I've enjoyed the opportunity to operate and work in a “real-life” lab

Jack Edun-Hughes
Jack Edun-Hughes
Placement organisation: UK Health Security Agency
BSc Biomedical Science with a Year in Industry
Jack spent his placement year at the UK Health Security Agency and during this time, he began to lead a working lab, having progressed to this position over the year. By the end of his placement, he became in charge of running certain stages of the PCR process. This experience showed Jack that working in a lab after graduation is the right route for him.
Jack Edun-Hughes

What made you decide to study biomedical science at Sheffield?

I chose Sheffield for biomed partially due to the uniqueness of the course like the chance to do the full human anatomy practicals that weren’t on offer elsewhere. It was also just as much to do with first visiting on my open day and falling in love with the city on that day! In particular, by how green the city was and how lively it felt in comparison to other universities or cities I had visited with a tangible welcoming feel and busyness.

What are you enjoying the most about the course?

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about the course is the amount of variety in both lectures and practicals. Throughout the first two years of the course, I've experienced a wide breadth of subjects, really allowing me to find out what areas stood out most to me as of interest as well as ones I wasn’t as keen on so knew to do less of come third year or onwards.

What skills have you developed during your course?

The course greatly improved my practical lab skills as emphasised on my placement year. I had a good foundation of base skills knowledge to build off when learning new techniques or having to adapt to new procedures. It has also really allowed for an improvement in my communication skills, both written and verbal, through the assignments and mini presentations in tutorials. Tutors and staff are happy to help when asked for advice on presenting and offering constructive feedback after, both positive and negative, in an open and friendly manner.

Where are you on placement and what was your role?

I am on placement with the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) at their Porton Down campus. I have been able to be part of two teams here, both the Pathology department and COVID PCR testing service, each with a distinct role. In pathology, undertaking a research project into characterising the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection and in PCR, on working to help the local hospitals in the south west with carrying out essential PCR tests on patient samples as they arrive.

This split time between two tasks has meant I have been able to take part in a wide range of new procedures and techniques. In pathology for example I have trained and am able to learn how to optimise and apply new antibody stains calculating working procedures and staining challenged tissue to identify cell markers or cytokines in situ from animal tissue. Likewise, in PCR I have been able to learn how to use top range PCR machines and run a working lab as the lead myself, progressing to this position over the year now in charge of running certain stages of the process.

What have you enjoyed most about the placement year?

I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity this year has given me to finely hone my lab skills and understand what it’s like to operate and work in a “real-life” lab as opposed to practical sessions. Likewise, I have greatly appreciated the level of freedom I’ve been granted to explore new pathways and ideas in my research depending on what seemed of interest to me. For example, selecting out and choosing cell markers not normally targeted or associated with respiratory disease to see if they are present and expression levels affected by COVID infection.

How do you think the placement year will help your career?

This year has really helped me in my understanding of where I would like to go with my career moving forward. For one thing, it’s definitely solidified my desire to work in a lab, wherever that may be, although the chance to even slightly be on the patient or diagnostic end, as I have been with PCR, is really appealing as well. This is because of the idea of being able to directly see the impact of work done in helping people and the instant knowledge of where that work has gone on to help. This year has also given me a wealth of new skills and connections that is invaluable to me both thanks to the name recognition of working for a government entity, and the chance to work in pathology, a field normally inaccessible during undergraduate studies.

What would you say to a prospective student considering studying biomedical science at Sheffield?

I would firstly definitely suggest that they do pick Sheffield! However, one of the big things I would emphasise to them is that Sheffield is a good choice not just course wise but for the city itself. For as much as the course is really interesting, the city is where they will be living for at least the next 3-4 years of their life and it is such a lovely city to do so in. Greatly helped by the great social life put on by the Students' Union in terms of sports and nights out as well as the departmental society BMSsoc of course!

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