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University Work Placement with Novogene

University Work Placement with Novogene

Morena Sitar is a biology student studying at Newcastle University who is on a work placement at our Cambridge Sequencing Centre. She started the placement back in August 2021, and we caught up with her recently to find out how the placement is going and what she has learned so far. She explained how her college course works to incorporate a work placement and why she chose to take that option.

“As a biology student, I was cut off from the lab during the Covid-19 pandemic, which took two years of my laboratory experience. When I realised I was lacking the essential experience that would be needed in my future career path, I decided to change my course into a one with a work placement. The aim of having a work placement is finding a job after your second year of university. It can be related to your course, but that’s not obligatory. The placement lasts for a year and when I finish, I’ll continue to my third year to graduate. I started searching for jobs related to my field in February 2021 by browsing websites such as my official University site, Indeed, Reed etc. I couldn’t find anything due to my lack of experience, which was quite ironic. In July 2021 I was still applying for jobs, but I was starting to lose hope. I got an email from Novogene asking if I was available for an interview and without any hesitation I said yes! I had two interviews and was asked lots about the subjects I was studying at university. I was delighted when I got the placement offer the week after the interviews were held. 

My role, as a laboratory technician, includes analysing DNA samples which is one of the first steps of every process. First, we collect the samples from the Sample Collection department, and then analyse the concentration and quality of the samples. The results are then put in the LIMS system and sent to the client. The final step is to record everything in the monthly update folder to track what samples have been analysed. Throughout the process, I am in charge of carefully handling the samples, sanitizing my workspace, and checking the laboratory inventory.  

Since starting in August, I have been signed off on DNA QC and can carry it out without supervision. I am now training in the RNA QC department, which is quite different to the protocols involved in DNA QC. It has been nice to start learning something new and to have a change in routine. I hope to be signed off on this and Sample Collection by the time I finish my placement. I have learned so much more than I ever could have in practical modules in university. When I go back to my university for my final year in September, I will need to decide the topic for my dissertation. Had someone asked me before starting this placement whether I would do a lab-based dissertation, I would have said absolutely not, because I lost so much time in the lab to COVID-19. But with the experience I have gained at Novogene, a lab-based dissertation will be my first choice! The lab environment doesn’t phase me at all anymore and I feel very comfortable in it. It will certainly be difficult to go back to student life, I have become too used to earning! But I will take everything I’ve learned here with me and put it to good use.”

Morena has been an invaluable addition to the lab in recent months, even having won a prize for passing the pipette technique assessment first time. We will catch up with her again towards the end of her placement, when hopefully she will have more updates on everything she’s learnt at Novogene.