Getting ahead in a research career

London Met student Muskaan discusses her experiences of undertaking extended scientific research placements, and the importance of research opportunities for undergraduates.

Date: 19 October 2021

London Met undergraduate student Muskaan Mahandru-Gill recently undertook two eight-week scientific research placements, as part of the University’s commitment to providing students with specialised work experience opportunities to help them progress in their future careers. 

The first placement was part of the LiDO Summer Research Placement scheme, working to investigate the activation of the inflammasome - innate immune system receptors and sensors responsible for the activation of inflammatory responses - in aged skin, working closely with a postdoctoral researcher. 

Muskaan said, "As someone studying Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery, it was challenging being thrown into the world of Biology. However, I feel as though I have gained valuable laboratory skills through this experience. I was introduced to and became quite experienced in techniques such as, Western Blots, Microscopy, staining, Cytokine analysis and ELISA’s.

"While broadening my knowledge, I also developed my problem solving, analytical and initiative-taking skills. Over the eight week placement, I had the opportunity to network with others in the laboratory such as other Postdoctoral Researchers and Masters’ students. This gave me an insight into the life of a Postdoctoral Researcher on a day to day basis. As someone interested in doing a PhD, I found this extremely useful."

The second placement was Chemistry based, working with London Met’s Dr Bhaven Patel in the University’s Superlab on a project called Synthesis of anti-malarial Plasmodium falciparum GDH inhibitors.

Muskaan described the experience as "very hands-on,  focussed on data-handling and analysis of NMR spectrums. I believe this helped me build upon the knowledge I already had of organic chemistry in the laboratory. I have learnt many new techniques, which will prove extremely useful during and after my undergraduate degree.

"Working closely with Dr Patel was a valuable experience and I really felt like I was in the shoes of a Researcher. We made decisions together based on our evaluation of the data we obtained. This helped to determine how best to optimise the synthesis of the structures. Following the eight weeks, we discussed the opportunity to present our work at the British Conference for Undergraduate Research."

Asked about the importance of accessing research opportunities for undergraduate students, she said, "I think it is incredibly important for students to grasp at any opportunity to develop their skills further. Not only do you gain good experience, but you will seem more desirable to employers after your undergraduate degree.

"While we learn valuable skills during our undergraduate degree, I believe it is vital to go the extra mile and gain more experience and skills. This shows you have gone out of your comfort zone and stepped into the shoes of a researcher. As well as broadening your knowledge, you will also gain the opportunity to network with people in the scientific world.

"The level of support provided at London Met has really encouraged me and helped me do as well as I have so far. I believe the support from my lecturers, course leader and academic mentor has been incredible. I think the lecturers are easy to approach and really listen to you, allowing them to help you fully understand the content. 

"As well as this, I have really enjoyed the course itself. I think the coursework is always really hands-on and puts you into the shoes of a real scientist."

student working in a lab