Schools’ Day 25: The students’ perspective
At Schools' Day in March nine Year 12 students from Colchester County High School for Girls undertook practical work in the research labs with PhD students and postdoctoral scientists and also had a careers session. It was an opportunity to experience life inside a research lab which is not usually an option at sixth form level. They described their experiences for their school magazine:
“I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Schools’ Day. First, we attended short but informative careers talks from two speakers, one of whom had completed a Biology degree at Bath University, which is particularly relevant to me as I also want to pursue science there. These talks also gave me a greater insight into what can be achieved with a science degree other than lab work, and this has encouraged me to delve deeper into the many opportunities offered through science.
I was amazed to see that lots of the basic knowledge that the scientists used was content I have learned in the classroom, and I loved being able to use what I already know to answer more challenging questions. Overall, this trip was a huge success and I gained a lot from it, including having a clearer idea of what I want to do at university, and what goes on in a lab, both scientifically and socially!”
“I didn’t initially know what to expect before going on the trip to the institute as I only had a vague notion of the research they undertook there. My understanding of life after A Level science has broadened so much due the extensive information the scientists and faculty offered and the opportunity to have hands on experience of what scientific research goes on in the lab.
My project on monoclonal antibodies was even more interesting as I was given a further insight into what actually happens during the discovery and the trialling stages of making a drug. Needless to say the whole day was full of fun activities and eye opening experiences which has definitely given me a lot to think about.”
“During my experience (in campus company Crescendo Biologics) I learnt and experienced a great deal of detailed and in-depth knowledge about about antibodies. We looked at colonies of E. coli and carried out an Enzyme- linked immunosorbent assay. We had to identify a special type of antibody called a Humabody™ through liquid chromatography on the E. coli colonies that we were studying. Overall, I felt that my time at the institute was very worthwhile and gave me an insight as to exactly what a career in the sciences, particularly Biology, could lead me to in my future career aspiration of teaching. Furthermore, I really enjoyed the whole program as it enabled me to socialise with students from other schools and the staff that worked in the labs.”
“We split into small groups to observe and carry out a project in a lab of our choice. I had chosen a project on immunology, and I was fascinated by the way that incredibly skilled PhD scientists went about analysing lymphocytes. The attention to detail and aseptic technique made me appreciate just how much effort has gone into every discovery we take for granted. The scientists in the lab were all very friendly, helping us to carry out processes such as using a pipette, preparing samples for the centrifuge and filtering out unwanted substances (such as fat), before suspending the cells for analysis in a flow cytometer.”
“In my lab project we first looked at what a stem cell is and the properties that they possess over other cells, specifically comparing them to skin cells. We had a chance to look at stem cells and skin cells under a microscope to see how they look and how the stem cells clump together. We were then split into groups and challenged to identify the cell type of a sample. We broke down our cells to remove the RNA and used a centrifuge to remove all other parts.
We then changed the RNA into cDNA to make it more stable and stained it so we could see it. We then transferred the cDNA onto an agarose gel and ran an electric current through it to move the genes depending on their size. Then we compared the genes expressed to a ladder and found that Cell A was the stem cells and Cell B was the skin cells. Overall it was really good to experience actually lab work."
“I worked with campus company DefiniGEN to practice immunocytochemistry techniques on prefixed cells which allowed us to locate specific proteins within them. We did this by targeting proteins using fluorescent antibodies allowing us to visualise them.
I found this beneficial because I was able to practice fundamental techniques used in cellular biology as well as having the opportunity to ask questions about working in the science industry. Through this experience I enhanced my knowledge on the various career paths open to me.
This is a picture I took of the cells we stained with 3 different antibodies - the DNA is stained blue with DAPI, MUC2 (a secreted glycoprotein) is stained green and the lysozyme is stained red.”
Isabel, Adeline, Katie, Isabella, Ellena, Rosmi, Phoebe, Twinkle, Sorelle