Testimonials - Dr. Petramay Attard Cortis - NSTF Science





1. When did you participate in MSSF? 

I participated in 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 when I was at sixth form at St. Aloysius College.

2. What is your current profession?

I am a doctor currently completing my training in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine. 

3. What were your topics at MSSF and how did you tackle them?

In 2001-2002, I chose the Future of Genetics. It was the closest subject to Medicine, which I was planning to read for at University. I tried to make it an entertaining presentation, focusing on the weird and wonderful planned advancements in the field, without being too technical. For example, I remember finding papers describing the possibility of increasing muscle mass and definition without strenuous exercise through genetic enhancements.

The second year, I presented the Production of Paper – the chemical process from wood to the finished product. The subject intrigued me as my family’s business is in woodwork and I took the opportunity to learn more about the process. 

4. How was your experience during MSSF?

I enjoyed my MSSF experience and was very happy with the professional organization and punctuality of the sessions. The guest speakers were very good. The opportunity for networking with students, the professionals and the judges was also encouraged after each session.

I do recall that sessions were usually held at St. Paul’s Street in Valletta on weekday evenings – in winter, it used to be quite scary walking back to the bus terminus at night in the dark!  Valletta was much quieter in the evenings back then.

5. What changes did you see in yourself from the first session till the end?

At the first session, I didn’t really know what to expect, who would be there or how many people would attend. However, by the end of MSSF, I made a few good friends and was also enjoying the social aspect and networking opportunities.  

MSSF helped me to practice and improve my public speaking, which has been an essential aide to my professional training. It has helped with my doctor-patient relationships when explaining diagnoses or management; it helps with presenting cases to my colleagues and with referrals to other specialities; it has become a tool I use regularly during my teaching sessions; and has been of great help during viva examinations!

6. What skills do you feel that you gained through MSSF?

As already mentioned, confidence with speaking in public is the most obvious benefit. 

During the International Wildlife Research Week in Switzerland, I also had the chance to practice my research skills and learnt to make the most of limited time and resources while working on a project. 

7. What made you decide to participate again?

St. Aloysius College is a school that actively encourages participation in extracurricular activities such as MSSF - that is what pushed me to participate in the first year. Having thoroughly enjoyed the local competition and the resultant trip to London, I decided to take part again in 2012-2013.

8. How was your experience in LIYSF? 

The London International Youth Science Forum was a fantastic two week experience where I was exposed to the latest scientific knowledge. I shared this with science students from all over the world and the social programme, particularly the International Cultural Showcase, was great fun! The subjects ranged from mathematics to chemistry, from nuclear physics to forensic medicine. The sessions were varied including keynote lectures, scientific presentations from the participants themselves and visits to science establishments in and around London including the European Space Agency. 

9. What skills did you gain from LIYSF?

LIYSF was a holistic learning experience. Aside from all the presentations and specialized visits which helped to increase my science knowledge, I also gained a lot in terms of soft skills – socializing, networking, choosing which sessions to go to, the importance of being on time and the appreciation for the opportunity to attend such an event. 

LIYSF also had sessions where students could present their own research. I felt I missed out on this aspect, since MSSF in Malta is based on discussion of current topics and not on presentation of original work. However, I still learnt a lot from listening to the other participants and was amazed to see how advanced some of the ideas were.

10. How was your experience in IWRW? 

International Wildlife Research Week was different from LIYSF. Being based in the Swiss Alps is a complete contrast to central London! 

The aim of IWRW was to complete a small research project during our time close to the Aletsch Glacier. We were placed into teams and had to come up with a research question, do the research, present it to the group and complete the write up. This was then published in a booklet.

I enjoyed the hands on aspect of this project and the backdrop of the Swiss Alps was fabulous. I was involved in looking for lichen diversity and size at different distances from the glacier. It allowed me to appreciate the fact that one does not need a lot in terms of time and resources to complete a useful project. 

11. What skills did you gain at IWRW?

As I said, IWRW made me realize that with the right focus, a project can be completed with limited time and resources. I use these skills in my profession particularly when completing clinical audits.

12. Has MSSF contributed to your career, and of so in what way?

The ability to be comfortable talking to an audience, to present ideas clearly and to network with peers are skills that I started developing at MSSF and which have been useful to me in my working life. I believe that soft skills are essential for a successful career.

13. What would you tell 6th form and 1st year students at tertiary institutions to encourage them to join MSSF?

MSSF is an excellent opportunity to learn and practice important skills that are not formally taught, such as public speaking, debate techniques and networking.

It also looks good on your CV and at interviews. It shows you are aiming for complete development as a person and not solely focusing on your academic commitments. If you win, that is a plus and you can make the most of the international experiences offered. 


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