Exploring the hidden wonders of a King’s lab from the perspective of a young scientist.
The first image that comes to mind when I think about working in a science laboratory is of Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory in his basement lab, furiously working away on chemical formulas and different coloured solutions.
Although this image does have its charm, it is far from reality. As a student pursuing a degree in Biochemistry, lab experience forms an inevitable and indispensible part of my future prospects.
Laboratory work can be compared to making your way around a maze, with cautious little steps at first, which eventually turn into a more confident walk. It is what hundreds of students who have previously worked in a lab have experienced. However lab work is different for everyone, because nothing can prepare you for what might occur inside the lab.
Throughout my first year, the practical sessions at King’s were like nothing I had ever imagined. Moving on from the simple titration experiments in high school to the more complex ones was a game changer. We were required to deal with techniques such as electrophoresis, DNA profiling and protein identification.
Confidence in the lab requires much more than a cursory glance over the course book. You can never fully understand the procedure until you enter the lab and visualize the setup.
To achieve a better grasp in the practical, it always comes in handy to have read up on alien terms and equipment. A sound knowledge of the theory is needed in order to deal with the practical side of experiments. Accurate numeracy skills also help, since a calculation going wrong can ruin the entire experiment. Thankfully the calculator is allowed as a cheat, to save anyone from such disasters!
My highlight of the lab was an experiment involving live animal tissue; part of the Pharmacology module. After a week of preparation, the day arrived when we were finally ready to perform this experiment on guinea pig ileum. For the non-geeks amongst you, the ileum is the intestine.
This experiment required me to keep one eye on the time and the other eye on the computer recorder. The computer recorder records the slightest change in the tissue attached to it. Throughout all of this I had to run around the lab to fetch more washing solution to support the tissue in.
The end result of the three-hour task percolated in the form of one simple looking graph. It made me reflect on the countless hours of hard work that have gone into scientific research, a reflection that both astounded and inspired me.
This particular experiment opened my eyes and gave me a peek into the joys of pursuing a career in the field of scientific research.
Lastly, before you step into the lab, you must find that curious and inquisitive characteristic in you. After all, curiosity paves the way to greater discoveries.
(For more information on science careers check King’s Life Sciences blog http://www.careers.lon.ac.uk/blog/lifesciences/ or browse through the careers videos on icould.com to hear specialists and professionals offer advice and describe their everyday work experiences.)