Before starting the studentship I was quite worried that my practical skills wouldn't be up to the task. I'm normally pretty nervous in the lab. I always worry about doing things wrong, not doing things in the exact way and making mistakes that will ruin experiments!
From the start my fears were eased. Everyone in the lab was really helpful and friendly, and it made me much more relaxed. Because of this, I think that I've picked things up quicker and been more successful than I would have been if I'd have been constantly worrying about messing up. Before the studentship I hadn't ever done any immunohistochemistry, but now I find it fairly straight forward. Because the lab is a relaxed environment, and there are fewer people than there are in normal practicals, it's a lot easier to learn the different techniques and methods that are used in each step of the process, so now I'm able to do all kinds of things that are going to be useful in practicals in the future.
When you're doing the experiments it also helps you learn some of the theory too, which will be useful during term time. By understanding what and why you're doing something, you can understand things more completely. For example, by reading research papers about what you're doing it broadens your knowledge. Recently I've been identifying where a connexin protein is located in the brainstem. Previously the only brainstem areas I knew about were those we'd gone over in lectures, but actually seeing them through a microscope gets you familiar with their location and what they look like and it doesn't take long to be able to identify areas without a textbook.
When you get the results from your experiments, it's actually quite exciting. Because imunohistochemistry has a few different steps; it takes a few days between the start and end points of the experiment. The first time I did it I was slightly disappointed that I wouldn't get to see everything right away, but then once you actually get to see what you've done it makes it worthwhile and much more rewarding than the results from the in-course practicals.
During work, you get to work with your lecturers, PhD students, technicians, undergraduates and a host of other people. Everyone I met and worked with were really friendly and always willing to lend a hand.
The studentships pay well too, which is pretty good. Especially because you get paid for something you enjoy and it's something that will definitely improve both your knowledge and practical skills.