Careers in Life Sciences

Liam Knapp-Bates

Liam Knapp-Bates, wearing a green polo shirt and a headset with microphone. His left arm is outstretched and a small owl is sitting on a glove on his hand.

"University is a marathon, not a sprint"

Liam Knapp-Bates, BSc Biological Sciences graduate, now a Zookeeper at Colchester Zoo.

From the moment I came to the University of Essex for an Open Day, it felt like home. As a place to call home whilst studying, it catered for everything I wanted in a university and more. From the wide variety of facilities on campus to the beautiful lake area, the affordable accommodation and all the student clubs and societies. It all made my decision to study at Essex a pretty easy one!

I chose the BSc Biological Sciences as it had a diverse set of modules that I could study. I was able to explore so many different aspects of biology, from agriculture and ecology to molecular medicine and cellular biochemistry. I was really interested in gaining a wider breadth of knowledge in biology with the hope of focusing on specific areas in the following years, which is exactly what this degree allowed me to do.

The best part of my degree was the lab work! I got to conduct so many different practical experiments. and learnt so much about science research through them. It was always a proud moment when experiments went to plan.

Alongside the lab work, I also got to go on many field trips. The trip to Indonesia in my second year to participate in coral reef surveys was a real highlight and provided a good balance to the lab work back at the university. As I progressed in my degree, I focused heavily on molecular biology and in particular cancer was a topic I found to be really interesting so getting to study a whole module centred around the disease was absolutely fascinating!

After graduating I participated in an internship scheme at Colchester Zoo as a full time Zookeeper. The internship lasts for approximately 12 months and you train to become a fully-qualified zookeeper with the aim to gain full time employment upon the completion of the scheme.

I secured the position through the university's volunteering programme (Vteam) as it was an opportunity offered in my final year of study, letting me volunteer at the zoo at least one day a week. It was only through the university program that I got the chance to participate in the zookeeper internship and so far, I have had the best time and still can't quite believe I get to look after so many amazing animals as my job!

There are so many things I could say to prospective students, but I should probably say the most important thing - do not do what I did and leave most of your coursework to the last minute! It causes way too much stress!

On a serious note, you should read up about the topics you're being taught in lectures. What is covered in your classes is just the tip of the iceberg, especially when it comes to science. Revise it and research around it as it'll help you out so much when it comes to exam season.

Outside of your degree, go out as much as you can, sign up to a hundred clubs or societies (you'll probably only attend one, two if you're optimistic), get involved with everything going on around campus as I guarantee you'll find something's happening pretty much every day.

Lastly, the best bit of advice I can give to a prospective student is to take it slow and enjoy everything as university is a marathon not a sprint.