‘My scholarship has given me the space and the freedom to explore my path’: Chinelo on her Black Bristol Scholarship

University of Bristol student Chinelo Etiaba wears professional attire as she smiles, sitting in a garden with a stone wall behind her.

Chinelo is studying a Master’s by Research in Cellular and Molecular Medicine and accessed an Opportunity Bristol Scholarship through the Black Bristol Scholarship Programme.  

I am interested in how infectious disease interacts with our immune system, so I decided to do a Master’s by Research in Cellular and Molecular Medicine as an extension of my final-year undergraduate project on malaria and neutrophils. In this programme, I can take what I have learnt in undergraduate lectures and bring it to life. 

Research has made me become an investigator and has developed my sense of perseverance and dogged determination. I love going behind the scenes and getting into the nitty gritty parts of research that you don’t see in a fully developed and polished paper.  

I’m focusing on expanding my work on neutrophils specifically, which are the most abundant immune cells. Neutrophils protect against bacterial and fungal infections but have many different ways of doing so. In the type I’m studying, the neutrophil explodes and releases DNA in a sticky net. Its antimicrobial components kill and trap bacteria and fungi, preventing it from moving throughout the body. However, in inflammatory diseases like malaria and lupus, this can increase symptoms and the dangers of the disease. We’re working to better understand these cells to hopefully alleviate these challenges. 

I’m grateful that the Opportunity Bristol programme includes funding for conferences because they are learning opportunities and chances to discover what a career in research is like. Conferences bring people from different backgrounds and fields of science together to collaborate and think about solutions. I’ll be presenting my work at a conference in Budapest soon, and I’m really looking forward to the experience and sharing of ideas.  

Now that I’m a postgraduate researcher, I can also help guide undergraduate students in the same way others helped me. I can pass the torch down and offer representation of a Black woman in the postgraduate research scene, which I hope will encourage more diverse undergraduates to take part in STEM research. 

After graduating from my programme, I have ambitions of becoming a global leader in research and helping the children who bear the brunt of these diseases. I am not sure yet whether I will stay in academic research or go into industry and work in a lab to build my experience, but I do know my future lies in research. 

My scholarship has given me the space and the freedom to explore my path. It’s taught me to think more critically and has given me so many opportunities to be able to build on my lab experience, something that was cut short during my undergraduate programme due to the pandemic.  

A massive thank you to donors who support the Black Bristol Scholarship programme. You’re ensuring that people from different backgrounds can participate in this life-changing research. Diversity in thought and perspective can help find answers. Disease affects everyone, so the solutions should come from everyone.  

For more information on the Black Bristol Scholarship, click here.

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