Over the past 10 weeks I have been privileged to work in the Medical Research Council, Phosphorylation Ubiquitylation Unit (MRC PPU) at the University this summer. The School of Life Sciences provide students with many opportunities to gain real life lab experience at the university that include the James Black Prize Studentships and the GRE and MRC Summer Schools.
The university had started advertising these internship opportunities back in December and I had decided to try my luck and had sent my application on the last date of the deadline. To my surprise I was called for an informal interview with Professor Anton Gartner and soon after my interview I was told my application was successful! In our application process we had to shortlist 3 supervisors whose lab we were interested in working in. I was then called in to meet my supervisor and discuss things like what I am interested in and how long I would like to work in the labs. My supervisor, Dr. Satpal Virdee had advised me that to get the true experience I should do 10 weeks, and now looking back at my weeks here spent in the lab even 10 weeks now feel too short.
Over the course of this internship, I have gained invaluable lab experience and learnt so many experimental techniques which allowed me not only to put the theory I have learnt in classes to practice but also enhance my knowledge on various lab techniques which are very important to have especially as I am considering a career in research. I was also able to learn techniques, which were greatly related to very important topics like DNA repair and damage. I have been so fortunate to learn new skills and protocols first-hand from lab research staff working on projects/experiments. I was also very lucky to have supervisors who were so patient with me and always were ready to answer my questions and help me when I was in doubt. As well as this, I was also very lucky to have contributed results to a real life project that was being led by my supervisor and another Post Doc.
Furthermore, my time spent in the lab has also allowed me to become very patient as a person, which I feel, is a key trait that is needed for a scientist. I say this because the labs have taught me how to deal with the frustration that comes when an experiment fails multiple times, and when there is a lack of results. Yet at the same time the failures also taught me how to problem solve and how I can manipulate certain steps in a protocol to make the experiments work. I was also able to experience the real working life and determination of a scientist by staying late in labs and coming in on weekends, which was a great insight to have. Moreover, the experience in the lab has enabled me to become more confident and independent as a scientist and this is all thanks to the helpful staff that trusted and enabled me to carry out protocols by myself. These few weeks have not only impacted me in a scientific manner but have also allowed me to grow as a person and really become mature and feel like an adult.
To conclude, I would defiantly recommend all the life science students to take up this opportunity at some point in their four years at university as the experience gained here is beyond invaluable. The time spent in the lab really gives you a true insight on how a real life research lab works and allows you to see what field of science you are interested in.