Lab experience in New York

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I spent July doing work experience in the Cellular and Structural Biology lab at Rockefeller University in New York. I wanted to see what it was like working a real research lab and, having never been outside Europe before, the opportunity to undertake this work experience in New York City was very exciting.

The lab I was in focuses on the structure of the Nuclear Pore Complex, but it is also doing work on finding nanobodies to fight against trypanosomes – a parasite that can lead to African sleeping sickness. I found the work they were doing incredibly interesting, and got the chance to use a lot of generally useful lab techniques. Overall, it confirmed that I would like to pursue a career in scientific research, particularly into infectious diseases. I did worry that I would struggle keeping up with the theory behind the experiments we were doing, but everyone was really helpful and happy to give me advice.

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On my way to work over the Queensboro Bridge from Queens to Manhattan

It was scary flying over when I didn’t know anyone there, and staying with someone from Airbnb that I had never met, but most people in the city were very friendly and helpful, and the woman I was staying with was really welcoming. She invited me along to a lot of events including barbeques, beach trips, and a traditional Temazcal – a type of sweat lodge. I found New York to be a very safe, exciting and interesting city. There was always something to do in every borough. I stayed for a month in Queens and a week in Brooklyn, both of which I loved. Before arriving, I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to travel around the city, but once there I had no trouble at all as the subway was great.

Outside of lab hours, I had the opportunity to explore New York further. I saw a fantastic adaption Troilus and Cressida for free in Central Park; saw the statue of liberty; went to the top of the empire state building; did a free Tai Chi class on the High Line – an old train track that has been made into a linear park; saw The Book of Mormon on Broadway; went to the Star Trek: Starfleet Academy Experience; saw the July 4th fireworks; went to a Yankees game; and even managed to see a Corpse Flower in bloom at the Botanical Gardens – the last time was in 1939! I also spent a lot of time just wandering round, enjoying the city.

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Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus titanium, nearing end of bloom cycle

Overall, I learnt how to be more independent. I had never been abroad that long before and, although it was difficult at times, I really enjoyed settling in to a different city. I also learnt how definite I am that I want to do scientific research.

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