Lab experience with a placement at the Francis Crick Institute

Biology student Becky Lee spent her placement year at a cancer research institute. She explains how gaining practical lab experience helped her future career.

Becky Lee with her poster at the 2015 Faculty of Science placements poster exhibition
Becky Lee with her poster about her placement at the Francis Crick Institute

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.

‘A highlight of my placement was getting the chance to visit a synchrotron in Oxford. It was a fascinating place, and amazing to see technology like this in person.’
Becky Lee