Summer of structures: life in the lab for an undergraduate

Laura Mariotti

Guest post by Laura Mariotti from University College London, blogs about her experiences so far whilst working on her project “Structural studies of a Cdc37‐PP5 complex; regulation of Cdc37 by dephosphorylation” with Dr Cara Vaughan at Birkbeck College.

I can hardly believe I have spent 4 weeks in the lab already – time has flown! After only two weeks of working in the lab, I already felt more confident about the techniques I was using. While lab sessions at university are immensely helpful, I have learned so much more in two weeks of “intensive” lab work than in two years of university lab sessions.

I am really pleased with how the project is progressing. So far, we have been able to purify our protein (although with a low yield). Currently, I am trying to achieve a better yield using a different affinity tag. Hopefully, with the new construct, crystallisation will ensue! Even though research can be frustrating when experiments don’t turn out as expected (we got a mutation in one of our constructs which was quite unfortunate!), it is ultimately rewarding and satisfying when ideal results do occur. In my opinion, the positive rewards of high-quality research definitely outweigh the setbacks.

My understanding of the project and its complexities is deepening every day. I am extremely grateful to my supervisors, Dr. Vaughan and Jasmeen Oberoi, as well as the Biochemical Society for making this amazing learning opportunity possible for me. It is the best experience I could wish for as an undergraduate student in more ways than one. Not only do I benefit from the hands-on lab work, but I am meeting students at all stages of their PhDs as well as post doc students who are all very helpful and provide me with insight into what a PhD involves and the application process. I am looking forward to continuing my internship and learning all I can every step of the way!

Laura was the Eisenthal Prize winner for 2012. Further information on the Summer Vacation Studentship grant scheme can be found on the Biochemical Society website. 

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