First impressions from being an intern at NORCE

Posted on 09/05/2022 by Sunniva Katharina Thode

Written by Eirill Spadoni, bachelor student at department of arctic and marine biology.

Like most students attending the last semester of their bachelor, I soon have to make a choice about my further education. Despite all of the research group presentations held by the university these past years, I feel unsure about which direction would suit me best. For this reason, when last semester the university gave us the opportunity to get first-hand experience in a professional setting by taking the course BIO-2014 praksis in næringslivet for biologistudenter, I jumped at the chance.

This is me, Eirill, on day 2 of the internship at Norce. Photo: private.

What I hope to gain from this experience is a new perspective on how the life of a biologist can look like, and maybe better ideas for a future career. I expect I will learn new practical skills, on procedures and machinery/equipment, as well as new knowledge. Not least, I hope it will be a first step to start build a network of contacts around me.

After learning skills on how to write good CVs and presentation letters I applied to an internship at Genøk (now part of NORCE). The organization does research with the objective of a responsible and sustainable use of gene technologies and the understanding of their impact on the human health, the environment and society. The first thing that struck me was how their work has a direct impact on the sustainable use of these technologies in the industry. Then, the projects description of their website immediately interested me. They all resonated with my particular interests in the field and with previous experiences I had had during my education, such as lab experiments involving gene modified plants and a student project about the search for new antibiotics in the sea.  I was lucky enough to be assigned to a project dealing with anti-microbial resistance, a subject I am particularly interested in, along with a fellow student. “MicroPlastResist” is a research project that analyses the effect of different types of microplastic, released through wastewater in Norway and South Africa, on the transmission of antibiotic resistance genes.

The first days at work have already met some of my expectations. We were immediately introduced to interesting people from different backgrounds working at the organization and was pleasantly reminded of how research is a team effort. I found out then that I was a little worried I would be left to my own devices, but everyone turned out to be very helpful and available whenever I have questions.

The first day we were given a tour of the labs and storage rooms. Most importantly, we were given a lot of information about lab safety. From day 2, we already had our own stations, which was very exciting. We started from small, but essential tasks that were new to me, such as the preparation of LB medium and Agar plates, and went to more complex procedures, such as DNA extraction and setup for bacterial transformation.

Set-up for plating of transformed bacteria. Photo: private.

From now on, the plan is to work on each our assigned type of plastic particles and compare our findings among ourselves and with previous research. I expect that the next weeks will teach me new things and help me build confidence in what I have learn so far, so to become more independent in the lab.