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A day in the life..."Hi, my name is Stephanie and I want to give you an insight into what it's like to work in the Cell Biology field.
During my time at university I studied Cell Biology and particularly enjoyed project work. I wanted to work in this industry to experience science from a different perspective, building upon and expanding the skills I learned during my degree.
Currently, I work as a Stem Cell Technician for a Contract Research Organisation focused on iPSC generation. Typically I start my day by setting up the lab and scoring all the cells we have in culture at that time, noting what is required for the day and then planning necessary activities in accordance. I work with a partner, primarily covering a specific project, with secondary projects running in the background intermittently.
My other responsibilities differ depending on what stage each project is at. However, they include everything from reprogramming fibroblasts/PBMCs to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), picking emerging iPSC colonies, expansion of early iPSCs to establish banks and culturing banked lines for QC characterisation required to test the robustness and quality of the lines produced. I enjoy being in the lab every day, culturing the cells through every stage of this process, gaining an understanding of these lines and their individual characteristics, growth patterns, and the optimal conditions for their growth.
The laboratory I’m currently involved in supports four other colleagues. The setup means we each have a Biological Safety Cabinet where we perform all of our Tissue Culture; our cells are cultured aseptically without the addition of antibiotics so good aseptic technique is essential. This type of work allows me to feel independent as we work in our own sections or the lab, however, the collaborative feel in that my work supports the others is highly satisfying.
Housekeeping tasks are shared between the lab team and include equipment and gas monitoring, reagent preparation, stock checks and ordering consumables and reagents. It is essential that we all maintain the high standards here, a none sterile environment could compromise our work, we all trust one another to meet the same standard!
Moreover, there are some non-lab based work that I need to complete such as keeping on top of paperwork, updating technical documentation such as Standard Operating Procedures, maintaining freezer records, recording cell line histories and preparing Certificates of Analysis for cell lines to be released are part of the day to day work out with the laboratory. This side of my role is important to run alongside the lab work so things are recorded, reported and analysed accurately.
Weekly team meetings provide a forum for communication between all the Tissue Culture and Quality teams, here project updates are presented across the different groups. This is a great way to share our own project progress and listen to other project presentations which are fun. Any issues with processes or potential improvements can be discussed, this helps us feel supported not just within my team but from each team.
iPSC innovation projects present opportunities to expand my current skillset through identifying areas requiring improvement, interrogating the literature and investigating potential solutions. These are written up as project proposals and are assessed before any laboratory work is carried out. Upon completion of each project, the data is presented at the weekly tissue culture meeting.
I am still learning and expanding my experience in this role, which keeps me interested each and every day!
When I think about my long-term goal I really want to continue my scientific development. I am interested in Research and Development opportunities as this combines my enjoyment of working practically in the lab with expanding my scientific understanding through reading new findings literature and learning from those around me with many years of experience and observation."