From lab technician to aspiring parasitology researcher - Sam's story

Read through Sam's story from financial barriers to thriving at LSHTM. He shares with us how he overcame challenges, the impact of the scholarship, and his plans in parasitology research after finishing his MSc Medical Parasitology at LSHTM.
Sam Palmer (left) with MSc Medical Parasitology students at North Kent Marshes

Where and what did you study before joining LSHTM?

I studied a BSc Honours in Life Sciences at the University of South Africa by distance learning. I worked as a laboratory technician in the UK after graduating.

What barriers have you faced during your education?

I faced financial barriers that prevented me from completing the first degree I was enrolled in. 

How have the barriers you’ve faced shaped your academic and personal development?

I reviewed available study options and chose a distance learning course, taking modules based on what I and my family could afford. This meant it took much longer to complete my undergraduate degree. It definitely taught me patience and how to remain motivated with an end goal in mind.

I worked part-time at an art gallery to contribute to study costs and trips to the science campus for practicals. I definitely improved my soft skills, such as being comfortable communicating with the public.

Balancing work and university also helped me develop excellent time management and organisational skills. I had to plan well in advance to ensure work commitments didn’t clash with my revision sessions, practicals or exams.

What advice would you give to someone to help them overcome a similar challenge?

I know that study loans aren’t always the only option for students. Consider working if you can and always check if any courses you’re interested in are offered part-time.

I worked as a laboratory technician after obtaining my undergraduate degree. I believe that helped me strengthen my MSc application. Your journey to gain your qualification may be longer than you initially expected. That’s okay.

As a scholarship recipient, how would you describe the impact this has had on you?

It is inspiring to be in an environment with LSHTM students and lecturers who share the same level of enthusiasm about parasitology. I’m grateful for this opportunity to work towards my goal of becoming a scientist and making a positive contribution to public health.

Many of our scholarships are kindly funded through philanthropy – what message would you like to share with someone considering contributing to our scholarship programme?

Contributing to a student’s MSc has a huge impact on their future. Not only do they obtain a degree that equips them to work in a desired field or study further, they also gain a professional network and develop close friendships.

How are you finding your programme so far?

It’s been great so far! The first term is quite intense so I’ve had to manage my workload well. MSc Medical Parasitology has a good mix of lectures, laboratory practicals and even field work.

Sam collected larvae identified and mounted (with too much Berlese’s!).
Collected larvae identified and mounted (with too much Berlese’s!).
Sam collected larvae identified and mounted (with too much Berlese’s!).

What has surprised you about LSHTM?   

I have been pleasantly surprised with the amount of personal and academic support available to students. I’ve also enjoyed initiatives such as Pentacells that foster a sense of community at the School.

What are your plans for after your MSc degree?

My goal is to study to PhD level and pursue a career in research. Parasite-vector interactions is a topic that I’ve become really interested in.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for your programme and/or the Next Generation scholarship at LSHTM?

I would definitely recommend this MSc to anyone interested in medical parasitology. The discipline has a wide range of topics and LSHTM caters to interests such as laboratory-based research on parasite biology, field-based entomology or genomics. Contact the Programme Directors and Student Ambassadors, they are happy answer any questions you have.

If you’re applying for the scholarship I would recommend giving an honest account of your journey so far and what you’ve learned from it.