‘Design and synthesis of histone methyltransferase inhibitor: identification of new inhibitors of DOT1L’. What a mouthful, wouldn’t you say? This was indeed, my dissertation title for my project in the third year of my MPharm degree. From the offset, it certainly seems like a nigh-on-impossible task. I certainly did a couple of double takes when I was first presented with this title. (Having to sound out half the title so that I could understand what was being asked of me, prompted me to really evaluate my plan of action in order to complete this).

I currently have the present third years at UCL School of Pharmacy approaching me with a myriad of questions and concerns about what to select for their project forthcoming in the second semester. Let me start off by clarifying that trying to second-guess which department or subject interest is easy(will-give-you-an-easy-first), is completely futile. So here comes my first pearl of wisdom; don’t try and second guess the system and try to pick what is ‘easy’ or an ‘easy grade’. Pick what is of genuine interest to you and even something which you would want to pursue further along your career path. For those of you who have worked incredibly hard to reach this stage where you are deciding what subject matter is of particular interest to you, the penny may have dropped whereby you have realised that at the master’s stage of your degree, nothing is easy. The amount of time I see younger students wasting on trying to second guess which modules are easier so they can have the least amount of work to do is truly astounding. See, the idea is that in the second semester of the third year at UCL SOP, the ‘Masters’ aspect of the degree is introduced, so despite not having a structured timetable of lectures and tutorials, there is still work to be done. This tends to lull many students into a false sense of security, in that there may be no timetabled lectures but that doesn’t mean that this ‘free time’ is in fact ‘free’. Nevertheless, there are several initial timetabled tutorials and lectures which are designed to help facilitate the transition to being ‘spoonfed’ to ‘going solo’.

THESE ARE ESSENTIAL and I would strongly recommend that attendance is mandatory (for instance; there are very helpful tutorials on the use of Endnote which is a tool used to catalogue all references which have been used…definitely make sure you pay attention…saves you faffing about at 3am on the morning of the deadline attempting to manually insert references unlike *ahem* someone. So, possibly the most important advice that I cannot, and I mean cannot stress enough is; the time which is allocated to you for your dissertation is of the utmost importance. Do not think for a moment, that a ‘free’ timetable for this semester, is truly free. Many people do feel that because there is no immediate accountability during this time, they can simply use this time to have endless lie-ins, catch up on all the missed seasons of Revenge, Suits and so forth (apologies for missing out on the others, I just can’t keep up these days..) and to just simply not do anything. The classic lines include ‘I have over 3 months to do the work’, or ‘No lectures so I don’t have to come in’ or ‘it’s only Feburary..I have until May’….well my dear readers you cannot be more wrong. I always stand by the fact that time management is core to success for such a challenging degree, and it cannot be more true for this instance. Do not simply leave your project to the final weeks. The amount of work involved in completing a 10 000 word dissertation of a decent standard requires time, effort and a lot of hard work.

This brings in another aspect which may not have occurred to many of you. The independence which you will have to complete your work will bring to light your maturity in handling such a daunting task. Before diving into databases such as PubMed, clinical journals from the BMJ and so on, it is important to self-evaluate how you are going to tackle this; and so nicely ties in with your way of deciding what you want to do. It is an unfortunate truth that as we progress through our university degree and ebb closer towards true adulthood, things like maturity, responsibility and commitment which all seemed like a lifetime away are suddenly thrust upon us; and there is no better way to kick start this than having a mature, dedicated approach to something like your dissertation. The fact that all of you who have reached this stage shows your capability to do so, and I’m sure that with the right approach it doesn’t matter what exactly you’re doing, but that you will complete it in true style.