During my 3rd year at UCC, I was successful in applying for the Amgen Scholars Programme at the University of Cambridge. Having previously completed an industry placement in 2nd year, I wanted to gain experience in a research lab, and this 8-week programme was a fantastic opportunity to do so. I conducted my project with Dr Michael Murphy and his team, at the MRC-MBU Mitochondrial Dysfunction lab. My project involved the use of alternative respiratory enzymes in the modulation of mitochondrial redox signalling.
Outside of the lab, the programme organised many informative talks, spanning a broad range of topics, from life as a postgraduate, to careers in industry, to designing a scientific poster. In addition, weekends were packed full of social activities, all organised by the programme coordinators. The highlight of the programme was the Amgen Scholars Symposium, which took place in early September. This event brought together 100 Amgen Scholars from 5 European programmes, where we presented our work, took part in interactive discussions, and attended many social events over a 2 day period. My time in Cambridge was thoroughly enjoyable, granting me an opportunity to develop valuable research skills while experiencing life in such a vibrant and cultural city.
During my third year in UCC, I secured an APC Summer Scholarship which allowed me to carry out a research project with Dr Susan Joyce. My project involved screening Lactobacillus strains of human origin for bile salt altering activity. I was integrated into the Bile Research Group and gained experience of microbiological techniques, biochemical systems, bioinformatics, DNA technologies, project organisation, planning, writing, discussion and presentation in an integrated setting.
This experience also gave me the opportunity to develop invaluble skills such as:
- Troubleshooting, dealing with unexpected issues and changes of direction.
- Project planning and data analysis/problem solving.
- Efficient and accurate recording of data.
- Exposure to existing/emerging technology.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the lab, so much so that I hope to continue my career in research and academic discovery.
From the moment I began my degree in biochemistry I wanted to see the inner workings of a research laboratory. Therefore an important goal for me was to obtain experience in a research laboratory during the summer break after 3rd year. As I was really interested in cancer biology and the spectrum of poor prognosis cancers that affect the Irish population, I sought to get experience in the Cork Cancer Research Centre. I emailed Dr Sharon McKenna, principal investigator of the autophagy team. Dr McKenna offered me a one month placement, during which I got to collaborate with members of her team. As a result of this experience I got to witness a day in the life of a cancer researcher. I studied the role of autophagy, induced by chemotherapeutic drugs, on the regulation of certain genes in oesophageal cancer cell lines.
There are many advantages to undertaking a summer research placement. For example, I developed good lab-book keeping skills and report writing skills. I had to work towards tight deadlines which really improved my time management skills. I also became efficient in conducting cell culture and drug treatment experiments, flow cytometry, western blotting, and protein quantification amongst other new and established scientific techniques. As a result of my summer placement, I feel that I hit the ground running when it came to my final year project as I was able to apply what I learned from my summer placement. I would recommend any student studying biochemistry to try and get summer placement whether it be in a research or an industrial setting. Nothing compares to first-hand experience and it helps you come to a decision about your own career. It certainly did for me. It was a great opportunity to work in the Cork Cancer Research Centre. I got to work with talented researchers and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience..
During third year, I got the opportunity to take part in the Amgen Scholars Programme which was hosted by the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. I learned a lot during this programme and really enjoyed undertaking my own project where I investigated the effects of mitomycin C on calcium signalling in bladder cancer cells.
On completion of the research element of the programme, I attended the Amgen Scholars European Symposium which was held in Cambridge, UK. This allowed me to network with other Amgen Scholars and to learn about the research they conducted during the summer.
This placement strengthened my interest in beginning a PhD in cancer research after my degree. and I am now studying for a PhD in lung cancer at Oxford University.
The summer before my final year at UCC, with a lot of help and advice from lecturers, I was successful in applying for an Amgen undergraduate summer research scholarship at the University of Cambridge. During my two-month project at the Institute of Metabolic Science, I studied the molecular genetics of severe human disorders of insulin signaling. I really enjoyed my time in the lab and decided to continue in research when I graduated. I began post-graduate research at the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit, University of Cambridge in 2013 - I am investigating the regulation of AMP Kinase, an energy sensor in the cell, that in turn regulates many metabolic pathways.
During my third year at college, I applied to Dr Mark Carrington, Biochemistry Department Cambridge, to see if he had a research position available for the Summer. I was offered a place on the Amgen Scholars Programme to work with Dr Mark Carrington and his research group, to undergo research into gene regulation. In addition, to carrying out novel research, I also got to attend numerous very useful talks given by Professors, people from industry and administration personnel. During the three months, I also had to give a presentation of my work to the other Amgen Scholars and attend the presentations given by them. I also got to go on fun day trips organised by Amgen and at the end of the three months there was a 3 day symposium where I attended talks, presented a poster of my research and got to meet Amgen Scholars from other Universities. Overall, this experience and programme was really beneficial and enjoyable and it aided me when I returned to UCC, as I had to conduct a novel research project as part of the fourth year Biochemistry programme.
During year 3, several lecturers encouraged us to consider summer lab/research placements, especially those who were thinking of going into industry or going on to apply for postgraduate positions. This would not only add to our experience but would also be beneficial to our 4th year research projects.
As a mature student with family commitments, taking a placement abroad was not an option for me so I sent my CV and a brief cover letter out to some of the Academic Staff in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at UCC describing my interest in a voluntary placement. I chose those who were involved in areas of research that were particularly interesting to me, although I did not limit myself to only one path.
I was offered a summer placement with Professor David Sheehan here at UCC, School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Even though the placement was voluntary on my part, I committed myself and my time to learning as much as I could in the 10 weeks I was there. Working alongside several international postgraduates, I got to explore the regulation of the stress response protein called glutathione transferase from non- mammalian sources. I was able to apply proteomic techniques in environmental toxicology and ask lots of informative questions. I learned the importance of data recording and importantly some very useful mathematical calculations and the use of some computer software (don’t worry, nothing too complicated!). What was really reassuring was that I was never under any pressure to produce results but was there to learn and observe real-life scientific research. I also made new friends from around the world!
My experience in Professor Sheehan’s lab helped me to approach my 4th year research project with a lot of confidence especially after knowing that I had gained “hands on” experience with many of the techniques I used in my summer placement.
I am very grateful for the summer opportunity I had at UCC in year 3 and would encourage anyone with a passion in any area of Biochemistry to pursue a summer placement for the great benefits it brings. The lectures are very helpful and love to see students taking the initiative.
I was aware that a significant part of my fourth year Biochemistry degree programme would involve me carrying out my own novel, independent research project. In order to become better equipped in planning and completing such a project, I decided that I would try to secure a funded research position here in UCC in the summer months before I started my fourth year.
I had heard about the Biochemical Society Summer Studentships in class and through emails. They appealed to me because they gave me the scope to find a potential supervisor and project that I would enjoy working on. I approached Dr Paul Young to see if he was agreeable to applying for this scholarship with me; I had experience in his lecturing capacity and his line of research really interested me. I applied and was successfully awarded the studentship to work on a project involving the α-actinin cross-linking proteins.
I learned a lot on completion of this 8-week project. Through it I became familiar with popular lab tools and techniques, techniques that I most definitely used time and time again during my fourth year project, and, as a result, gained confidence in myself.
These 8 weeks fuelled my desire for research and upon graduation I decided to continue with research and am now working towards a PhD in Dr Paul Young’ s lab.
Before entering 4th year, I decided to try and secure work placement in a biochemistry lab to gain better insight and understanding of the area. I am interested in the clinical diagnosis of disease and the biomedical side of things so I initially tried to find something in a hospital. Unfortunately, I didn't acquire a clinical placement but I did manage to secure voluntary placement in a hospital research lab in the Royal College of Surgeons Education and Research Centre in Beaumont Hospital where I worked in the Molecular Medicine lab.
I was working on a PhD project which was investigating the correlation between the p16 cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor expression and the efficacy of chemotherapy. I had the opportunity to work directly with the principle investigator, who was very encouraging and supportive. After a while I was able to work independently and gained experience with several biochemical procedures such as immunofluorescence, western blotting and tissue culture.
This experience was invaluable for me entering my 4th year as I used some of these techniques in my final year project. Another great addition to my Curriculum Vitae is the fact that the paper for this project has been published. doi:10.1038/bjc.2015.187 (1,267kB).
I would highly recommend a summer placement before starting 4th year. It enables you to practice techniques that you have learned throughout your degree which greatly increases your confidence when doing your final year project. You also get to work with professional scientists and gain insight into the dynamics of a biochemistry lab.
The modules during third year piqued my interest in research. I wanted to obtain experience in a research laboratory over the summer which would give me the added benefit of starting the final year project with greater competence. I am particularly interested in cancer biology and therefore sought to gain a position in a lab that focuses on cancer research. I spoke with some lecturers within the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology before being put in contact with Dr Sharon McKenna, a principal investigator in the Cork Cancer Research Centre. Her laboratory focuses on cancers that do not respond to conventional treatments and the role of autophagy in cancer cell survival.
Following discussions with Dr McKenna I obtained a four-week project investigating autophagy in a number of cell lines. During this time I became competent in a number of laboratory techniques such as tissue culture and Western Blot and also gained experience using newer techniques such as flow cytometry and immunofluoresence which I had only read about in lectures. The Cork Cancer Research Centre focuses on translational medicine – delivering improved treatments and outcomes to patients and engaging with medical staff in local hospitals. This appealed to me and opened another potential career pathway to me.
During this time I was able to get an insight in the research process and engage with researchers who are actively working in a field that appeals to me. Consequently I was able to make decisions about my future career and whether I wanted to pursue research as a career. Doing independent research is a great addition to any CV and is excellent when writing grant or PhD applications. Enhancing my scientific literacy skills benefitted me greatly during the Final Year Project. I enjoyed working to deadlines and having weekly meetings as it highlighted the focus and drive needed for pursuing research.
Thanks to an information night held by the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, I decided to apply for an industrial placement before entering my final year of Biochemistry in UCC.
I was lucky enough to receive a position as a Co-Op student in DePuy Synthes, Cork. I was placed in the Materials Development department which enabled me to gain lab experience and project experience. In the lab, I was trained to carry out X-Ray diffraction on Hydroxyapatite. Hydroxyapatite is a compound that promotes bone growth and coats certain parts of orthopaedic implants. This allowed me to gain industrial lab experience while strengthening my analytical skills through the interpretation and recording of graphs generated by the diffractometer.
I was also given the opportunity to lead my own project on ultrasonic calibration. Through this, I collaborated with sister sites in the US through weekly virtual team meetings, gained experience in the validation and calibration of analytical instruments used in the plant, an insight into IQ/OQ documentation and practice dealing with vendors/suppliers.
Working in DePuy also enabled me to partake in extra activities such as volunteer work with iCAN (a charity devoted to providing support and fun days out for families with children suffering from Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis) and allowed me to contribute to iWish meetings (an initiative to inspire women in STEM).
I am very grateful to my manager and all the staff in DePuy as my experience here has spurred my passion to work in industry and has given me invaluable experience which will stand to me throughout my final year project and in the future.
Knowing that I wanted to pursue a career in industry, I decided it would be of huge benefit if I gained experience in industry before I entered into my final year of Biochemistry. Glanbia which is a prestigious establishment in the milk industry opened its doors to its new plant in South Kilkenny in March this year. I worked there for 14 weeks in quality control. As this was a start-up plant, I gained a massive amount of experience in the short space of time I worked there. I was trained in cGMP (current good manufacturing practice), writing and reviewing SOP’s (standard operating procedures), and was trained in the operation, maintenance, calibration and verification of various analytic instruments in the lab. I was also involved in many validation trails of process equipment which gave me a hands-on experience to life in industry. Working in Glanbia has allowed me to advance many personal skills such as strong, effective communication and working on a large, diverse, integrated team.
I am extremely happy with my decision to gain experience in industry. It has confirmed my intention to work in industry and has been of huge benefit to me when applying for graduate programmes.
Before entering my final year of Biochemistry in UCC, I was lucky enough to acquire experience working in an industrial lab for three months of summer. I worked in Eurofins, Lancaster Laboratories which is located in my hometown in Co. Waterford. I worked in the biopharmaceutical sector here as this is most relevant sector to my course. This experience gave me a taste of working life and enabled me to expand the knowledge and further develop the skills that I had gained from the undergraduate lab.
I was given the opportunity to carry out tests on pharmaceutical products, to shadow and assist the other analysts in their work and I also carried out other jobs typical of a lab assistant including preparing the lab for a HPRA audit. I believe that this experience in a GMP environment will stand to me when applying for jobs as a postgraduate.
Overall, I am delighted to have had the opportunity to gain this experience and I would highly recommend for other students to get hands-on experience in a laboratory. I am grateful to the staff at the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology for their help and encouragement in my successful attempt at finding experience relevant to my course. I am also grateful to the staff at Eurofins for sharing their knowledge with me over the course of the summer.
In the summer prior to my fourth year in Biochemistry, I gained 3 months work experience in GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Dungarvan. It was an invaluable experience to work in a pharmaceutical environment, where I worked as a lab assistant. I worked in the OTC Quality Control Lab where products such as Panadol and Solpadeine are tested. Some of my main duties were: logging the batches that came into the lab from the manufacturing floor, pooling samples from the batch to make a composite for further testing and tablet physical testing (ATW, thickness, hardness, friability, and disintegration). Other tests I was trained on were volumetric solution preparation and analysis, pH measurement, LOD & IR moisture analysis, TLC and I also became familiar with QC/QA GMP requirements and SOPs.
Overall it was a great environment to work in and gave me an insight to what the pharmaceutical industry would be like to work in.
Before entering my final year of Biochemistry at UCC, I decided it would be in my best interest to acquire industrial experience in a pharmaceutical environment to expand on the knowledge I had already gained in the undergraduate lab. LEO Pharma, based in Dublin, is now an established leader in a number of key therapeutic areas such as dermatology and coagulation. They provided me with the opportunity to work for a short number of weeks with a supervisor overseeing the production of Fucithalmic, which acts as a bacterial protein synthesis inhibitor by preventing the turnover of elongation factor G from the ribosome. During my time spent at LEO Pharma, I gained GMP (good manufacturing practice) training and guidance in writing and understanding SOP’s (standard operating procedures).
This opportunity gave me hands on experience of production line work, research methods in their laboratories, staff meetings, garbing procedures in sterile area’s and downstream processes. Troubleshooting and maintenance are necessary to maintain consistent batch production and I was fortunate enough to work with an engineer when a problem arose with an autoclave. It took me by surprise how similar the techniques used in the laboratories at LEO Pharma were to those I used during 3rd Year and I found them beneficial as it aided me when conducting my Research Project in 4th Year.
Overall I am really happy with my decision to gain this experience and am grateful to the staff at the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology for their advice in helping me do so.
I decided to find summer work placement before entering my final year of Biochemistry at UCC as I felt there would be numerous advantages with acquiring a placement in a professional working environment. For example, I knew I would gain a better insight into the career I want to pursue after I graduate, and also, it would give me confidence going into the labs in fourth year to carry out my own independent research project.
As I am extremely interested in the medical side of biochemistry and the work carried out by biomedical scientists and clinical biochemists, I sought placement in a hospital. I applied and successfully got an opportunity to work on a voluntary basis in Barrington’s Hospital Laboratory, Barrington's Hospital, Limerick – a private hospital. Their laboratory is accredited by INAB, Irish National Accreditation Board for histopathology reporting, which means testing of all tissue samples and biopsies that are taken in theatre or in Outpatient surgical rooms are of a very high standard. They also provide walk-in services for an extensive range of blood tests.
I gained a lot of experience during the time I spent working there. I learned a lot about haematology and the detection of different diseases and illnesses, I saw a number of different tests carried out on tissue samples and I learned about the mechanics of the equipment used in the lab to test these samples. I was also instructed on how to efficiently manage and gather scientific data. I worked closely with doctors during biopsy analysis. I am very appreciative that I received such an excellent opportunity that helped my passion for a career in clinical biochemistry grow stronger. I would really encourage students to try and get hands-on experience in a laboratory, whether it is in industry or research. It certainly develops the skills you already know from the undergraduate labs.