My week at TwinsUK

14th June 2023 – By Ellie P

When faced with the challenge of finding work experience it can hard to know which way to look. There is no website to tell you where to go, who will take you or if you will enjoy it, but for me I lucked out.

TwinsUK is an organisation which does invaluable research, and I am so grateful to have been able to witness and grow an understanding for everything they do here. I have had the opportunity to explore many different departments and see the whole research process from preparing their pre-packs to shadowing a twin visit and then on to the labs to see the data storage and analysis. Being with the Department of Twin Research has allowed me to learn and grow in the knowledge that a career in science is what I want. It has been an amazing opportunity which I am so thankful to have had.   

Monday was my day in the lab and it was the part of the week I was most excited for, and I was not disappointed – the team were welcoming and insightful into what lab life was like as well as courses and different approaches to get into different areas of science.

On Tuesday I spent a day in the clinic. I had never considered having a job in a clinic based environment but being able to see the different stages of testing and meeting the wonderful twins, has opened my eyes to a different angle of research which is sociable, exciting and practical.

During the rest of the week I also had the opportunity to chat and learn about different roles and be able to find out just how many people are involved with the studies that go on.

All throughout my week, everyone I met was friendly and was truly interested in the job they do, creating a warm, homely environment within the department and making my brief time at TwinsUK so enjoyable. It has been a fantastic week, filled with amazing experiences and an opportunity I would recommend to anyone thinking about going into the field. 

A week with TwinsUK

12th July 2019

Sixth form students Lia and Amir spent a week with TwinsUK to find out what it’s like to work in research. In this blog post, they reflect on their experience.

Lia and Amir writing their blog post

Lia’s experience

“I have gained such a great understanding and respect for every team that works within TwinsUK”

Before I came to work at TwinsUK, I had no idea of the different roles and collaborative effort it took to run a research department. I was lucky enough to learn about their current study called PREDICT which is aiming to be able to predict personalised food and food responses using data from the bacteria in your gut and blood responses.  Although the study consists of participants taking part in various scientific tests, each team at the department plays a key role in maintaining and getting reliable outcomes from the study.

During the week I was keen to learn more about each part of the programme from the initial recruitment of the twins, all the way through to getting their various samples, whether it be blood, saliva, or urine, and finally analysing the data that was discovered and understanding how this data is shared within the scientific community. 

I especially enjoyed seeing how DNA was extracted from a sample of blood during my day at the laboratory, and it was very helpful to finally be able to visualise all of the ‘practical skills’ and scientific equipment they teach us about in textbooks at school. 

Another highlight of my week was meeting some of the twins and following them throughout their day at the clinic and through each test. 

I have gained such a great understanding and respect for every team that works within TwinsUK, whether it be the nutrition team who prepare and monitor the food to be eaten by participants or the nurses in the clinic and technicians in the lab who collect and prepare samples to be measured. 

Amir’s experience

“My work experience at the Department of Twin Research was one of the highlights of my educational life”

On the morning of the first day of my work placement, I felt quite nervous and I was a bit worried about doing something wrong and embarrassing myself.  When I arrived at the hospital, I got even more nervous as it was a very big and busy place and I got a bit lost. When I finally found my way and met the TwinsUK team though, I relaxed. They were nice, warm and friendly and after an introduction and greetings, they took me on a tour around the department and introduced me to key staff members.

On the first day, I worked with the recruitment team. They explained to me a lot about the first stage of the research process and how they keep in touch with the twins, how they inform them about the study and how they make and send their information packs to the twins at home.

On the second day, I worked with the laboratory team. The head of lab was a very kind and lovely lady, and she introduced me to all the staff in the lab and helped me feel like I was part of the team. During my time in the lab, I learned about what happens with the samples that are collected from the twins (e.g. blood and urine). I learnt about blood tests, DNA extractions and many other interesting things. I also saw Emma Thompson in the clinic when I was passing by there! I had a very nice day in there and learned a lot from the team.

On the third day, I worked in the clinic. Before starting the work, I was not quite sure what to expect but when I met the team and also the twins, it did not feel like a workplace anymore! Everything came naturally and I enjoyed following the twins through the day and the tests that they were doing. I learnt a lot about the similarities of the twins, their interesting stories, the different tests that they did throughout the day to help the research and I also tried some of the tests by myself! The clinic team were very professional and tried to show me that taking blood is not as difficult as it may sound like. They also shared their experience about their previous jobs, education and the first time that they took blood from someone (since I did ask them!).

On the fourth day, I worked with the data and nutrition team. I learnt a lot about how they keep track of the food that the twins eat on the current PREDICT study and how the results of the tests that had been done throughout the week are stored and saved safely. I found their roles very interesting as I have never thought about what exactly happens with the results of the tests.

On the last day I learnt about TwinsUK’s social media and how to translate scientific research to understandable language that the public can read and enjoy. I also learnt about the stages that it takes to publish a scientific paper.

My work experience in the Department of Twin Research was one of the highlights of my educational life and I am very grateful that I had this opportunity to work with these amazing, humble and hardworking people and learn about their roles. I would definitely recommend this work experience to students that are considering doing science-related subjects in the future because this work experience gives you a new perspective on science!

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