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Lab demonstrations

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

A part of being a postgraduates in the School of Biotechnology at DCU is lab demonstration responsibilities. I will be demonstrating the labs in Microbiology and Cell Biology for 1st year Undergraduates. I have demonstration duties on Thursdays for the whole day, with two different groups coming in for the morning and afternoon sessions. Going in I was quite worried since I have very limited experience in microbiology and no experience in cell biology. However the first practical was microbiology. At least I knew the concepts behind it and the basic techniques, through my job before starting my PhD. Unfortunately this is what happens when you are in the school of biotechnology.

However when I got to the lab I noticed things were quite different, since we would be working on an open bench rather than a laminar flow hood. Luckily we were too many demonstrators with a small number of students (here there are a number of demonstrators per class: a lecturer responsible who explains the different aspects of the lab and who oversees everything and is actually present throughout the experiment, unlike in Malta where they only pop in generally, if ever they pop in; and a number of postgrad demonstrators who are responsible for a bench of students, of up to 15 students or so and demonstrate each step of the experiment before the students go on to do the same thing). Therefore some of us got sent off whilst I stayed with the lecturer in charge who demonstrated for my group whilst I looked on.

In the second week i.e. this week, we again repeated the same practical with a different group of students. After seeing it being done last week I decided to take the plunge and try my hand at demonstrating it myself. The morning group was not a success. However for the evening group things went much better, since I knew a couple of mistakes I had done in the morning. For the evening group I also had a smaller number of students, so it was easier to explain something that I was not too confident about.

Next week we will have to demonstrate the next practical. Hope things go well 🙂

Dealing with these guys...hopefully they did not agree to proceed

Dealing with these guys...hopefully they did not agree to proceed

Graduate Training

January 23, 2011 1 comment

Last week saw me attending my first module from the Graduate Training programme at DCU: Advance Analytical Techniques. The course consisted of a number of lab sessions where all students get to perform 4 experiments of their choice. Students (mainly in chemistry) from all the Dublin Universities (DCU, UCD, Trinity, NUIM) were participating as part of the Dublin Region Higher Education Alliance. The week was quite hectic, having to perform an 6 hour experiment each day, followed by a lab report to be written.

Overall, I must say the week was quite fruitful. I got back into the lab routine, such that you remember (or are reminded of) all the small nitty gritty things you have forgotten and all the other things you have never heard about. It was also good to meet up with all the people from the various Universities, and find out a bit about what they are doing, and also discuss some differences between the research environment at different locations. In addition, our demonstrator in charge (Dr Blanaid White) was really knowledgeable in all the experiments, and we also got the expertise of other individuals from the School of Chemistry, to give us further information about a number of experiments about which they have lots of experience.

The experiments I performed were about GC-MS, HPLC, Cyclic Voltammetry and Ion Chromatography. From each experiment I learnt a lot, but I was most excited about the HPLC experiment, since I will be working a lot with HPLC during my PhD, and this session helped me understand more about how the different parameters function and the basics about how to develop a method.

The lab reports are now written and I will be submitting everything on Monday. Let us hope I did well, as it would mean that the past week has indeed been fruitful. I wish that DCU has even more graduate training elements from which to choose from, as this has certainly been useful. I will be doing some more in the coming months, and I also hope they will be as fruitful as this.