Choosing to go on placement
I chose Bath to study because of the good placement opportunities, as I knew that I wanted to get some practical experience to be able to move forward in my future career. The placements team at the university were really supportive, and I received all the help I could have asked for when applying for roles.
I was able to secure a placement at the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University in Melbourne. I started a 10-month contract there in September 2019 working for the prestigious research group Rossjohn Lab, which is headed up by Professor Jamie Rossjohn, who is known internationally for his contributions to understanding the molecular basis underpinning immunity. My work involves looking at cases of alloreactivity in lung transplants, a process that leads to rejection of the donor organ. My role is to express and purify the proteins that cause organ rejection, and then crystallize them to determine their structure using X-ray crystallography.
Gaining practical experience
I really enjoy how different it is doing a research placement to doing practical work in the lab at university. I have to work a lot more independently; we don’t have fixed hours per se, as long as we deliver what we need to, we are trusted to manage our time. I have been able to develop my practical techniques from the ground up, drawing on the basics of biochemistry, biology, and biomedical sciences.
The work has made me a lot more confident. I have to present my work to the head of the research group and the rest of the team every month, which has really developed my presentation skills. The experience has really pushed me outside of my comfort zone.
I’m also really lucky as I’m able to go to the synchrotron to carry out my crystallography work, as it’s located close to work. We only have one of these facilities in the UK that has to be booked in advance, so having this kind of access is really exciting.
Following the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, I have been working on a project focussed on the virus. This involves using structural biology to gain insight into how our immune systems respond to the virus.
A passion for travel
While on my placement I’m living in a shared house and I’ve bought a car so I can enjoy exploring the country. My time in Australia has really sparked my interest in working in different places. I like that people from all over the world can come together to work on research. I wouldn’t have necessarily considered a career in research before, but after my experience on placement, it’s a serious contender.
Helping with my final year
I'm really excited to get back to my studies. All the extra reading I have been doing around the topic for my role here will really help me with my work. I also feel really positive knowing that I will have a good reference and a year of solid experience to take with me in the next steps of my career.