The Benefits of a Student Industry Placement

During the summer, I undertook a research project as part of my Master’s degree in Stratified Medicine and Pharmacological Innovation at the University of Glasgow. My project involved looking at a particular gene involved in cardiovascular disease, and sequencing this gene from various strains of rat models. While I was part of the research team at the University, I was also fortunate enough to collaborate with the Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre (SMS-IC) and perform sequencing there. This joint placement between academia and industry gave me a unique experience that brought many benefits, for both myself and SMS-IC.

The main skills I learnt while at the SMS-IC were lab-based, as I was using cutting-edge third generation sequencing technology I would not have had access to otherwise. This involved using the MinION – a sequencing device produced by Oxford Nanopore Technologies. It is an astonishing machine the size of an office stapler, which uses hundreds of tiny pores to determine the order of bases in strands of DNA. I used this information to compare the genes of different strains of rat models and identify any mutations between them.

This experience of using the MinION was highly beneficial for the SMS-IC, as an innovation centre. With various other sequencing capabilities, this project was their first time utilising MinION
technology for research. It highlighted the ‘pros’ as well as the ‘cons’, identifying which aspects could be changed to enable future use of nanopore sequencing at the SMS-IC. Overall,the project was a useful case study which gave important insight into this new technology.

SMS-IC was able to benefit from taking on a Master’s student, particularly in establishing links to the research institutes of the University. SMS-IC sponsors my degree course, yet there was less of a working relationship with academia prior to hosting students. My placement allowed both parties to enjoy the benefits of this collaboration, such as useful academic contacts, exposure, which can lead to the potential of future partnerships.

For me, in addition to lab skills, I learned a great deal about the workings of SMS-IC and the real world applications of next generation sequencing. I made contacts in the industry I wanted to launch my career in, which I would not have been exposed to otherwise. This was incredibly advantageous, as I have recently taken up a role as Sequencing Technician at SMS-IC after finishing my degree. I would highly recommend industry placements to students, course leaders and industry professionals as a worthwhile and valuable resource for everyone involved.

Hattie Ellis