By Taiwo Adewunmi
The main research of the group I was shadowing is a rare skin condition known as psoriasis. Psoriasis is a condition that causes dryness and flakiness of the skin due to the overproduction of skin cells. I spent most of my time shadowing Dorottya and Satveer who are both PhD students. My supervisor Dr Francesca Capon helped me with organising what I had to do in that week.
My main task of the week was to analyse some data from Sanger sequencing. Sanger sequencing is a technique used to detect the sequence of a DNA using the various bands shown in the results. First, you have to heat the DNA in order to raise the temperature so that the two DNA strands are separated. The temperature is then decreased and the next step involves using a primer which binds to a complementary DNA matches on the target DNA sequences. The primer allows more free nucleotides to bind to the DNA but the enzyme DNA polymerase is needed in order for this to take place. Some of the free nucleotides which would need to be added to different mixture are modified to allow chain termination to occur. Electrophoresis is then carried out in order to separate the DNA by size. This is done by placing the DNA sample on a gel and passing a current through it. During this process DNA which is negatively charged migrates to the positive electrode. Smaller fragments move much faster than larger ones and an X-ray is taken once complete. The results should show up as bands and these bands resemble a certain base within a DNA.
I was told to read various DNA sequences and compare it to a normal DNA and see differences in both the sequences. These differences will then be accumulated and a common trend could be obtained to see if there is a genetic cause to psoriasis.
As well as reading DNA sequences I was able to shadow Satveer who was carrying out two different types of experiments – RNA extraction and Reverse Transcription.
At the end of the week I was fortunate to attend a seminar with a main focus of ALS which is a disease of the motor neurons and its possible link to genetic heritage. The seminar was very engaging as I was seeing how scientist discuss their ideas and research amongst each other as well as how science is gradually developing and finding ways to combat life threatening illnesses.
Overall, I really enjoyed my placement as it really gives you an insight to what a life of a scientist would be like. I was able to speak to scientists and technicians working there which really strengthened my aspiration to work in this sector. My favourite part of the week was shadowing my supervisors carrying out experiments as this is something I love. I would definitely recommend In2science to any student as it was an enjoyable experience that allows you to experience the day to day routines of a scientist.