During the first three days of the holidays I undertook invaluable work experience at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. On the first day, we toured the animal facility which introduced me to the value of mice in the medical research sector. The sheer number of mice that were being monitored and tested was incredible. During this day, we also were introduced to a number of laboratory and microbiology techniques including; DNA extraction and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Amplification, micro pipetting and loading a DNA Agarose Gel to investigate the PV92 gene for a family pedigree. I thoroughly enjoyed this hands-on experience because I was able to apply the knowledge that I had learnt during Term 3 Biology to a practical application in the laboratory.
On the second and third days of the work experience, I and two others were sent to the mosquito control laboratory being hosted by the researcher Oselyne Ong. During these two days, we went into the depths of the mosquito labs and observed all the specialised equipment and tools used to handle and investigate such small animals. Currently, Ong is working on developing Near-Infrared Spectroscopy as an effective method for mosquito age-grading. We witnessed her blood feed mosquitos so that the females could lay the eggs and the breeding lines could continue. Before this experience, I did not know much about mosquitos and their various control mechanisms. However, after this experience, I feel much more informed and knowledgeable on the subject.
The QIMR Internship was an amazing experience and I encourage anyone who has an interest in health or scientific research to take up this opportunity.
Georgia Morris, Year 12
Over the holidays I had the incredible opportunity to participate in a three-day work experience program at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR). Over the three days I learnt multiple skills such as how to extract and test DNA from fluorescent mice, nicknamed ‘Hulk’ mice, as well as how to operate instruments such as a flow cytometer.
Day one started with a tour of the mouse facilities where they look after and keep all the mice. Here we saw mice with genes that caused their skin to be covered in moles as well some very cute chubby mice that contained the genetic markers for obesity. The rest of day one involved laboratory training such as how to use micropipettes and how to load a DNA agarose gel.
For the next two days of the program, Jasmin and I were assigned to the Immunology and Infection Lab where we worked with Marcela Montes de Oca, a postdoctoral fellow. We spent the two days helping her with her research and genotyping the ‘Hulk’ mice. This involved a lot of micro pipetting and setting up agarose gels for the PCRs (polymerase chain reaction). PCRs allow millions or billions of a particular region of DNA to be replicated, making it easier to identify when using gel electrophoresis.
We began our final day with a tour of QIMR’s renowned mosquito facility, which is home to various species of mosquitoes. Here QIMR works on developing strategies to shorten the life span of mosquitoes as well as research ways to combat mosquito-borne viruses such as Dengue virus, Zika virus and Ross River virus.
The three days at QIMR were an amazing experience and a one of a kind opportunity to work alongside researchers. I would highly recommend this program to anyone interested.
Lisa Gower, Year 12
The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research work experience was a great opportunity that I participated in over the holidays. It involved a three-day work experience where I made connections with new people, helped in conducting real research and learned more about the Berghofer facilities.
Marcella, a researcher in the Immunology lab, was conducting research on HULK mice and I was allowed to help her with the pilot trials for the experiment. HULK mice were mice that had specific antigens that affected specialised cells involved in the immune response.
The first day in the Immunology lab we had to perform multiple Polymerase Chain Reactions and use gel electrophoresis to determine which mice were carrying antigens that created HULK mice. The next day, we took tissue samples from the mice with the specific antigens and treated them to obtain the white blood cells. Afterwards, we used flow cytometry to isolate the CDH4+ immune cells and found their distribution among the specific tissues collected. The data was then used to help determine which tissues had a greater specialised immune response to antigens.
This was a truly unique experience that I enjoyed very much and even resulted in me coming into the lab outside the work experience hours to help Marcella further with her research. Through undertaking this work experience, I am definitely considering going into medical research next year.
Jasmin Somers, Year 12
Over the holidays, thirteen other Year 12 students from schools around Brisbane and I undertook three days of work experience at QIMR Berghofer. To secure a place in the program, students were required to submit a written application to the research centre in March. On the first day of our work experience, we took a tour through the animal facilities at QIMR. The rest of the day was spent in the lab learning micro-pipetting techniques, which we then used to extract DNA from a cheek swab and perform a PCR amplification. After loading the extracted DNA onto a gel, we compared it to other DNA samples that we had loaded onto the gel to examine the inheritance of a gene across a family pedigree. We also inoculated agar plates with bacteria called bacillus megaterium, which we observed the next day.
On day two of our work experience, we had a tour through the centre’s histology unit, where we learnt about how tissue samples are prepared for testing and analysis. For the two remaining days of our work experience, Georgia and I were placed in QIMR Berghofer’s Mosquito Lab under the supervision of Dr Oselyne Ong. There, we helped with separating the larvae and pupae and the male and female mosquitoes, and we prepared them to be scanned and analysed. Individually, we extracted DNA from mosquitoes using a similar technique to that which we used on day one, which we then loaded into a gel to analyse later.
The three days of work experience was a great opportunity to learn more about the different fields of medical research, and it allowed me to acquire many new laboratory skills. It was also great to talk to medical researchers at QIMR, about their time at university and to gain advice from them for being successful in the field of medical research.
Stephanie Macfarlane, Year 12