Back to search results
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

I wanted to do a placement to gain new skills, and the experience of working in the field of molecular biology. It's also a great way to put the techniques you have learnt over the course of your degree into practice in a professional setting.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Organisation website

Application process

My application process was fairly simple in comparison to what I have heard from friends. I initially sent out several emails to a few organisations showing my interest in taking part in a voluntary summer placement. Following a response from the NSC I sent my CV and a cover letter detailing experience of what I had learnt over my first year and a few examples of what would be coming in second year. I made sure to be punctual both in applying and responding to organisations and had my place secured in the middle of first semester.

What made you choose this organisation for your placement/internship?

I chose the NSC for my placement because of several reasons. The NSC uses technologies that I would not normally be exposed to until completion of a masters qualification and so would provide me with valuable experience to write about on my CV when applying for jobs after completion of my degree. Next generation sequencing technology was a part of my course in second year and so I was able to put the learning from lectures into practice and compound my knowledge to improve my understanding.

Main responsibilities

My main responsibilities included preparing samples for sequencing, running Illumina sequencing machines (under supervision), maintenance of Illumina machines and logging new projects in the workflow system. The majority of my time was spent in a laboratory setting where I was exposed to new technologies such as thermal cyclers for running PCR, use of a Tapestation machine, which is essentially a high-throughput agarose gel and the Qubit instrument, which is a quality control instrument able of determining concentrations of protein and DNA almost instantly.

Typical day

A typical day would involve library preparation, where I would convert a sample of raw RNA or DNA into sequencing libraries. This could cover one to two days depending on the sample and could be all I was doing in the day as it was fairly intensive. When not preparing libraries I would be running the machines with the team, maintaining the machines by running washes, which needed to be completed at least once every ten days. I would also be involved with weekly progress meeting where the workflow and different projects would be discussed. Also every friday the whole team would meet for cake and coffee which was a nice end to the week! Really there was no such thing as a typical day there, I was constantly trying new things and being shown new techniques.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

I enjoyed the ability to see a project all the way through from start to finish, from preparation to quality control to sequencing. I was able to see what I was doing well and the areas that I needed to improve on. Furthermore the experience of working in a laboratory setting with a close knit team was a really great experience and has shown me what it's like to work, rather than just learn, in the field of my molecular biology.

Challenging aspects

The challenging aspects of the placement were the high standards that needed to be followed. When you're in the lab at Sheffield if something goes wrong or you make a mistake then its fine, the lab technicians are there to help and can save your practical. Whereas when I was working on library preparation mistakes have a real impact on the outcome of a project.

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

I used the same laboratory techniques learnt over the first two years of my course during my time at the NSC. First and foremost was pipetting technique, which when you are in the labs in Sheffield can feel a bit overstated, but is actually one of the most important skills you need to practice if you want to be a successful molecular biologist. I also had to put in to practice the aseptic techniques learnt during my course to minimize cross contamination from myself, other samples and the environment around you.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

My time on placement has definitely influenced my future career choice, but not in the way that I was expecting. While on placement I was more exposed to the practical laboratory side of molecular biology, where I could be pipetting for up to 6 hours a day. This opened my eyes such that it may not be what I see myself doing when I finish my course and am looking more into data analysis for the future.

As a result of your placement/internship, what are your next steps in planning what you want to do after graduation?

After graduation I want to gain more experience in other aspects of molecular biology to gain a broader understanding of the different roles available.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

I would definitely recommend applying for a placement as it will show you what it's really like to work in the field of your choice, rather than just learning about it.

You may also be interested in...

Form completed: 20 Sep 2019

Back to search results