Cambridge Veterinary Medicine Interview Questions
It's interview season! Many of you will be preparing to log onto that Zoom call and face the interviewers of various Cambridge colleges, the hopes of getting and offer and spending the next six years of you life in the city. (I'm in Year 3 and I'm already tired, but don't let that put you off - we may all be exhausted, but I promise it's good fun too!)
I've put together a list of questions in the style that you may be asked at interview. Please note, these are only for practice, and should be used only as a guide to get you used to/aware of the style of things that you might be asked. It is not a guarantee that these topics will come up, nor that this is what you will be asked. I'm also only a student, so this comes with the usual disclaimer that I'm not involved with admissions in any way, and these are only intended as a guide.
1) Influenza is an RNA virus. It replicates in the nucleus, and is an acute respiratory virus.
Why do you think the virus replicates in the nucleus?
The host cell nucleus contains the splicing machinery, allowing the virus to hijack and use it to splice its own genome. This means that the virus doesn't have to encode additional proteins into its prepackaged genome, helping to keep it small. It may also have something to do with protection from the immune response - the nucleus already contains genetic material, so it is unlikely to send warning signals when RNA enters it, unlike the cytoplasm.
What dangers does the virus face in the cytoplasm?
You might like to think about the PAMPS and DAMPS that the virus has. Common answers include the immune response, lysozymes, hydrolytic enzymes, upregulation of the MHC1s and therefore an increased likelihood of destruction by the cytotoxic T cells of the host.
How does a virus exit the cell?
Since you understand that: Tamiflu is a drug that prevents the virus particles from leaving the cell. How do you think it does that?
Since you know, the virus uses the exocytosis pathway within the cell, you can make a reasonable guess that Tamiflu probably affects that pathway. You know that exocytosis happens via fusion of two membranes, leaving you with the options of the drug affecting either the host cell plasma memberane, or the virus's. Realistically, if it targets the host PM, it might cause damage to the cell, and it might cause leakage. So, it probably targets the virus membrane.
What's in the virus membrane? Spike proteins! Specifically, Haemagluttinin and Neuraminidase (but you wouldn't be expected to know that). You could then make a resonable guess about what Tamiflu does - inhibiting the spike proteins in some manner.
2) Have you heard of brachycephaly?
What can you tell me about it?
What kinds of problems does it cause?
Breathing difficulties, renal problems, digestive issues, heart issues, reproductive issues - you name it, it causes a problem! This image from the BVA shows clearly the impact of a flat skull (normal skull on the left, brachycephalic skull on the right)
What clinical solutions might be available to these dogs?
Surgery, treatment for skin infections, euthanasia.
How might brachycephaly cause eye problems?
The flattened skull causes the eyeballs to protrude, meaning that the cornea becomes more exposed. This can increase the likelihood of dryness, trauma and ulceration.
3) Blood Smear Picture
What do you see here?
You might say red blood cells and white blood cells. You might want to specify the presence of monocytes, basophils, eosinophils, neutrophils and granulocytes.
When might this be used in a clinical setting?
To diagnose infection. For example, malaria parasites can sometimes be seen under a microscope, or an increased number of white blood cells might imply the presence of a pathogen. You could also use it to diagnose anaemia or other specific diseases, such as hairy cell leukaemia.
What might you expect to see if the organism was infected with parvovirus, and how would this change if it was infected with a parasite?
Parvovirus = a virus. Lots of neutrophils, increased numbers of sentinel cells (including macrophages, monocytes etc). You might see a large number of differentiated plasma cells and cytotoxic T cells.
Parasite = increased number of eosinophils. TH2 based response, not a TH1 response. What does this mean?
4) Acyclovir is an anti-viral drug mainly used in the treatment of Herpesviruses. This is its structure.
What does this look similar to?
Given you know that, how do you think it might work?
Look at the structure. See the double ring? What does it look like to you?
1) nucleic acids typically have this double ring structure, but this one is missing a key component: there's no 3' end
2) remember, when DNA is copied it is copied from the 5' to 3' end, with bases added to the OH
3) if the OH is missing, that would imply that further replication cannot occur
4) therefore, one of the ways acyclovir functions is by acting as a chain terminator. It competes with other bases to be incorporated into the copying genome, and preventing further bases being added
5) this halts viral replication
5) This is a skull of an animal.
Is it a herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore?
Omnivore! Look at the teeth - not completely flat (battery like teeth are key for herbivores to grind plant material) but not just canine like (needed for ripping meat). Might use teeth for crushing nuts too.
Is it a prey or predator species?
Look at the eyes! Predators typically have eyes on the front of their skull, whereas prey species tend to have them on either side. This is to increase their visual field to detect threats. So, this is a prey species.
What animal is it from?
This animal likes to forage for food. How is the skull adapted to allow this?
Elongated nose, teeth at the front to snatch grass etc. Large eyes. Strong jaw. Large nose.
There is a bone in the end of the nose, the os rostri. What do you think this might be for?
To aid foraging and help the pig root around in mud and dense substances.
I hope this was helpful and informative, and as always if you have further questions you can email me or book a Zoom call with me where I'll answer any questions you may have, for less than the price of a cup of coffee
If you have any information you think would be useful to include in this guide, or you notice anything missing, please drop me a message using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
And finally, want five FREE secrets to making an AWESOME vet school application? Click here to get the guide!