World Cancer Day: from Uganda to Oxford

As 4th February is World Cancer Day we decided to catch up with Annet, a former international student whose interest in cancer treatment led her to study for a master's in radiation biology at the University of Oxford. She's currently back in her home country of Uganda, but her passion and dedication to follow her studies took her first to Japan, with support from the Ashinaga Foundation, before she secured a Commonwealth Scholarship to study at Oxford.

Student Central: Annet, you've studied and researched in top universities in Japan and the UK but tell us a little bit about where you grew up.

Annet I grew up in Southern Uganda, and lived in a tiny village called Busowe with my grandma and cousins.

Student Central: Why did you first become interested in studying science and specifically cancer-related studies?

Annet I always wanted to understand what, how and why things (especially diseases/illnesses) occur inside our bodies. So, I focused on studying biology and chemistry at high school. While at high school, I lost my aunt to breast cancer, and that is when I started thinking about becoming a doctor who can contribute to treating cancers. At that time, my knowledge in that science field was so limited, so, I felt extremely happy when I got a chance to join Tsukuba University, where I majored in biological sciences.

Student Central: As you say, you undertook your undergraduate degree in Tsukuba University in Japan and your master's at the University of Oxford. How did university those two universities differ?

Annet The major difference probably lies in the setting and the Oxbridge college system. At Oxford University, my college (Wolfson College) was effectively 'my University' with its own library, dormitories, research hubs and social facilities. Some laboratories were distant from my college but resources are shared through formal requests. At Tsukuba University, the laboratories are within the University, and students in various colleges share the same big library, dormitories etc.

Student Central: In Japan you studied biological sciences, what did you focus on in your master's at Oxford?

Annet I studied Radiation Biology. The course focuses on cancer, its development and the risks and benefits of various radiation therapies in oncology treatment.

Student Central: You're back in Uganda right now, how are you using what you learned in Oxford back in your home country?

Annet I am now teaching Radiation Biology to medical students at Uganda Christian University. I am trying my best to pass-on as much knowledge and skills as possible to my students. Also, I help with promoting childhood cancer awareness in Uganda, a program run by the Uganda Cancer Institute. Additionally, I have recently joined Ashinaga Uganda, where I help to prepare Japan-bound students by teaching them about Japan, culture, survival skills and anything pertaining to studies and life in Japan. Besides that, I utilise my presentation and public speaking skills to talk about my experiences of studying abroad via my youtube channel, AnnetMaya.

Student Central: What's the next big adventure for you?

Annet So many exciting things are happening right now, but I want to enjoy this moment with my family as much as I can before I embark on my further studies.

Student Central: How do you feel about the future of cancer research?

Annet Cancer is extremely stubborn, but scientists are working hard to find effective ways of managing it. I'm confident that over time ever more effective cancer treatments and cures will be discovered.

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Rachel Burgon
Co-Founder & CEO
Published on 4 February 2022
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