Guest post by Alex Lowe, Frederick Bennett and Michelle Durrant.
From the 6th– 10th July, A-level students Alex, Frederick and Michelle spent a week with Prof Jay Hinton and PhD student Siân Owen to experience what life is like in a research institute. They did a microbiological survey of the Institute’s kitchen areas; results below!
I had a fantastic week. I gained huge amounts of information; and was able to meet staff from a number of different departments. I saw what research on plants involves, toured the aquariums in the basement, and met Linford: a (non-venomous) California kingsnake, who had previously escaped for three months. The machinery in the genomics and proteomics labs is as impressive as it is expensive. The entire week surpassed all of my expectations. I had a lot of fun, and the knowledge, skills and confidence gained during the week will be incredibly valuable during my degree.
Initially I was feeling slightly nervous about starting as an intern and found the idea of working in a laboratory quite daunting. However, after meeting the other interns and the students and staff who worked at the university, I felt a lot more relaxed and at ease. Looking back, my preconceptions of what working in a laboratory would be like were quite different to how they truly were. It was a very relaxed and open environment, and meeting some of the other researchers and being able to learn what they were doing was very interesting.
When we were not in the lab (or swabbing the institute’s kitchens) we were on tours throughout the institute to see the amazing facilities and learn more about what other labs were looking at in the university. This showed us all the number of different paths in science. I suggest any aspiring scientist should aim to find experience because it shows you a real life situation, and shows you what an exciting field science is to work in. The week has really motivated me to work harder and keep an open and creative mind. Being in the lab gave me a unique experience and understanding of how scientists work and let me understand lab protocols, which will give me an undeniable advantage in the future.
Thanks to the members of staff who gave up their time to give tours and talk to the students.
The microbiological survey of the Institute’s kitchen areas found the highest abundance of bacteria in the kitchen area associated with lab E, closely followed by lab G. Labs C, D and F showed a medium abundance, with A, B and H having the lowest. Altogether, a huge diversity of microbial life was found!