My placement was a brilliant way to gain practical experience in a professional laboratory, beyond what you can do in the labs at university.
Learning in a lab environment
I worked at the London Research Institute for Cancer Research UK, now known as The Francis Crick Institute in central London. I worked in a protein structure laboratory doing X-ray crystallography.
Working at the laboratory involved collaborating with other research groups and solving crystal structures. I contributed to projects on protein expression, purification and crystallisation. I also learned some biophysical techniques. We managed to solve two structures which should lead to published work.
A highlight of my placement was getting the chance to visit Diamond Light Source in Oxford (a synchrotron) to collect X-ray data on the crystals I was growing. It was a fascinating place, and amazing to see technology like this in person.
Networking and career development
I met some fantastic people while working at the Institute. They were not only great colleagues but will be valuable contacts for my future career.
Working in this area for a year also helped me to finally decide on which direction I am going in my career. I was struggling to decide whether I wanted to stay in science after graduation or change direction.
In the end I really enjoyed working in the laboratory environment. I am planning on taking a year out after I graduate and I will be applying for PhDs.
A valuable experience
I would recommend doing a professional placement to anyone, as it provides you with valuable work experience and a great learning opportunity.
Amazing placements are advertised all year round. Don’t be afraid to apply to placements outside your comfort zone either as you could end up really enjoying it.