Oliver Hartwell, BSc Biochemistry

'My degree has benefited me in so many ways and will continue to for the rest of my life.'
Oliver Hartwell

Current role

I am currently working at Oxford Nanopore Technologies®, where we are developing a new generation of electronic molecular analysis systems for use in scientific research, personalised medicine, crop science, security/defence and more. The platform technology uses nanopores to analyse single molecules including DNA/RNA and proteins. Day to day my work involves using a variety of skills I learned at my time at UoB whether it be understanding and utilising knowledge about proteins to applying important business skills such as preparing and presenting data.

After graduating from UoB, I returned to a part time job that I’d been back to during most semester breaks and this gave me a good chance to decide where to go next in my life. As a biochemistry graduate you can go down many different career/life paths and for me the hardest decision to make was picking just one. Research, medicine, business, postgraduate study…. to name just a few, the list goes on! However by the end of the summer I had already lined up interviews at various companies and it wasn’t long until I started work in Oxford.

Outline the course you studied at the University of Birmingham and how it benefited you?

First year of Biochemistry introduced me to new scientific concepts and a new way of thinking about how life works at a molecular level. It provided a solid platform for me to go and decide which modules I wanted to focus on in my second and third year. In final year I got real sense satisfaction when handing in my dissertation and was probably the time where I realised by ability to work well independently.

Studying biochemistry is a fascinating experience. As it’s a continually evolving area of science where breakthroughs are always being made it feels great to be part of it. My degree has benefited me in so many ways and will continue to for the rest of my life.

I wanted to study at a campus university rather than one based within a city but it also had to have good sport facilities. I am a keen hockey player. I ultimately had to choose between Exeter and Birmingham and what swayed it for me were the halls and the lake that I could run around. Although funnily enough I never did once run around the lake!

How did you find your first year in Birmingham?

The Vale Village provided a picturesque setting for first year. With the majority of freshers based there, there was no shortage of things to do and people to meet. At first most seemed either very nervous or very excited (mostly the latter) but it didn’t take long to realise that we were all in the same boat. Activities organised by 2nd and 3rd year students offered many opportunities to meet new people and join societies. First year flew by so fast but it’s a year my friends and I will never forget.

How did going to University as a whole benefit you?

As a whole, studying and living at university helped me to achieve personal goals and develop key skills. The experience crafted me into an employable individual and you discover how to manage time and resources efficiently, and how to live with complete strangers who may end up being your best mates.

How did you find campus life?

I preferred the idea of a campus university to a city simply because all the resources you’ll need are in one place. The campus at UoB is charming wherever you look, with some fascinating views especially when walking to lectures in the morning. You can do all your studying and sports in one place and when the evening comes around there are plenty of things to do for example a trip to Joes Bar at the Guild or taking classes in the evening to brush up on another language.

How did you find living in Birmingham?

I go about life with a ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude and Birmingham provided the perfect setting for this. The city itself is a short train or bus ride away from campus but with such a strong student community surrounding the campus, you’re more likely to stay close by. Selly Oak is the perfect place to live in second and third year where the housing is in an ideal location; about a 5-15 min walk in depending on which street you live on.

Did you join any student societies during your studies?

In first year I joined the School of Engineering Rugby Team, a society that allowed me to continue playing rugby without interfering too much with my studies. Joining a society or sports team is probably the best way to make friends. I met people from other halls and year groups, and the socials weren’t too bad either! Even now I still keep in touch with the group and we play an ‘old boys game’ once year where graduates are invited back to play against the first team.

Any tips to pass on to students thinking of coming here?

If you like the idea of being part of a top ranked university with a fantastic campus so close to the city, UoB is the choice for you. The high quality of teaching and research will benefit you in your next journey in life. If you strike the perfect balance between work, sport, societies and lifestyle you’ll ensure you have a truly unforgettable experience in Birmingham.

What are your aspirations for the future?

In the future I would like to continue working in science or maybe choose to study medicine. I enjoy biochemistry so much that I don’t see myself moving away from the field anytime soon!