Once I arrived at Kings College London, I was greeted by Dr Laura Andreae. We went up to her office and she talked me through her journey into science, specifically research. Surprisingly she wasn’t always set on doing research as prior to her current positions, she was a medic, having studied medicine at Cambridge University. She then did a Masters and fell in love with research, leading her eventually to Kings College London, where she lectures and supervises PhD students. After introductions with the rest of the members of her team, I got to put on my own lab coat.
I got to work with a Master student, Pavylios, and we used different enzymes such as TbrIII to cut out DNA and place them back into plasmids. I got to see and use equipment I haven’t seen before and I was particularly surprised as to how small everything was, since they used such small scales from a little as 1 µl (microliter). We then left them for a couple of hours so the enzymes could do their job. He then gave me a rough overview of genetics so I could really understand how the process works.
What I really found cool was what Adam, a PhD student, was doing. He was looking at brain tissue under a microscope but to get a more clearer and detailed image, he uses thicker samples. The problem with this is that the thicker the sample, the less detail you are able to see, and so to overcome this he uses a method called CLARITY, which makes the brain tissue transparent. This was really cool and when it was suspended in glycerol, you would think that there was nothing in there!
I then had the opportunity to see some live cell imaging, looking at one of the transparent tissues under a very expensive microscope. Under the microscope I saw some very detailed pictures of neurons and some pretty pictures of blood vessels. I also got to see a microscope which was currently in the process of being built by Adam and his colleagues. It was nice to see the physics and engineering behind microscopes. I then got to work with Sam, who was another PhD student, and I got to see him plate glia cells which can take up to weeks to grow and culture, and the got to see these under the microscope.
After that, I then got to attend a lab meeting where one researcher presented her work and current findings so her colleagues could discuss her work and advise her on what to do next. It was nice to see that the researchers do in fact work together despite each of them having their own different and individual projects.
Then I got to go back to the lab and work on the DNA we had begun working with on Monday. We needed to purify the DNA so we added some chemicals and used the centrifuge to separate the proteins from the DNA. Once we had the DNA in a separate tube, we moved over to the next lab so we could use a photometer. A photometer allows us to measure a concentration for the DNA. Pavylios was happy with the results and concluded that it was a successful experiment. I also had the opportunity to stain some tissues. They were stained with a marker that shows up as fluorescent green under special microscopes. Then, we did some more centrifugation, where we had to make RNA from the DNA we obtained and so added several chemicals and used the centrifuge to separate the DNA from RNA. We then left this for a couple of days so we could analyse them under a microscope.
I thought this was a great opportunity to gain an insight into what STEM career entails and look forward to being able to do the same in the future. I would recommend in2science to any student that hopes to have a successful career in science.