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My placement confirmed what I want to do after University

Biology undergraduate Rachel Walters talks about her degree and her experiences on placement in Sydney.

Picture of Rachel
'My placement really helped to confirm that I want to go into a lab-based career'

A supportive environment

The University is very supportive when you start your first year. You and four or five other students will be given a tutor at the beginning of term, who will help you with any academic problems you might have. They are also there to help you with personal issues, such as finance and accommodation, and they can point you in the right direction to get the help you need. At Bath, there are lots of different accommodation options, ranging from en-suite to non en-suite and from catered to self-catered. In my first year, I lived in self-catered, shared bathroom flats. I really enjoyed my time living on campus, and this option of accommodation was good for me as it meant I had experience sharing facilities, which you have to do when you’re in your second and third year and move off campus.

Finding out what interests you

I think I really found out what areas I was interested in during my second year. My favourite unit was a unit on genomics. I went to a lecture and it just clicked that this was what I was interested in, as I found it fascinating that we could look into DNA sequencing in a really detailed way and then see how it manifests itself in humans. There’s lots of support at the University to help you with anything you’re struggling with. I was a very nervous presenter, but the course involves a lot of presentation modules. I got a lot of advice from my tutor and he gave me guidance on my presentation skills.

Putting skills into practice on placement

I did my placement in Sydney in a lab. My role involved lab techniques and learning how to carry out experiments and using equipment that’s useful day to day. I was working on a project to functionally validate genomic data sets for motor neurone disease (MND). As well as the lab experience, I had the opportunity to work with people from all stages of their careers – from post docs to lab heads. My placement really helped to confirm that I want to go into a lab-based career. I really loved my time there – it gave me a lot of confidence which I’ve been able to bring to my final year project and it’s also helped me decide the next step in my career.

Making your project your own

When I started my final year after my placement, I decided to do a lab-based dissertation project. I found a supervisor that I liked and talked through the research that he does. He told me to go away and look at the right literature so I could decide what topic to do. After deciding on the co-evolution of two different species, I went to my supervisor with my ideas, and he told me to run with it. I got to organise my own experiments and really plan out my final year project. I’ve really enjoyed being able to take control of my project, and the experience will be helpful for when I do more research in the future.

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