Friday, 26 July 2019

Peter Boardman - Summer STEM Work Placement Student - Weekly Reports

The STEM placement students are sending us weekly blogs all about their experience in the world of work! 

Image result for cardiac research
Work experience is great and it provides students with many benefits whilst gaining skills and helping choose the right future career path for pupils. Having work experience on a Curriculum Vitae will make a person stand out to employers as they will notice they have motivation and a real passion for work. It will also help to boost a students confidence in themselves! 

                                 See how Peter is getting on with his STEM placement! 

Week One 

"I am currently completing a SATRO work experience placement at St George's University London. The placement is based around cardiac research - looking at Brugada Syndrome in particular. 

Arriving through the door at St George's, I was confronted with the "Rat Maze" of corridors, as it is affectionately called in the university. However, within a couple of days, I had found my sense of direction! 

In order to understand the cardiac research I would be involved with, I first had to learn some new terms, including "epicardium" and "adipocytes". Over the week, I have: prepared tissue blocks, scanned microscope slides, seen clinical practice, and helped to complete an immunohistochemistry protocol. 

I look forward to next week - when I will get to see an electron microscope!" 

Week Two 

"Arriving on Monday for my second week of work experience, I was starting to feel more confident in the knowledge of the heart. In order to understand Brugada Syndrome (the heart condition I am helping to investigate), I have had to learn some electrophysiology, cellular biology, biochemistry and anatomy - bringing together Biology, Chemistry and Physics! 

However - putting this new knowledge into practice with heart dissections, immunohistochemistry and microscopy has been the most exciting part of the placement! I have also seen patients undertake echocardiograms, and electrocardiograms (ECGs) in clinical practice.

Today, I am going to see the University's electron microscope - which is the tool used to take all the photographs in my textbook. I look forward to helping Dr Chris Miles (my placement supervisor) write up his research next week." 

Week Three 

"My third week at St George's University has been an opportunity to consolidate the new information I have learned, by creating a presentation to Professor Mary Sheppard - a world leading pathologist. This presentation was about "The Morphologically Normal Heart." 

The most interesting thing I discovered while researching, was that cardiac cells are differentially terminated, meaning they never divide again once formed. This causes cancer of the heart to be exceedingly rare, as without cell division, the chances of a mutation are far reduced. It also implies that the cells in your heart at the end of puberty are the same throughout your whole life. 

Outside of the presentation, I discovered how ECG traces are formed, saw several echo cardiograms, and had another opportunity to witness heart dissections. I have certainly decided to take better care of my heart's health, as a result of the past three weeks!" 

Week Four 

"My final week of work experience was centered around writing up the research and results we had helped our supervisor (Dr Chris Miles) obtain. This was mainly done using Microsoft Excel - which is a far more powerful software tool than I had initially appreciated. 

Nevertheless, we were still able to see many interesting things in the hospital - providing a needed break from sitting in front of computers! We spent two sessions in clinical practice: one in cardiology outpatients, and the other seeing an ajmaline test. Ajmaline is a drug used to stress the heart, allowing certain diagnostic ECG patterns to potentially arise. 

The highlight of my week was having a second opportunity to use the university's electron microscope (see photo below). I was slightly apprehensive about using a £250,000 piece of equipment, however, it turns out to be quite easy to operate. Not only was I able to see different cell organelles, and see how electron microscope slides are stained, but also see how the photos in my biology textbook are taken! 

Overall, the past four weeks have been incredibly useful, helping me make my choices for higher education, and boosting my confidence. I would 100% recommend a SATRO placement for anybody interested in a science related degree!" 

- Peter Boardman 

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