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A Transition Year student's experience in our School

7 Apr 2017
Conleth Aspel, a transition year student from Coláiste Treasa Kanturk, Co. Cork examines the bacterial plate he swabbed with his own name under fluorescent light during a week's placement in the Transition Year programme run by the School of Biochemistry & Cell Biology, UCC

A Transition Year Student's experience in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology by Conleth Aspel. The placement at the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology was the most interesting and enjoyable placement I could have done!

The content of the course was top class but equally important was the delivery of this content. The team working with us were very knowledgeable, approachable and easy to talk to, passionate and genuinely interested, in both the content and in us the students, and they were just generally lovely people to learn from. I've made some good friends out of this course and had some good craic. As well as learning, there was a social aspect to the course. People couldn't have gotten on better. We all just glued and I suppose we were surrounded by like-minded people who all share a common interest - maybe this is why we all got on so well. I feel everyone has had a good laugh over the week and the team here played a big part in creating this friendly and encouraging atmosphere.

The feeling I got from the people on placement with me was that the main aspect they enjoyed was conducting the experiments but at the same time learning about the real life application of these experiments. We weren't just told what steps to follow for a certain experiment. Each step was explained in detail and we were taught the reason behind performing each step. I think the reason behind doing something is almost as important as doing it. Why would someone do something for no reason? The world we live in today is one where time is money and action requires purpose.

For me one of the main highlights while working in the lab was testing samples of DNA to investigate whether an individual had SCA (Sickle Cell Anaemia), a disease caused by a genetic mutation which affects the shape of red blood cells. We went through the same processes a qualified investigator would go through when analysing DNA samples and while doing this something hit me. Here we were, a group of 16 year olds in TY performing the same procedures as professional investigators with a college degree behind them, would perform when testing for SCA. And we understood it all. We understood exactly what those people in lab coats using P20 pipettes were doing. How lucky are we to have such an opportunity!

I also really enjoyed working with the “Bacteria that glow”. These bacteria had different genes inserted into them that produce proteins that glowed different colours when viewed under a fluorescent microscope. We then used these bacteria to do some microbial art - by using a thin glass instrument with a spherical end we applied the bacteria to the surface of the agar in the shape we wanted. I wrote my name! Once we finished we put the plates into an incubator and the next day the bacteria had grown where we had swabbed them on the agar. The bacteria were the paint and the agar plates the canvas. We all loved doing this experiment and viewing each other’s art work. The drawings turned out really well!

A small selection of the agar plate 'art' that transition year students swabbed with E. coli bacteria 'to draw pictures' during a week's placement in the Transition Year programme run by the School of Biochemistry & Cell Biology, UCC . The bacteria developed into different colour colonies when examined under fluorescent light.

A selection of agar plate 'art' that transition year students swabbed with E. coli bacteria 'to draw pictures' during a week's placement in the Transition Year programme run by the School of Biochemistry & Cell Biology, UCC. The bacteria developed into different colour colonies when examined under fluorescent light.

Overall the placement for me was an excellent insight into biochemistry and cell biology, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone considering pursuing a life path involving biochemistry, or anyone who has an interest or passion for science.

On behalf of my fellow classmates and I would like to say a massive thanks to Dr Kerins, Noreen, Jen and Trish for making this a truly memorable TY placement.

One of the student groups on the 2017 Transition Year Programme run by the School of Biochemistry & Cell Biology, UCC.

The people on my team were (L to R): Caoimhe Lyons. St. Aloysius College, Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork;  Susan Burke, Mount Mercy College, Co. Cork; myself (Conleth Aspel, Colaiste Treasa Kanturk, Co. Cork); Darragh O'Mahony, Christian Brothers College, Cork; Patrick O’Connor, Coláiste Cholmcille, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal; Sarah Elliffe, Carrigaline Community School, Co. Cork; and Gustas Dovainys, Douglas Community School, Co. Cork.

 

Conleth Aspel.

School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology

Scoil na Bithcheimice agus na Cillbhitheolaíochta

University College Cork, Western Road, Cork.

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