Student Blog Post- CLES Research and Teaching Labs Intern

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“The Professional Pathways programme has really enhanced my confidence”

Name: Lucy Lewis

Pathway Programme: Pathways to Scientific Laboratories

Internship Role: CLES Research and Teaching Labs Intern

Internship Employer: University of Exeter

What projects, tasks, or responsibilities did you work on during your Professional Pathways internship?

During the internship in the CLES labs, I learnt about the daily running of the research and teaching labs. While I was there, alongside learning how the labs operated, I was also shown how safety and cleanliness was maintained and helped with cleaning lab equipment, emptying hazardous waste bins, making pH and TAE buffers, replacing liquid nitrogen, repairing microscopes, assisting in the fish labs and was shown how to operate and calibrate the genetic analysis machine. I also helped to make agarose gel for a gel electrophoresis practical, where I assisted A-level students with a DNA identification practical. I also assisted Year 8 students with identifying microplastics in the lab, demonstrating basic lab safety and PPE instructions.

On my last day, I joined the Environment and Sustainability Institute, helping with the research on the properties of snail mucus and its impact on leaf re-growth, by assisting with punching holes in cabbage leaves and applying the mucus for further analysis. Reading relevant papers prior to this was also completed to understand the overall topic.

How has the Professional Pathways programme helped you in taking the next steps in your career?

The Professional Pathways programme has really enhanced my confidence and helped me to make a clearer decision on my career path after I graduate. During the training, I had the chance to network and expand my knowledge in the science and technician sector by speaking to other students and lecturers at the lab technician conference in Exeter. I also got the chance to visit the University’s laboratories and a veterinary lab in Starcross to gain understanding in how they operate and to explore the diverse roles involved.
Networking and building an understanding on the different roles available throughout the University and other labs has really given me a clearer understanding on what skills and experience is needed for my next steps. My role during the internship allowed me to see the different career paths I can take, especially with the graduate roles and what these would entail, along with finding the support received from members of staff to be really encouraging. Being someone who is interested in working in a laboratory setting, I can now confidently say that I will take the experience I have gained with me and apply this to future work.
Given the Professional Pathways internship is 35 hours in total, what advice would you give to other students to ensure they gain as much as possible from the experience?
During my week internship, I was based in the CLES labs, where I was given something different to do each day. My advice would be to take each opportunity you can to ask questions and to get involved with as many activities as possible. My week consisted of helping in a variety of settings, such as the teaching labs where I was involved with scientific practicals, to helping to prepare and maintain lab cleanliness, being shown how to calibrate and use machinery, assisting in the fish labs and helping with research in the ESI. By getting yourself involved with these activities, it really helps to build your confidence and gain insight from the week, so I would recommend to make the most of the hours and to use it as an opportunity to explore what you enjoy!