2018 Alumni: Rachel Kelly
My interest in applying for Science Insights 2018 was sparked by an email from ‘Access to the Professions’ in which the experience was outlined and praised as a great opportunity.
After a little research I realised that my enthusiasm surrounding all things scientific as well as my love of learning and of meeting new people made SI ideal for me so I submitted my application soon after. A few weeks later I heard back from the SI team and they had good news for me: I had been accepted! As SI approached, my excitement grew. What followed was a fun week packed with unique and memorable experiences, and I am so glad that I took part.
I learned a huge amount of information during SI as every day was full of workshops, presentations, discussions and tours as well as ‘research taster sessions’ where we split into smaller groups of just two or three and joined PhD students and other scientists working on a wide variety of projects. As such, we were able to experience the everyday work done in real labs, both wet and dry, and we took the opportunity to have conversations with the people who knew them inside out whenever we could. We also learned about the routes they took into scientific research and their plans for the future, which highlighted to us the diversity of options in science related degrees and careers.
Some of my favourite parts of SI involved opportunities to see and do things I had learned about at school in a professional lab environment. In cancer research labs we were shown equipment such as centrifuges and rotary evaporators as well as techniques including thin-layer chromatography and vacuum filtration in action. We also took part in workshops where we learned practical skills like suturing and using micropipettes, and were even given the chance to use a variety of sophisticated microscopes over the course of the week. I found the use of the microscopes particularly interesting and I examined a wide range of exciting things from intestinal organoids to the flow of blood cells in zebrafish.
I also very much enjoyed taking part in discussions regarding aspects of science outwith the lab such as ethics and the portrayal of science in the media. These thought-provoking sessions were great opportunities to hear the opinions of other SI participants on topics such as animal testing, and to share my own thoughts.
Curiosity and confidence
I was completely right in thinking that taking part in SI would be a fun way to indulge in my passion for science while gaining valuable work experience; I would love to study veterinary medicine and this week has allowed me to see in real life the application of science in this field and beyond. However, I have gained much more than just what I had hoped from SI. Over the week my curiosity was encouraged strongly. This allowed me to grow more confident in asking questions about the work of the scientists I met and the theories behind it, as well as about university and life beyond high school. Also, I have come out of SI with many new friends who at the start of the week were complete strangers to both me and each other. It has been lovely to meet people with shared interests and similar goals, and we all plan to keep in touch with each other. Finally, one of the most important things I feel I have gained from SI is a huge boost to my motivation to continue to learn about science, particularly its crucial role in the modern and ever-advancing world. I have been inspired by the passion of every scientist I met and left in awe of their incredible projects. Being introduced to new areas of science as well as being prompted to think more deeply about the areas I was already aware of has greatly enhanced my drive to learn more.
Overall, SI offered me exactly what its name suggests: an exclusive insight into the world of science. I enjoyed it from the first icebreaker activity to the final feedback session and although it was sometimes exhausting it was extraordinarily worthwhile. If next year’s SI students are going to have anything near my experience then they should know they are in for something special.