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My Work Experience Week – Rachel Jimminson

10 August 2016

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From the 20th to the 24th of June, I was given the opportunity to complete work experience at the Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science, in the Centre for Tissue and Cell Research. I was supervised by PhD student Wollis Vas, and throughout the week I was able to observe many different student’s research projects. To start the week, I was shown how to use a DSC machine, in order to determine the denaturation temperature of collagen. I was also shown the process of preparing the samples, and allowing to stand with the enzyme solution on a Shaker.

Due to my particular interest in Genetics, Judith was kind enough to introduce me to the qPCR method, in order to achieve quantitative measures of how many transcripts of a specific gene are present in mRNA. I found this very interesting and I specifically enjoyed learning about the process of reverse transcription in order to produce the required cDNA from the mRNA, so that the primers can join to the strands.

I also got to experience some Chromatography techniques with Maria, who gave me an insight into her work around the D and L isomers of Aspartic acid present in the tendons. I was very interested in the methods she has had to investigate using in order to separate the two isomers to allow them to show up as separate peaks on the chromatogram. I was also fortunate enough to have been able to accompany another student, Pedro, and analyse some different samples of deer bone from the ear, antler and lower leg bone using a Scanning Electron Microscope. I found this fascinating and I particularly liked using the high magnification settings and locating the collagen fibres.

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The highlight of my week was being allowed to carry out some of my own cell culture with PhD student Rawiya. We used the cell line MG63; an osteosarcoma. We prepared the cells and transferred the solution into 3 wells and a T75 flask. We then added two fluorescent stains separately, DAPI and Phalloidin and removed them after sufficient time and left to incubate overnight and adhere to the surface. The next day we looked at them under the microscope, and we were able to see the two different fluorescent stains to the nucleus and the actin fibres. I really enjoyed this practical element and I feel it really benefited my knowledge of practical methods, the specialised equipment and safety in the Lab.

On Thursday I was able to visit the Aspire CREATe Centre for Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology. I attended a meeting with Dr Rui Loureiro and Dr Tom Carlson, alongside other students and staff, after which I was introduced to some of the new technology they are exploring in order to help patients with Spinal Cord Injuries. I was very intrigued by “Rex”; the exoskeleton designed for paraplegic patients. I was also shown some of the different models being investigated by students in order to design more efficient and high-tech wheelchairs for tetraplegic patients, who do not possess the ability to control a joystick. I was also lucky enough to attend a talk from Sean, who is working on neuromodulation for control of the bladder, bowel and lower limbs for people with SCI, which was very interesting and eye opening.

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I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time in this centre, in particular I have enjoyed observing the students carry out their own research and, hearing them talking about their work so passionately. It has really inspired me to pursue a career in Scientific Research. I hope to be lucky enough to return to this fantastic facility! Thank you to all the staff and students that made my week as valuable as it was, especially to Wollis Vas and Rawiya Al Hosni, and to Professor Vivek Mudera and Rachel Godfrey for organising this amazing placement!