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A week in the life of Roxann Cortis – Molecular Biology Scientist

Sep 11th, 2018 | Blog

Monday

With the sun slowly burning through the morning mist, you can tell it’s going to be a beautiful day. Walking to work suddenly doesn’t seem so bad, especially since relocating to the new building where the views are amazing no matter where you are, so even if I’m not outside enjoying the weather I can see it unfold while I work.

Walking to work suddenly doesn’t seem so bad, especially since relocating to the new building where the views are amazing no matter where you are

Monday morning this week is a busy one. We have a team meeting with one of our project customers tomorrow and have to finalise our slides before the end of today. So, I’m meeting with Martina and Scott to reduce my molecular biology and assay development slides whilst ensuring that this quarter’s key results are presented concisely. My nerves are sky high since it’s going to be the first time I have presented my own work! But hopefully the training from the past six years of biology and journal club presentations will help me to cope when it comes to crunch time tomorrow.

After enjoying lunch outside on the benches, I join the rest of the molecular biology department in the weekly Monday meeting. This usually consists of a project update presentation, followed by any general information that needs to be passed on to everyone. This week’s presentation is by Louis, talking about the latest developments in our inABLE technology!

As the day draws to a close, I enjoy my walk home in the afternoon sunshine. Since the weather is still beautiful, dinner will most likely be a picnic in the meadows out at Roslin Glen.

Tuesday

Crunch time! As I arrive at work, the atmosphere is energetic, with people getting everything ready for the arrival of the customers and for the meeting to begin. I quickly go over my slides to make sure I’m well prepared and make extra notes, just in case I need them.

It’s 9 am and the meeting has started. Fermentation results are presented first, followed by molecular biology – that’s me! I feel nervous as I begin my presentation, but after the first two slides this suddenly disappears as I become engrossed in the science. I start by explaining my assay development in solid and liquid phases for detecting our target molecule and follow this with a piece of work that exemplified its successful use to isolate targets from our mutagenesis library, which was generated at an earlier stage using degenerate primers at the site of interest. After lunch, the presentation moved on to a transcriptomics experiment that samples had been generated for; I am due to go on a training course at the end of the week to learn more about how the data will be processed and analysed.

After plenty of discussion about all the data presented, the meeting concludes at 5 pm. The customers leave happy with the work presented, and new plans have been made for the coming months. Completely elated that my first presentation went well and that the output from the team was so positive, I have to do something to burn off the energy otherwise I’m never getting to sleep! I end my day with a run around Roslin Glen, followed by Pilates to help melt the stresses of the day away, with a lingering feeling of achievement from today’s meeting…

Wednesday

Still buzzing from the meeting, I arrive at work early on Wednesday morning. The lights flicker on behind me as I walk through the empty labs ready to start λDE3 lysogenisation of a few hosts we’ve engineered for our pathway. Soon enough the labs are bustling and alive with chatter, troubleshooting and brainstorming solutions as we work. It’s always a great atmosphere and really reassuring that there’s always someone around who can help if you get stuck!

The lights flicker on behind me as I walk through the empty labs ready to start λDE3 lysogenisation of a few hosts we’ve engineered for our pathway

Mid-morning, and it’s time for a project team update meeting to discuss outcomes and priorities from yesterday’s customer meeting. It’s going to be a long meeting, so large mugs of tea and snacks all round! 

After lunch, it’s time to get back to the lab and finish the λDE3 lysogenisation – hopefully it’s worked – followed by some transformations to generate the strains required for biotransformations and fermentations in the coming weeks.

After a busy day in the lab, I can’t wait to get home and switch off by cooking up a few of my Granny’s recipes in the kitchen!

Thursday

Thursday morning, and after weeks of sunshine the heavens have opened up and it’s torrential rain! Google still seems to think it’s intermittent sunshine with a 20 % chance of rain! I decide to drive into work and grab a mug of hot tea before heading into the lab. 

First thing is to get some PCRs set up to check the genotypes of the strains that were generated yesterday, including the lysogenisation work, and then set up some others to start some cloning work. As I work, the lab becomes busier as everyone starts to arrive. The most noticeable arrival is my colleague Leo, who comes in singing to the radio as he starts analysing his samples on the TapeStation – and then, of course, everyone else joins in! You can always count on him to boost morale on a rainy day…

The most noticeable arrival is my colleague Leo, who comes in singing to the radio

After lunch, I analyse my results and it looks like everything has worked – a little victory dance was, of course, in order! I go on to set up an assay to check the lysogens in my newly constructed DE3 strains, and then continue on with my cloning work. 

Late afternoon is consumed with brushing up on my Linux and jotting down questions before my RNA-seq course tomorrow at King’s Buildings! Before I realise it, it’s home time, and there’s nothing like a girlie evening with curry and manicures to wind down with a couple of my ‘besties’ after a long few days.

Friday

7 am start today, and a long bus journey into town for the RNA-seq course. I get there earlier than expected so decide to pop across the road to get a tall black coffee before heading in for the course.

I can’t wait for the weekend to start, so I head into town to meet some fellow Ingenzers for a few drinks

The course started at 8:30 am. I came in a few minutes early and sat down at my terminal, and the instructors started the course. The course was very well structured and each of the steps involved in processing the RNA-seq raw data to generate the transcriptomics data was very well explained. The course was very practical, with plenty of opportunities to ask as many questions as you wanted. I realised during the course that transcriptomics is such a powerful tool, and that the data can be analysed time and time again in different ways – the data output is immense!

By the time the course finished at 6 pm, I really felt like I had gotten to grips with how to process the data and couldn’t wait to give it a go and plan even more experiments! But for now, I can’t wait for the weekend to start, so I head into town to meet some fellow Ingenzers for a few drinks/night out – we’ll see how it goes…