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Summer Lab Experience

Wondering what Oxford students get up to over the summer? Willow is here to tell us about her summer experience working at the Whitby lab in the Oxford Biochemistry department!

This summer I am spending 7 weeks as a summer student at the Whitby lab in the Oxford Biochemistry department. I had no lab work experience before starting university, and as I think I might want to do a PhD after my degree I thought it would be useful to get some experience, other than our undergraduate practicals, to see if it was the right decision for me. Through the help of my tutor and the careers service I applied for a few schemes and emailed labs in Oxford and other universities.

Merton, my college, like many other colleges, have a summer project funding scheme which I applied for and was fortunate enough to receive. This covered my accommodation, in a room given to me by college, and gave me money for living expenses like food and travel.

So what exactly am I doing?

The Whitby lab research is based on understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in DNA repair and recombination in eukaryotes, specifically S. pombe after stalled replication forks. Throughout the summer, I have gained an understanding of the mechanisms involved and the variety of molecular biological techniques employed. I have enjoyed learning and practicing new techniques. It is especially interesting to see the techniques that we learn about and that are mentioned in lectures in practice and see how they are at used in answering research questions.

Should you get involved in a research project?

I would recommend anyone who is interested in continuing in the field of research after their degree to get involved with a research project. It is particularly common to do so after second or third year, but some labs will welcome first years as well. There are many different schemes and labs that will consider your application. At Oxford, your tutors and the careers service are always willing to help and encourage this. There is no expectation or pressure to have lab experience before your degree, yet there are plenty of opportunities both as part of the degree and in the summer to get involved in scientific research!

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