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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