I arrived back this week to a very summery, very quiet St. Andrews and a whirlwind of paperwork and urine. From tutorials to risk assessments to Standard Operating Procedures my days will be bursting for the foreseeable future. I am investigating ways of detecting recurrence of bladder cancer, and as my project paves the path for a large, European-grant-funded clinical trial it is important that all lab work is heavily quality controlled. Thus, the lab operates the aptly named “Good Laboratory Practice” quality control system- a system that ensures uniformity, consistency and reproducibility between institutions, but that also involves a lot of reading and signing.
Alongside the lab work I am getting to travel locally a fair amount. Today I met with the urologist and clinical staff at the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, who work directly with the patients who have agreed to participate in the trial. Next week I will be working in the labs at Edinburgh Royal using some of their kit to refine particular methodologies. This is a fantastic opportunity for me to experience the side of research that physicians are usually involved in, a side that I hope to pursue in the future.
Were it not for clear structure it could have been very easy at this early stage to get hopelessly lost/ sidetracked. Thankfully, there are a lot of lists at my disposal. From catalogues of lab protocols, to preliminary lists written by my supervisor and myself, we have managed to generate some kind of structure. Already, I feel like I am more effective at analyzing a scientific challenge, and at determining what needs to be done presently (aka undertaking tasks based on their priority and not their ease).
Safe to say that this first week has been a time of intensive learning and not at all just a piece of piss. Having jumped from a hospital placement last week into the lab this week, I certainly feel like I am getting a strong taste of the wide variety that Science and Medicine can offer. Today, whilst sat in a meeting with businessmen, consultant physicians, senior research fellows and biotechnical engineers, I observed firsthand just how intricate and how complex long-term studies can be. With so many layers of detail that need attending to (financing, quality control, lab work, IT, ethics etc) my work represents only a small piece of a much larger puzzle. Yet, at that table, my voice was welcomed. It was a wonderful opportunity to push myself in a boardroom setting (something I have never had the opportunity to be involved in before).
I hope I continue to enjoy this internship as much as I currently am doing, and that I continue to have such opportunities to learn and develop. I wish everyone the very best in their projects!