Neuroscience research placement student at University of Leeds

Rachael Powis

Research Placement in electrophysiology laboratory, University of Leeds

"Neuroscience is a fascinating and thought-provoking subject to study at the University of Leeds. The lectures on this course cover more than just neuroscience. We have the chance to study a whole range of topics, including Pharmacology, Microbiology, Endocrinology to name but a few (basically a lot of –ologies!) The lab practical sessions are designed to help you understand the weeks lecture material and learn new experimental techniques. For example, when studying anatomy of the heart, you are given the opportunity to perform a dissection that makes the textbook material come alive. The lab practicals vary greatly each week, last week we got to ‘zap’ each other’s arm when testing nerve conduction velocities, which was fun and pretty painful too!

The highlight of the course so far has definitely been my research lab placement. I am currently working in the lab of Dr King, a Reader in Neuroscience, with an interest in spinal cord neurophysiology and neuropharmacology, in particular with the molecular and cellular aspects of chronic pain. She has several projects underway; in the lab I have been working in she is researching rhythmicity in spinal dorsal horn sensory processing, which sounds pretty impressive to your mates down the pub! The placement is for ten hours each week, which slots nicely in-between lectures. Shadowing a PhD student in an electrophysiology lab is a bit daunting at first, but you soon get used to all the complicated looking equipment and techniques. All the members of the lab are incredibly friendly and helpful, and the atmosphere is surprisingly relaxed. Work involves making solutions, lab duties such as pulling electrodes, and attending seminars on various interesting topics, such as pain and epilepsy. The placement pays well, which is a bonus as I would actually do it for free! It’s much more beneficial to work in this environment than working behind a bar or something, as you’re getting paid to broaden your knowledge and learn experimental skills that will help you on your course I would recommend this placement to anyone. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after my degree finished, but this placement has helped me to decide that I would like to pursue a career in Neuroscience research in the future. As far as I am aware Leeds is the only university that offers a research placement scheme in the first year, definitely something to be aware of when applying for a biomedical course!"