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My Skype Interview - Biochemistry

Oxford interviews don’t get any less nerve-wracking even if you’re half a world away. I still remember how I had mine after school and I was so fidgety that entire day that my teachers had to send me home early.

So, I had submitted an open application for Biochemistry, and was offered an interview at St Hugh’s College. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to Oxford for the interviews because of visa restrictions and thus had to schedule a Skype interview. The college staff were very understanding about this and asked for my Skype details in advance.

When the fateful time finally arrived, I sat in front of my laptop screen and waited for the familiar ringing of a skype call.

And I waited… and waited… for almost an hour, with my panic levels rising every second but no call came through.

College contacted me later that evening to explain that some of the previous interviews had overrun and as my interview was the last of the day, the tutors sadly couldn’t make it. They apologized for the delay and promptly rescheduled for the next day. The only reason I tell you this is because minor mishaps like this can arise during the hectic interview period but it’s nothing to worry about. I assure you the tutors won’t forget to interview you just because you’re not physically present in Oxford.

The next day, I did have my interview on time but there were some minor technical difficulties such as my face appearing flipped horizontally by 180 degrees. But they didn’t really mind so we carried on.

The tutor started off by making some casual conversation to put me at ease; it worked and after the first couple of minutes I felt my nervousness starting to fade away.

During the academic part of the interview, I was first asked to draw the structure of an amino acid and talk about the restricted rotation about the amide bond. Slowly, the difficulty of the questions built up and at one point I was asked to plot a graph to determine the favored conformations of a polypeptide chain. I struggled with this question and the nervousness that I said had faded away came rushing back in full force.

The tutor asked me to talk through what I was thinking and eventually, with hints from the tutor, I was able to plot what he then told me was a Ramachandran plot. (Worth looking up for biochemistry interviewees!) He also asked me if I knew who Ramachandran was (a famous crystallographer and Nobel Prize nominee), sadly I didn’t and by that point I thought that I’d completely blown my interview. Despite this, I was offered a place! This proves that thinking out loud is the most important thing.

The whole interview only lasted about 40-45 minutes, and I just had one. But this may not always be the case and college may contact you on short notice to arrange another one so during the interview period, please do check your email often. Keep in mind that the number of interviews you have is completely unrelated to how likely you are to get in.

Skype interview top tips from Hiba coming tomorrow!

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