A short, but fruitful placement week at University of Bath

Posted in: Staff experiences

Author: Alex Gibbs -

Hello I’m Alex Gibbs. I’ve always been really interested in Marine Biology and hope to study it at university and beyond. I was looking for work experience on the topic but it’s not that easy when you live in Bath! I had seen Russell Arnott give a really interesting talk about plankton at the MBA Young Marine Biologists’ Summit in London. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get experience in the field so I got in touch with him and we arranged a week-long work experience placement within the WEIR unit.

On Monday morning, I was introduced to Caitlyn, the other work experience student I would be working with. The two us were given a tour around the campus and had a chance to look around the different departmental buildings. I found the labs in the Microscopy and Analysis Suite really cool and thought the different electron microscopes and preparation machines were especially interesting. It’s fascinating seeing things in real life after studying them in a text book.

Alex and two other placement students in front of the main reflecting pool in Dyrham Park
The main reflecting pool of Dyrham Park

For most of our week, Caitlyn and I investigated how the density of water affects the rise velocity of different types of microplastics. It’s a really new and current issue in marine research and to be able to study it first hand was a great experience. By running our own experiment, we got to experience what it was actually like to work in a research laboratory. It was great fun working with Caitlyn to overcome any problems that cropped up. Once the experiment was complete, we learnt how to use Excel to process our data and create graphs. Presenting our data properly was an important skill to start to develop.

Two placement students running experiments at a research laboratory.
Hands-on experience to work in a research laboratory

We also had the opportunity to carry out some sampling fieldwork at Dyrham Park; a National Trust property that has been having issues with algal blooms in their reflection ponds. We spent the day sampling water from around the property to map the flow of water across the site in an effort to locate any potential eutrophication sources. We learnt how to operate Conductivity-Temperature-Depth probes and water quality sondes; tools that are commonly used in marine research.

Two placement students collecting water samples at Dyrham Park.
Sampling fieldwork at Dyrham Park

During the week we also heard from people about their areas of study and what they were working on. I found the wide range of research happening in WEIR really interesting.

Overall, it was a fascinating, useful and enjoyable week. I found out what it was like to study at Bath and was given insight into life as a laboratory scientist. I met new people in fields I’m interested in and gained experience using high-tech equipment. Thank you to everyone who took the time to speak to us, particularly Russell.


Posted in: Staff experiences