In the midterm break, I went to Liverpool for a five-day lab course run by a company called BioGrad. I wanted to go to get a more competitive university application as well get a feel for what it is like working in a lab all day.
The day before the lab course started, I travelled up from Oxford by bus. Once I arrived, I checked into the hotel where I would be staying with the other A-level students on the course. They were all interested in studying subjects related to Biology and Chemistry, so everyone in the group bonded straight away.
There were four different courses: BMAT/UKCAT, lab skills, clinical skills, and medical school preparation. I was in the lab skills course with eight other people. Over the course of the five days, we became a tight-knit group, as is bound to happen when you work closely together in a lab.
The lab itself was terrific. The facilities were state of the art, and we got to play around with some cool equipment such as an autoclave and some very accurate (and expensive) pipettes.
The first two days, we learnt some essential lab skills, basics about nanotoxicology and safety procedures which would become very important later as we started growing bacteria. We grew gene modified E.coli and Bacillus subtilus and did various tests on them to check for antibiotic resistance. Throughout the experiments, our instructors told us stories about previous students who contaminated themselves with E.coli. Though we followed the safety instructions exactly, it did make us a bit anxious. We also learnt how to do various lab procedures such as gram staining, an ELISA, and EC50.
At the end of each day, BioGrad had planned activities which we could sign up for. The first activity had us walk around the city as we played bingo with different landmarks. The docks and the many hip neighbourhoods next to the beautiful old buildings impressed us. There was also a medical pub quiz and an escape room which were very fun and brought out the competitive spirit in us.
At the end of the course, everyone in the group had to do a presentation about something we had done that week. There were many exciting presentations about homeobox genes, forensic science, and using nanoparticles as vehicles for drug delivery. Before we could collect our certificates, we had a workshop about jobs in pharma and perfecting our CVs for work experience.
I would definitely recommend looking into the courses BioGrad offers if you are thinking about studying anything related to Biology or Chemistry.
Elisabeth Foss is a first year A-Level student.