In January of 2023, the research she helped perform was published in Nature Scientific Reports. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Ellen to learn about her placement year and the research in the publication.
What motivated you to undertake a placement year during your degree, and why at the CLF?
“I wanted to get experience of research and see what it was actually like. I knew that taught University laboratory experiments were not a true reflection of the real research world, and I wanted to get first-hand experience of what real world research feels like. I learned that not everything goes as smoothly in the labs as you are taught – but it certainly keeps your days interesting!
I had always been interested in genetics and cellular microscopy, and when I saw the CLF was offering a placement with the Octopus group combining these interests of mine, I was extremely excited. Looking back on my time there, I can say that I absolutely loved it. The Octopus team were lovely – they were very inclusive and helpful. I felt incredibly supported in learning all the different microscopes on offer, particularly FLIM microscopy that I spent a lot of my project using."
How did your placement link to helping with the research in the publication?
“During my placement, my university tasked me with writing a report on a research project I had to complete throughout the year. Professor Stanley Botchway, who oversaw my placement project in Octopus, had the original idea for the research in the publication. He helped me to develop his ideas into the project I completed, and the research that is in the publication.
Professor Botchway and I designed most of the experiments together, and I conducted a majority of them as part of my placement responsibilities. I was very surprised when I was told the research was going to be published. All my friends and family were amazed! It was a very rewarding feeling. I got to help create the graphs and the basic overview for the paper, and Professor Botchway helped edit what I wrote and transform it into the published version."
What impact do you think your placement at the CLF has had on you since you left?
“After my placement, I went back to finish my integrated masters at the University of Birmingham, where I did more research into DNA damage and repair. The hands-on laboratory skills I was taught on placement (microscopy) were invaluable when I went back to university. I didn't do much microscopy during my taught undergraduate modules, so having that extra experience was very helpful for my masters project. I also found that learning how to perform critical analysis of different research articles for the publication was very helpful when it came to writing my masters dissertation."
What are you doing now and what are your possible plans for the future?
“Currently, I am in the Unilever Future Leaders programme (it is similar to a graduate scheme) in research and development. I help design new products and base formulations, alongside assisting with the packaging and sustainability side of things. I am in the ice cream business group at the moment, and there is a surprising amount of biology involved. I find myself using skills I learned on placement, particularly using microscopy to look at ice crystals.
I am still undecided about going back into academia and doing a PhD, because as much as I love academic research, I am really enjoying the business side of things during my current employment. I think I just have to see what the future holds."
Any last remarks?
“I want to say a massive thank you to Professor Botchway and the whole Octopus team for giving me the opportunity to be involved in such exciting research, and the publication!"