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My week at Earlham Institute: more than just science

Martha Hills came and did a week of work experience at Earlham Institute, where she learned much more than just science (but that was cool too)...

August 30, 2018

I am currently studying for my A-levels in Biology, Computing and Chemistry, and have been looking at possible future career paths.

With little to no idea about what I wanted to do after college, going to the Earlham Institute was the chance for me to try and to try explore how my subjects could be used in the future.

After my week there I still have no idea what this may be but I have more of an idea than before.

Inside Earlham Institute where Martha Hills, a Year 12 student spent her Work Experience

Inside Earlham Institute, Norwich, UK

Two days in the laboratory

I spent 2 days in the research laboratories, with Darren Heavens and Jake Collins, and 2 days working with Jon Wright and his team doing computer programming and data analysis. With Darren and Jake, I was able to gain first hand experience in a research lab. During this time I carried out my own DNA extraction from start to finish, using some of the most amazing robotics and equipment, (some of them looked like they’d just been pulled out of a futuristic comic book).

In the time I spent with Jon and his team, I was able to sequence a genome from start to finish. Following the process completely from beginning to end, from preparing the samples, to removing the DNA, and finally analysing the data, was truly inspiring and has shown me that this is the kind of industry that I would like to be part of, even if I don’t exactly know how yet.

This place was not what I expected, it was like a tightly knit family whereas I imagined it to be harsh and clinical before arriving. It was fair to say I was quite apprehensive, but after I first met Darren and Jake I felt welcome and comfortable being there and felt like I could ask any question without having to worry about being seen as inferior.

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I was able to sequence a genome from start to finish. Following the process completely from beginning to end, from preparing the samples, to removing the DNA, and finally analysing the data, was truly inspiring...

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Martha Hills, Year 12 student – Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form

An Illumina NovaSeq 6000, used for high-throughput DNA sequencing in the EI Genomics Pipelines lab

Illumina NovaSeq for DNA sequencing

An incredibly useful experience

This was incredibly useful as I was able to met some amazing people in all sorts of departments I didn’t even know existed beforehand. People who had all found their own diverse ways of getting to their end goal have shown me that there are other ways to work in.

From this experience I have learnt many things other than scientific skills, I was also able to learn about a real working environment and how the people there are what make up the environment. Not only this but they showed me that trying to figure out and plan everything won’t work out the way you imagine, and that it's better to do what you enjoy rather than try and gain as much in life as you can.

Overall, from the time I spent at Earlham Institute, I was able to gain knowledge and experience from masters of their craft. It was an incredible opportunity that I am so grateful for and has given me much food for thought about my future direction.

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From this experience I have learnt many things other than scientific skills, I was also able to learn about a real working environment and how the people there are what make up the environment.

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Martha Hills
Year 12 student – Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form

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Overall, from the time I spent at Earlham Institute, I was able to gain knowledge and experience from masters of their craft.

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Article author

Peter Bickerton

Scientific Communications & Outreach Manager