I got to contribute to the global fight against Covid-19 during my placement year

Photo of Kyaw Htet  in the lab
Kyaw Htet
Placement organisation: Lighthouse Laboratory at Alderley Park
BSc Biomedical Science with a Year in Industry
For his placement, Kyaw worked in a Lighthouse Laboratory as a Laboratory Scientist, responsible for unpacking and processing patients’ nasopharyngeal samples through assay workflow testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Photo of Kyaw Htet  in the lab

What made you decide to study biomedical science at Sheffield?

The Biomedical Science course greatly aligns with my passion for the Biology related field with a focus on research and development. The availability of extensive biology modules along with unique modules such as forensic anatomy and bioinformatics is what I believe makes the Biomedical Science course at the University of Sheffield special. Furthermore, to work alongside and learn from research-oriented academic staff truly complements the profile that I wanted to pursue in my undergraduate degree.

As an international student whose home is 8000km away, a culturally diverse student city like Sheffield is a place I can call my home in the United Kingdom. The city is full of professional and volunteering opportunities with an incredible number of organisations and social places, thus studying in Sheffield was never a doubt for me.

What are you enjoying the most about the course?

Personally, I found myself most enjoying the laboratory or practical sessions, performing and evaluating the experiments with my course mates and tutors. Therefore, I’m looking forward to my Level 3 where in-person practical sessions and group tutorials will be resumed. 

Moreover, not only does the course offer you the in-depth principles of the academic modules, I truly enjoyed various learning opportunities such as Peer Assisted Study Sessions and guidance from the personal tutor to digest the lecture materials well and settled smoothly into the course in the first year.

What skills have you developed during your course?

The most prominent attributes I sharpened throughout my Biomedical Science course are surely the transferable skills. Producing scientific reports, websites and presentations enhanced my communication skills as well as critical analysis skills in digesting and evaluating the primary research paper. Moreover, the fundamental practical techniques that I developed from basic microscopy to performing protein assays and PCRs have driven my confidence in performing laboratory techniques accurately.

Contributing my knowledge and effort in the fight against the global pandemic and achieving the personal record of processing 70,000 nasopharyngeal samples is one of the proudest achievements of my placement year."

Kyaw Htet

Biomedical Science student

Where are you on placement and what is your role?

I worked as an undergraduate placement student at the Lighthouse Laboratory at Alderley Park, Macclesfield. It is a UKAS accredited COVID-19 Diagnostic laboratory and was launched in March 2020 to provide mass COVID-19 PCR testing for the nation.

What sort of things are you doing on your placement?

As a Laboratory Scientist, my main responsibility is to unpack and process the patients’ nasopharyngeal samples through assay workflow testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. I mainly operate in Workstation 1 which consists of Manual and Automated Liquid Handling labs to de-activate the live virus and prepare for the RNA extraction step. 

As the SARS-CoV-2 virus is classified as a Hazard Group 3 pathogen, it is an essential duty to strictly follow the Standard Operating Procedures and Good Laboratory Practices to ensure the safety of my colleagues and myself.

What skills have you learned from your placement?

Throughout the placement, working in the high-pressure laboratory environment enables me to communicate and organise the duties efficiently which sharpens my ability to communicate and work alongside science-driven professionals. Moreover, I learned to handle the real-life patient samples meticulously as any small contamination while processing the samples can lead to a negative impact on the test results.

From the technical aspect, I acquired extensive technical and practical knowledge of performing and troubleshooting the automated liquid handling machines which have hugely driven my confidence to utilise cutting-edge technology to analyse patient samples.

What have you enjoyed most about the placement year?

Contributing my knowledge and effort in the fight against the global pandemic and achieving the personal record of processing 70,000 nasopharyngeal samples is one of the proudest achievements of my placement year. Plus, working alongside individuals that share the same value and determination is surely the most enjoyable moment throughout my placement year. 

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

The placement year has definitely equipped me with a strong work ethic and determination to follow the career that I wish to pursue after my undergraduate. Throughout the placement, I received invaluable lessons on people skills which I believe are the most crucial skills in every aspect of the professional field. As the placement year is my first time working full-time in the UK, it is truly an eye-opening experience in the professional environment, and the incredible experiences I learned throughout the placement will surely influence and assist in the future decisions that I make in my career. 

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

Biomedical Science is a challenging course yet truly rewarding which offers great in-depth knowledge and crucial transferable skills that are essential for your future career. The course also consists of an option for a year in the industry and a year abroad which I strongly recommend if you would like to gain work experience before you graduate. 

With the award-winning research facilities and excellent student organisations across the campus, I assure you that you will have the best academic and social experiences throughout your time at the University of Sheffield.

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