One of the best years of my life - Hannah's time studying MSc Epidemiology

Hannah from Canada unpacks her transformative journey studying MSc Epidemiology, filled with intensive learning, unique experiences, and the joy of exploring the vibrant city of London and beyond.
Hannah standing outside the entrnace of the LSHTM Keppel Street Building.

Last May I had no idea what I would be studying in the next year, let alone where I would be living. The last 8 months have flown by and this month marks the end of in-person class. Looking back, the amount I have learned and grown as a person surprises me.

A little about me

Doing my undergraduate degree in Kingston, Ontario in Canada provided me with a strong background in the sciences, specifically learning about how the human body works. My degree was in life sciences and as part of it, we had the option to take an epidemiology course (at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic) and that’s where my love for the subject started. I had thought about physiotherapy and related subjects, but nothing spoke to me the way epidemiology and global health did. I soon took as many courses as possible in the field and stumbled upon a short course in England through my school. In this course we learned about disability and how it intersects with global health and as part of the course we were given a tour of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Once I stepped foot into the school, I knew where I belonged. The rest was history.

Going into MSc Epidemiology, I had no idea what to expect. The programme directors do their best to prepare you, but as someone who had never experienced an intensive master's before, I was nervous. In the first term (September to December), the class is 5 days a week from 9:30am to 5:00pm. The only thing I can think to compare it to, is a full-time job where you meet amazing people from such a diverse background both in respect to education and work as well as geographical and with people who have similar interests. You leave the School exhausted yet so excited about what you just learned. In terms of the content, the first term will feel like a review of basic Epidemiological concepts while Term 2 and Term 3 will test your understanding of these concepts. When the programme directors show you a picture of a mountain to describe the year, they are not kidding. All that to say, it is very manageable and if you are truly passionate about epidemiology, it feels more like a reward to learn at LSHTM rather than completing a degree.

My favourite module

One of my favourite modules in the master's was the "Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases" module. The course facilitators did an excellent job of explaining various aspects to infectious disease control and had trailblazers in the field give lectures to the students. My favourite part of the module was an assignment where we had a simulated outbreak and we had to determine the likely cause of the outbreak as well as other information regarding the incubation period of the agent. This assignment felt as if we could be given this in the real world and asked to do something similar. The faculty were extremely helpful throughout this module (as with every other course) and encouraged students to email them with questions.

Studying in London

Now, the other best part of the programme is living in London. Going from a small town of 1400 to a city of about 9 million has been a huge change but one that I am so happy about. London is such a busy city with countless things to experience. While this can be overwhelming, London can also be peaceful, specifically in the parks which are sprinkled across the city. Travel is also a huge part of being in London as it is relatively inexpensive to travel into Europe. I have been able to travel throughout the programme to places such as Sweden, Hungary, France, Netherlands, and Czechia. I did have a hard time trying to balance studying with enjoying my time in London, however I learned that if you work on assignments between classes and go over readings during the week, you can enjoy your weekends. I think it is important to remember to be a tourist sometimes and go to the National Gallery or go to Notting Hill and see Portobello Rd (there’s a lemonade guy that I very much recommend). All that to say, after the programme, I will be looking for epidemiologist jobs in the UK, and hopefully London, as I don’t think I can say goodbye quite yet.

Hannah (on Left) and friends in Ćeský Krumlov, Czechia.
Hannah (left) and friends in Ćeský Krumlov, Czechia.

My summer project

For the summer, I will be completing my summer project which is in Mathematical Modelling. My research will look at evaluating the health effects of delaying nutritional support to tuberculosis patients and their household contacts in India. While I’m nervous about completing a project in two months, I’m also excited to learn more about modelling and hopefully provide insight into how delays in support will affect patient outcomes.

For future MSc students, I know it may seem daunting to do a one-year master’s but trust me when I say it will become one of the best years of your life. A suggestion I have is to get involved in the Centres that LSHTM has and become a student ambassador as I feel like it is a great way to become more involved in the School! Also start thinking about what project you would be interested in around November/December as time moves quickly!

Hannah McGregor (2nd row, 2nd from right) and the 2023-24 MSc Epidemiology cohort.
Hannah (2nd row, 2nd from right) and the 2023-24 MSc Epidemiology cohort.

This year has gone by so quickly and I’m sad that soon my time at LSHTM will be over. However, I know that the people I have met here will continue past the MSc as will the memories.