This week I handed in all the final bits of work for my internship, which I was cautious to do properly as there’s quite a stereotype of interns leaving things a bit of a mess! In the end I was able to take part in 3 projects based around the deposition and properties of polymers, with most of the data actually looking pretty promising. You can read more details about the work here, but overall it was a great experience seeing and being part of real research.
The first thing that struck me was that, unlike undergraduate 4 hour lab sessions, you have to learn to be consistent for months at a time, which can get difficult when you’re relying on hard-to-fix equipment always working. This means you’re accumulating very large amounts of data, often causing problems just in terms of finding places in the lab to store results, and hoping that different treatments don’t wash off the vital labelling scheme that holds everything together…Persistence was also something to get used to. Normally if something doesn’t work it might be an error of one of the technicians in setting up the equipment or premade solutions, but when you’re working on your own project it’s all on you to get everything right.
That all being said, working in this kind of environment really strengthened the idea of going into research. Everyday there was a general excitement, because everyone’s trying things that haven’t been tried before (often with fire extinguishers at the ready), and I can’t wait to join this again in my 3rd and 4th year projects.