Hello and welcome to the newest feature in our career series. If you’re new around here, we run our ’24 Hours In The Life’ of interview article around once a fortnight. We chat with women who work everywhere from prisons and hospitals to labs and their homes. We hope you like!
This week we’re chatting to Laura* who is a 29-year-old scientist.
Laura is a gene-editing scientist which means changing genes in cells to understand which genes cause disease. She says: “with this information, we can develop new drugs and medicines. We cover a whole range of illnesses, from asthma to cancer and Alzheimer’s so it is a very interesting field to work in”.
This is what a day in her life looks like…
6.15am: “I try to wake up early most weekdays and fit in a quick yoga/stretch session before heading to work. My contract is for 37.5 hours a week. It can run over some weeks but I try and stick to 9-5 as much as possible.”
7.30am: “Breakfast is Greek yogurt, granola and fruit (strawberries and banana) with a coffee. Always a coffee before anything else!”
7.45am: “I head out the door and after a short walk, I catch the train to work. I sometimes start on emails during my commute but today I decide to read a bit of my book – I am currently reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.”
8.45am: “I get to work and see if there’s anything that needs my immediate attention and then I get to work in the lab. I am part of a team that runs large scale experiments called screens which means we can look at 100s or 1000s of genes at once to determine if they could be potentially used as a target for disease. This means we use automation equipment to make our lives a bit easier so my first job in the morning is usually to do a test run of these robots and make sure they are behaving themselves.”
10am: “Myself and other members of the team worked together to process lots of samples for the next couple of hours. Being a scientist can be a real mix of working in a team and alone, but it is a very sociable job (at least before covid). You get to know your colleagues very well as you work very closely together so it is a good opportunity to become friends.”
“I did a BSc in Genetics and a PhD in Cancer Genetics and have worked in genetics for 11 years now. I was always interested in science at school and knew I wanted to pursue something vaguely medical. I find it fascinating how a tiny change in our genes or DNA can lead to some big changes in our bodies.”
12pm: “Lunchtime. Today I had some leftover chicken with a potato/kale salad. Unfortunately, with covid we are not allowed to eat anywhere near our colleagues to make sure we are social distancing. I have a scroll through Instagram, reply to Whatsapp messages etc instead.”
12.30pm: “A chance to check over emails that have appeared in my inbox that morning. The majority are involving planning our next few days of experiments so it does not take too long to organise with my colleagues and keep our bosses in the loop.”
1pm: “I am working in another lab this afternoon (no robots this time), running some samples on a machine that detects fluorescent proteins in cells. If there is fluorescence it means my experiment has worked and thankfully today it has! The machine I have been using also records some graphs that I can save as a PDF and use in my reports. Scientists rely very heavily on their lab books to record how we perform experiments, the data we collect and to make conclusions from this data. At the company I work at we have electronic lab books which makes it very easy to transfer knowledge to colleagues and keep on top of multiple experiments we are running at once.”
“Whilst this machine was running, I managed to attend a departmental seminar which was an hour long. We usually have seminars 2-3 times a week, they are not compulsory but it is a good way of keeping up with research that others in the department and company are doing.”
4pm: “Thankfully today has gone fairly to plan with no major over running of experiments or equipment failures. I spend the last hour/hour and a half making sure I have replied to all my emails, I have booked all the lab space and equipment I need for tomorrow (this has become super important with covid as we have had to drastically reduced the capacity of persons in each lab), updating my electronic lab book, and finally, writing my to-do list for tomorrow.”
“This is currently a common day in the lab for me. I am usually in the lab 3-4 days a week and I work from home the remaining 1-2 days. I try to pack all my meetings and data analysis in to these work from home days when I have no lab commitments and it is working quite well at the moment. I hope to continue this half go into the office/half work from home in the future.”
6.30pm: “Usually when I get home I catch up with my housemate and we fill each other in on our days at work. I am really enjoying the return of live sport and the Euros. So the majority of my evenings have revolved around watching the games and keeping an eye on my work’s sweepstake. Other than that, I usually like to do some exercise whether that’s a walk or run to get some fresh air.”
10.30pm: I always aim to be in bed if possible!
You can read more in our career series here.