Summer Biology Internship

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, it’s been over 12 months since I’ve been properly on campus – with an ERASMUS+ internship in Sweden and a placement year in the USA, it’s weird to be back! However, there’s no rest for the wicked so I’m back on another internship, this time a lot closer to home. The biosciences department offer a number of summer internships aimed at second years who are progressing into third year. This year, 6 lecturers offered internships, in disciplines such as genetics, ecology, microbiology, covering organisms including plants, invertebrates and humans. I was lucky enough to receive a place on Paul Ashton’s internship, after applying for two of them (you can apply for two internships maximum) with a CV and cover letter. Being abroad at the time of application, I participated in a Skype interview – a strange experience!

The subject area of my internship is titled, “Does meadow restoration conserve genetic variation?”, although I haven’t actually got to that part of the work yet! Before I start on that project (being worked on by a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) and PhD student, Elizabeth Sullivan), I’m assisting on a different project to do with lime trees. This project is Carl Baker’s (a Postdoc Researcher). Right now I’ve been assisting in the final steps of DNA extraction, cleaning up the extracted DNA to try and get rid of any impurities in the samples. This process involves inverting and emptying a tube of liquid whilst keeping a pellet of DNA precariously stuck to the bottom – quite nerve-wracking to see your sample hanging by a thread!

Another unexpected aspect of this internship was setting up and running a session for the 2018 Edge Hill Biology Olympiad. The Olympiad is a series of challenges completed by teams from various sixth forms and colleges that come to Edge Hill University for the day. Each activity is graded and the scores released in a ceremony at the end of the day. I didn’t expect to be doing this kind of work but thoroughly embraced it – it was a great opportunity to push myself and see what it felt like to run a teaching exercise of sorts.

New England Thoughts

Although I’m working at the Field Museum most days, I still work at the arboretum on Thursdays. The main purpose of this is for the individual and group lab meetings, but it’s also a good time for me to focus on analysing the data from the prairie restoration project, this includes the biomass data I collected in autumn, as well as NDVI and soil data collected previously by Lane and other researchers. Towards the start of the month, Andrew and I sat down and worked through the data, analysing the NDVI readings from one section of the experiment, with particularly deep soil, to their replicates in other sections. Later in February, I cleaned up the code and set aside what worked, making use of RStudios notebooks that use markdown – I’m finding them very handy. Next up is checking to see if the results observed from the NDVI data are reflected in the biomass data.

Working in R again got me thinking back to second year, when myself and Heather tackled a small research project during our Research Methods module. Our study was on leaf morphometrics and involved ~80 samples from 6 sites. This, of course, pales in comparison to a full dissertation but was a very useful intro to the world of research. My dissertation next year is still something I need to be thinking about, as are my module choices for third year. Currently, BSc Genetics students only have one optional module in their final years, making this decision particularly difficult – I’m considering at least 4 modules right now.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the middle of February, I took a trip over to New England, specifically Mount Holyoke College, to visit some friends. Although I didn’t get to see much of Boston, Massachusetts seems like a beautiful state and reminded me more of home than anywhere else in the US so far. Mt Holyoke College is also remarkable, being a fairly old women’s college that features grand brick buildings and a variety of trees, such that they form the Talcott arboretum, which accompanies the Mt Holyoke College Botanical Garden (which has a corpse flower!). It was nice to hear that they’re also a progressive women’s college, accepting trans and non-binary students – perhaps unsurprising considering the college’s LGBT history. The nearby town of Northampton (or ‘Noho’) even features a rainbow zebra crossing. Everyone I met was friendly and welcoming, letting me join them in some interesting lectures and also indoor rock climbing – something I’ve missed doing whilst being over here.

Sustainability 🌍 EHU

Last year I signed up to be a member of the Tree Charter’s student council – representing Edge Hill University – and since then I have gone to meetings and even ran a stall in the hub with a competition to support their efforts. In arranging this event, I got into discussion with people in the Students’ Union about setting up a society for matters involving environmentally friendly action. So myself, along with two friends, formed the Society of Sustainability.

To start a new society is pretty simple. You need only three initial members, to fill the roles of President, Treasurer, and Secretary. Then you need to fill in a form online that expects you to provide your societies aims, and the society will have a membership fee.

If you’ve been on campus lately, you may have seen some posters around advertising our new society. We just missed the re-fresher’s fair, so unfortunately missed a good opportunity for exposure, leading us to spread the word in other ways. We may only be small right now, but we hope to achieve some great things in conjunction with the SU.

The Society of Sustainability is soon due to have its first meeting, where we will gather the thoughts and ideas of the attending students to better see what it is that everyone wants to achieve through this society. Through collaboration, we can get things done!

Already, we have been in correspondence with the SU and have been able to spread word of Fairtrade Fortnight, which began on Monday 27th Feb and lasts until Sunday 12 March. On Tuesday 28th, there were free sample tasting of Fairtrade goodies sold on campus, in the Hub. This Tuesday – 7th March – The Hub, EHSU and The Fairtrade Store are selling a wide variety of Fairtrade goods. Also, there is the opportunity to win a hamper full of luxury Fairtrade food by answering the question of “how many Fairtrade coffee beans” Edge Hill uses on campus in a year!

Another great opportunity is an International Essay contest on the theme of “Learning from nature” organised by the Goi Peace Foundation. The deadline is the 15th June, and is open to children (<15) and youths (15-25). Here are the guidelines and details of prizes.

In the future, hopefully we can get the student allotment up and running, as well as any other campaigns that NUS or the students of EHU would like to put forward!