My third year research project was a great first step into becoming an autonomous researcher

MBiolSci Genetics and Microbiology Isobel Gibson
Isobel Gibson
MBiolSci Genetics and Microbiology
Isobel was introduced to the Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) scheme in her hunt for experience working in a real-life lab. During the summer, Isobel developed her analytical skills - working out what had gone wrong during an experiment and altering conditions, timings and reagents to ensure the experiment ran smoothly next time. A valuable skill that she’s taking into the fourth year of her degree.
MBiolSci Genetics and Microbiology Isobel Gibson

“During the third year of my course, we were required to carry out a lab project. This was a great first step into becoming an autonomous researcher and I learnt many practical skills, however, I felt I wanted a more representational experience of actually working in a lab. I spoke to my supervisor at the time about doing some further work in the summer and he told me about the SURE scheme. The benefit of this (as well as getting funding) is that SURE holds optional workshops on relevant skills such as planning, getting your research published and statistics. They also run social events and a showcase at the end where you can display your results as well as find about what other research has been going on around the university over the summer.

“My specific project followed on from the work I’d been doing in third year on peroxisomes. These organelles are found in all eukaryotic cells, from yeast to humans, and cause diseases when they malfunction. I was mutating a protein involved in their inheritance during budding of the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This used a range of techniques including plasmid design, transformations, western blots and fluorescence microscopy. My initial experiments were completed by week 3 of 6, which gave me a chance to work on my analytical and planning skills.

“Using the results I had already obtained, I came up with some further experiments in order to screen various sections of the protein for function and therefore work out precisely which region was carrying out the interaction I was trying to characterise. Not all of my experiments worked first time which was frustrating but an accurate representation of real lab work. I got used to working out what could have gone wrong during the experiment, whether it was a personal error in the set up (which although annoying ensured I would never do it again) or if the experiment could potentially be under the wrong conditions. I would alter my conditions, timings and reagents one or two at a time to optimise the protocol and ensure the experiment would run smoothly. I believe this was a valuable skill to learn.

“Since I was in the lab every day I was able to get to know everyone working there. My work was directly related to that of a PhD student who was incredibly helpful in planning my experiments and troubleshooting when things went wrong. I also learnt a lot about undertaking a PhD, a career path I am now considering, as from my experience gained I believe I would enjoy a career in research.”

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