08 Oct 22

My Journey from Niche University interests to the perfect placement

Jonathan Kim

My Journey :

Even before university, I was intrigued with two seemingly very distant areas of the sciences: quantum physics and genetics.

On one side, you have the study of perhaps the underlying nature of the universe – of how a single particle can be ‘everywhere’ at the same time, or how entangled particles can relay data instantaneously from one end of the universe to the other (albeit useless, unpredictable data). On the other side, you have the study of the blueprints for every living thing, the recipe that tells us not only who we are, but also who our ancestors were, going back millions of years.

While I wanted to focus on the mathematical side of things with physics, I just couldn’t quite bring myself to give up on my interests in the biomedical side of the sciences. So, I ended up choosing to attend Lancaster University so I could pursue the most flexible Natural Sciences degree I could find. I ended up studying a combination of modules in physics and molecular biology for four years. My interest in both domains was going strong even by the end of university, and in the last few months of university, I began to look for ways I could contribute in either of these two areas in the real world.

It turns out, the modern world is all about data. No matter the industry, sector or size, every company that wants to compete in the modern world needs to manage, maintain and analyse its data. I realised that by working with data, I could pursue my interests within whatever area I wanted. However, while I had some experience with Python and of handling data from my degree, I really needed to be brought up to scratch with software that is used in the real world: cloud platforms, SQL, data warehouses and more. So, not long after graduating, I looked to Rockborne.

Soon after Rockborne’s 4-month training programme, I had a client interview lined up with a big pharmaceutical company. As it turned out, my interviewer happened to know a professor from the US who the client company was contracting and who had a background in both physics and molecular biology! My interview for the placement ended up going well, and soon after the placement onboarding process, I began to work with the professor.

My placement company and the professor had the idea to work with currently available quantum hardware to try and classify clinical and genomic data. Suddenly, the opportunity for me to pursue both of my two university interests had been realised! So, over the past few months, I have written my hopefully soon-to-be-published academic paper with the professor exploring a particular classification technique within quantum machine learning. The work initially included some in-depth research into the area, followed by a substantial amount of Python work, and final weeks of writing, formatting and proofreading in LaTeX. Moving forwards, there are dozens of ways both my placement company and the professor wish to take this research further, particularly in terms of finding use cases for the technique involving some of the company’s own data.

Back in July of 2021, just after graduating, if someone had told me what I would be doing now – working with data in one of the leading pharmaceutical companies while pursuing my greatest academic interests of both quantum physics and genetics at the same time, I would never have believed them – yet, here I am!


Find out more about the Rockborne graduate programme here.

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