Seminar encourages students to go for summer placements
Biochemistry undergraduates heard first hand about the experience of doing a summer placement at a special seminar last week.
Seven second, third and four-year students, many of whom had done a placement in the department, spoke about their research projects and how they found working in the lab.
Introducing the event, Professor Jonathan Hodgkin said that placements provide a unique opportunity for students to see what it is like to carry out research in a real lab. He added that students overwhelmingly find it an enjoyable experience.
Before the talks, third-year student Fran Donellan from Oxford's first iGEM team gave a short presentation about the team's work. Having enjoyed gold medal success in this initiative which sees several hundred teams from around the world use synthetic biology to design and implement solutions to real-world problems, the team is hoping to pass the baton on to a new group of students.
Fran talked about the wide variety of activities the group became involved in, both inside and outside the lab. She highlighted the multidisciplinarity of the team which was comprised of scientists, engineers and humanities students. The fully funded visit to the Boston iGEM jamboree in November was a highlight of the project and the culmination of more than a summer of work.
Encouraging second year students to participate in the 2015 competition, Fran emphasised that the time commitment was considerable but very worthwhile.
The placement students who spoke after Fran also gained a lot from their projects. They talked about how to go about selecting a project that would be both interesting in its own right and useful for the Biochemistry course, and the challenge of exploring an area in much greater depth than ever before.
Most of the students stayed within the department for their placements, but one, Amber Barton, went further afield. She jumped at the opportunity of travelling to the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) in Bangkok for a placement working on the intracellular parasite Orientia which causes the tropical disease Scrub typhus.
Whether or not they were successful in achieving the projects' objectives, students found the placements a great way to spend the summer. They enjoyed meeting others in the lab, discussing and doing science, learning a variety of different experimental techniques, and discovering whether this career path might suit them.
Over 20 students at the end of their first, second or third years participated in a range of placements at universities in the UK and abroad. The majority secured some funding, from the department or elsewhere.
You can read more about the experiences of some of the students here.