International Undergraduate Summer School

From working with top researchers in the field of plant biology to living with other students of such fun, character and like-mindedness, the John Innes Centre International Undergraduate Summer School was an unforgettable experience. Not only did it confirm my desire to study beyond my degree to PhD level, it has opened my eyes to how research teams run and has given me experience of working in a world-leading lab.

The first day began with settling in to halls on the UEA campus, where all JIC summer students were placed together. After finding the rooms and meeting and greeting, the friendly PhD students met me and the others for the first night’s event. An evening of pizza making and lots of drink meant everyone bonded well from the start. The initial days on the programme involved me meeting my research team and supervisor, as well as establishing the project on which I was about to embark over the next eight weeks. I focused on flowering time in Arabidopsis thaliana with Caroline Dean, whose lab was truly great. I learned new techniques and protocols with state-of-the-art equipment that would only be available at a centre such as JIC.

Making pizza

Making pizza in the evening at the International Undergraduate Summer School. Photograph: John Innes Centre.

Over the weeks, my knowledge of my project grew, and enabled me to work more independently. Alongside this I learned what a great environment JIC is, not only in terms of research, but also the running of the centre. There was always someone at hand willing to help, be it for potting my plants or fixing my bike. In my free time, I often visited local areas around Norwich, and made full use of the heated outdoor pool at JIC! Many activities took place throughout the summer, meaning I met people from across the site. I realised how enthusiastic and loyal all the workers there are.

To finalise the programme, all summer school students took part in a retreat to Cromer. This involved presenting work and raising encouraging questions to one another in a relaxed setting, whilst also getting a feel for how a typical conference would be run. Ending with a quick dip in the sea, it was a great way to conclude the programme.

Students on the 2015 International Undergraduate Summer School. Photograph: John Innes Centre.

Students on the 2015 International Undergraduate Summer School. Photograph: John Innes Centre.

All in all, it was a fantastic experience and has been a truly unforgettable summer. I recommend anyone interested in entering the botanical world of research or academia to apply, not only for the science, but also for the great and interesting people you will meet.

Olivia took part in the 2015 International Undergraduate Summer School, a programme that takes place every year. She tweets as @oliviatasker.

Applications for the 2016 International Undergraduate Summer School will open on Monday 19 October 2015 here.

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