Featured ‘day in the life of’: Natasha, PhD student researching breast cancer therapies.

The eighth featured ‘day in the life of’ post is from Natasha who is a PhD student from Scotland who researchers breast cancer therapies and is the face behind the ‘surviving_science’ Instagram and blog https://survivingscienceblog.wordpress.com/.

A day in the life of Natasha (PhD Student):

I’m Natasha, a second year PhD student at Edinburgh University in Scotland. I’m studying how a type of breast cancer becomes resistant to the therapies currently used to treat it. I love all different types of science communication, but have a real passion for writing. When I finish my PhD, I’m hoping to go into medical writing so that I can help educate more people about the amazing science going on in the world.


7:36am: Good morning! This is my view as I open my curtains for the day. Time to get ready for a long day at work.


8:37am: At my desk, with a coffee and I’m ready to go. First up, checking emails and figuring out when to book different bits of equipment for the day.


9:09am: It’s almost time for my second year review, so I’m in full panic/report writing mode. This also means trying to get figures together and trying to remember what you’ve been doing for the last year.


9:53am: Finishing up staining some tumour sections from yesterday. After washing off the primary antibody, it’s time to add the secondary antibody.


11:00am: Setting up one of many qPCR reactions today. This is to check the mRNA level in my samples to see if it correlates with the protein levels.


12:05pm: While the slides are staining, and the qPCR is running, it’s a good opportunity to make some cDNA for extra qPCRs to run overnight. RNA is turned into cDNA because it’s less likely to degrade and can be heated more.


1:09pm: Secondary antibody washed off, and counter-stain done. Now we have to dehydrate the tumour sections in increasing alcohol washes, finished off with xylene. This is all really volatile, so has to be done in a fume hood.


3:23pm: Time for some cell culture! I have lots of experiments to set up so that they can run over the weekend and I have results when I come in on Monday. Currently, I’m using 12 different cell lines that all need regularly feeding and maintaining. This can take some time.


5:31pm: Two hours later, and I’m FINALLY finished with cell culture and have a full incubator to show for it. All of the smaller plates are going to have drugs added tomorrow to see how they react to different concentrations.


6:09pm: With all of that finished for the day, I can quickly check on the results from my qPCR earlier on. Those curves mean that my samples had the gene I was looking for – good news for the end of the day.


6:20pm: Earlier on, I transformed some bacteria to make them produce a plasmid I need to knock down a gene in one of my cell lines. Time to transfer them to a bigger flask and leave them in the shaker overnight, ready for lysing them tomorrow.


6:26pm: Finally, it’s home time.


9:19pm: After a bit of a break for some dinner, it’s time to get back into my report. Deadlines are looming.

I hope you have enjoyed the insight into Natasha’s interesting and technical research! Don’t forget to check out her blog & social media handles (Instagram= surving_science & Twitter= @NatashaTracey.


Leave a Reply