My placement takes place in The Vet School Research Building in North Carolina State University’s Biomedical Centennial campus. It is set apart from the main campuses, about 15 minutes away by bus.
The projects I work on
I contribute to three linked projects. They include
- supermarket meat surveillance;
- a research farm project;
- a whole genome sequencing project.
The projects follow a similar structure and consist of four main parts: growing bacteria; DNA isolation; Whole Genome Sequencing and sequence analysis. Our team includes a lab supervisor, 3 full time staff members and a collection of international and domestic students at varying levels.
My lab work
I am responsible for a huge number of things in the lab as I help out with all the projects we have. This includes growing bacteria in different substances that have specific conditions which only some bacteria enjoy. These bacteria can be sampled from: Humans, the environment or animals from all over the world. The samples go through a DNA isolation process where the DNA is taken from the cells and suspended in a solution. The samples are then prepped and placed in a machine that reads the DNA and most recently I have been learning to interpret the output. If you want to know more about the science that I do in the lab go to this link.
Other Academic Experiences
Although the majority of my time is spent in the lab, I also have done some work teaching others how to DNA isolate. Students from NC State’s Vet School spent a week in our lab learning about the work that we do in the lab and how it can be used for careers in research. I was asked to teach this class as I had written the lab’s newest DNA isolation protocol.
The kits that we were using to complete isolations were proving unsuccessful. After another lab found a better kit, I volunteered to test it out and collate feedback to develop a new protocol. Even though the protocol I wrote isn’t fool-proof, it has seen the most success so far. I am still developing improvements 6 months down the line.
I am also responsible for teaching incoming students and scholars lab tasks like media making and general housekeeping. When the students are established in the lab I will also teach them more advanced skills which allow them to grow as a scientist.
Transferable Skills I’ve Developed
These opportunities have helped with my communication and with my ability to think on my feet. I have always been outgoing but now I have a confidence in the lab that far superseded the experience I gained in the teaching labs. Finally, I have had to present my protocol at lab meetings so that everyone could understand the new information. This meant I had to know all the ins and outs of every step pushing me to improve not just my practical skills but my academic and public speaking skills too.