Gaia is from Italy and not only had to adjust to university life, but also to living in a different country. The tremendous support she received from the Department of Chemistry and, more broadly, the University of Reading, made her transition easier.

“From the moment we arrived, people from the Department sent emails explaining how they could help us. This included discussing placement opportunities, reviewing CVs and doing mock interviews.

"The staff were even helpful in my application for a National Insurance number, outlining the application process and offering to help should I have any questions. I didn't think I would get so much help from the staff.”

The personal attention Gaia received from her support tutor was also pivotal in enhancing her experience at Reading. Gaia was one of only four students assigned to her tutor, which made it possible to develop a closer working relationship.

“Not only did she know me when we saw each other on campus, but she remembered conversations we'd had months before. For me, I was far from home, so it was really nice to have someone who actually was reassuring.”

Building confidence as well as skills

When Gaia arrived on campus, she had no idea what to expect or how things worked. With the encouragement of her tutor, Gaia became the course representative during her first year and, in her second year,  the student representative for the School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy.

As the School representative, she brought up course issues with the School's Board of Teaching and Learning. Through this process, Gaia's confidence blossomed.

“It changed me a lot. I had to raise some issues during meetings and they took me very seriously, even though I was a student. They treated me like one of them, which was really nice.

"It gave me confidence because I learned from my experiences that I can get things done, and if I have problems, there are people who will help me.”

Along with confidence, Gaia gained some very practical skills that employers look for.

“All of these experiences are on my CV as they gave me transferable skills. I'm now more comfortable speaking to large groups of people and giving presentations.

"And as the School representative, I had to chair meetings and take minutes. I contributed to the Department, but I also really enjoyed doing it.”

Doing your best

Gaia found her A levels harder than expected and was worried about the jump to degree level study. But when she got to Reading things turned around.

“I had so many people supporting me and believing in me that I got a first. So the improvement has been massive. This is something that I really like about the University of Reading – you get so much support that you really can do your best.”

Learn more about the support you'll receive in our Department

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