Zimbabwe-born ‘Derry girl’ Melville graduates in Personalised Medicine with mission to improve access across Africa

Melville Nyatondo graduates from Magee on Friday with a degree in Personalised Medicine.
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Melville moved to Luton from Zimbabwe in 2007 when she was just seven.

When the time came for Melville to head to university, she moved to Bradford and undertook a degree in Clinical Sciences and Medicine.

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Melville took a keen interest in the research aspects of her course and knew that this was an area she would love to pursue a career in.

Melville NyatondoMelville Nyatondo
Melville Nyatondo

Melville recalls: “After taking on a project about therapeutic advances in pancreatic cancer, I discovered that I didn’t really want to become a medical doctor and that I actually enjoyed research much more.

"From frequently searching personalised and precision medicine for my project, a UCAS advert popped up on my screen for a degree in Personalised Medicine at Ulster University.

"I looked into the course, and it seemed really interesting and that it would be something I would enjoy. At the time Ulster University was the only place offering it at undergraduate level.

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"So, I took a leap of faith, applied, and moved to Derry. It was one the best decisions I have ever made!”

Moving to Derry in 2019 was an overwhelming experience.

“I think coming to NI was one of the biggest challenges for me. It was quite the culture shock, and I was surprised by how drastically cold it is.

"In fact, anyone that knows me, knows that I always have 2 pairs of gloves, 2 pairs of socks and an umbrella on me at all times. I struggled adjusting to a lot in first year, but I remember tuning into an Instagram live, where they said make the most of where you are and grow where you are planted.

"From that point, I immersed myself into university life and pursued my interests, pushing myself way beyond my comfort zone. I became Vice President of Christian Union, Course Representative, as well as Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME+) Network Student Representative and I went on the Global Leadership Experience programme in Johannesburg, South Africa.”

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Melville presented posters at the Black in Cancer 2022 conference and the British Society for Immunology Oxford Symposium, as well as attending the 6th International Conference on Gender Research 2023.

She completed a placement at Randox, a summer internship at Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and worked as a clinical researcher on a trial aiming to reduce health inequalities.

Melville will be starting a summer internship at the Francis Crick Institute in the Biological Research Facility and in October, will start her Master’s in Applied Cancer Sciences at Oxford.

Melville hopes to show people, especially women and those in BAME communities, that they too can get through university and pursue careers in fields they are passionate about.

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Another long-term goal is to make personalised medicine in Africa as accessible as it is in the West.

Melville stated: “I was born in Zimbabwe, and although a part of me will always be a Derry girl, home really is where the heart is. I hope I can help make Personalised Medicine an accessible and applicable reality in Africa, as it is in the Western world.”