Blog | A unique and rewarding experience.
Matthew Kennedy is studying for a Masters in Microbiology at the University of Glasgow. He is currently working as a lab section supervisor at the UK Biocentre Lighthouse Lab in Milton Keynes.
I decided to volunteer for the UK Biocentre Lighthouse Lab because I really wanted to help. I couldn’t sit at home doing nothing knowing that I had the knowledge and skills to contribute. As a Masters student studying Microbiology at the University of Glasgow, I’ve worked in labs previously, so I understand the processes and equipment, as well as the importance of teamwork and problem solving.
However, I’ve never been in a lab environment this full, busy, and rich. The scale is insanely different from an academic lab – it’s on a completely different level. We’re processing tens of thousands of swab samples per day, built on four scientific teams doing 12-hour shifts, day and night.
This scale makes it a unique and rewarding experience. I am trying to soak up as much information and learning from these weeks and months as possible. Since joining in April I’ve taken on a number of different roles across the lab, including the manual pipetting of the swab samples into deep-well plates and operating the Kingfisher RNA extraction machines.
A diverse team working towards the same goal
The four volunteer teams working in the lab make the operation possible. The team is so diverse – we’ve got scientists from a range of different specialties. I am working side by side with people I never would have met under ‘normal’ circumstances. It’s a huge asset for the operation, as it brings a whole range of different perspectives on things. It’s also great to talk to different scientists about their work – it brings some normality to life especially as I can’t see my family at the moment. It’s great working with a team of people who are all working towards the same goal and outcome.
I think right now we are blind to how unique this situation is as we’re living it every day. It feels good to know that you’re doing something to help. Every sample has a person behind it which you don’t always get in an academic lab; our work is affecting tens of thousands of people every day.
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