Hiya, I’m Ora White and I’ve just finished the second year of my Biomedical Sciences degree here at the University of Reading. I am currently in the fifth week of my six-week UROP summer placement, working on the research project ‘Immune Response Proteins and Atherosclerosis’. Dr Kim Watson is my supervisor but on a day-to-day basis I work with Frank Atanu, a doctoral researcher here. The overall aim of the project is to achieve the structural elucidation of immune response proteins with potential roles in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis.
Being offered the opportunity has enabled me to gain some invaluable lab experience before starting my final year research project, as well as giving me the chance to discover what a career in scientific research would be like.
I was extremely nervous before I started; thinking I would be out of my depth trying to do things I had never previously attempted or heard of. Fortunately I was able to learn from Frank and he explained everything as he went along. I have also been taking rigorous notes throughout the placement which has helped me to understand all of the new laboratory techniques we have been doing, along with making notes about day-to-day works in the lab.
During the first week, after becoming familiar with the literature, Frank and I grew recombinant E.coli cells that would express our protein of interest when induced to do so. We were then able to harvest and purify the protein over the next week.
My third week took us off-campus, to a place called Diamond Light Source, where we had access to excellent resources and equipment for free! It was great to work in an environment with like-minded people who shared the same interest in structural biology. It made a change to the UOR campus; where Frank usually works alone in the lab due to the lack of other researchers in the same field. Everybody was really friendly and keen to help us with any problems we encountered; resulting in a productive third week of work. I also got to take lots of pictures of the facilities.
The fourth week brought us to Diamond again and involved the testing of different detergents, using gel filtration techniques, to try and solve the problem of aggregation we had been experiencing with our protein. Unfortunately we did not make much progress at all and a vital piece of equipment broke; resulting in the temporary halt of any further experiments.
This week we have been back on campus growing more cells and protein to use in more experiments at Diamond next week.
There is still a long way to go with the project but the outcome looks promising and I have learnt a great deal so far, much of which I’m sure is due to my relentless pestering of Frank with questions!