First day of Work Experience! I was so excited, I had been counting the days down to the minute. I was doing the program with my friend from school and another boy. We all used public transport to get there and we would often meet on the tram.
When we first arrived there we were greeted by the friendly staff and were given a comprehensive tour of the place. We were shown to the conference room and kitchen which I was so excited to use. After all the safety briefings were over, we went to the computer labs to test out the Immunology game. The game was really fun but gradually got more difficult. It increased my terminology and helped me understand how my immune system worked.
Later that day, we made 1% agar mixture from scratch and we thought about all the grotesque things we could swab on. The process was very interesting as we had used a number of chemicals and equipment that we had never used before. To conclude the day, we got to look at some pond water to check for algae and some protists like Euglena and Paramecium.
On Wednesday, we had a VCE Biology class where we mainly focused on meiosis and genetic disorders. We ran an experiment with a mentor where we tried to figure out if the baby in the scenario had inherited PKU from his parents. PKU is a genetic disorder where a person has too much phenylalanine in their blood. This causes autistic like behaviour, seizures and other cognitive development problems. Luckily, in our experiment, our baby was only a carrier of the disease.
After this we did a leaf peel which we looked at under powerful microscopes of up to x1000 magnitude. It was just magnificent because I was able to see how the solid leaf that we see was divided into thousands of smaller units which are further divided into hundreds of smaller particles. It was all very geometric and colourful.
The highlight of my experience was Thursday. It was not busy but we saw so much. From the electron microscope, the oculus to the public hearing, we were left speechless. Our first activity that morning was trying on the Oculus which is a virtual reality head display. It felt that I was walking around in a real villa and peering off a real balcony. Although I only used the device for a couple of minutes, it felt a lot longer because your bearings were not the same. It was most confusing when people talked to you and you can hear them but you cannot see them. Still, no one puked which was a good thing.
Shortly after, we were introduced to the all great electron microscope which was mind blowing! The device was like a rectangular box which was about 70 cm tall and was placed on a tabletop next to a computer. It reminded me of the very old desktops my family had when I was younger. Our mentor told us that the most modern and most accurate electron microscopes take up about half a room and that the one we had was compact. It still made a lot of noise though. The electron microscope worked by creating a vacuum around the specimen placed inside and then sending out beams of electrons which when reflected back created the image. This microscope is very powerful with magnification of up to x30 000.
We spent almost all day looking at different particles of wattle, hair, pond, spider, moth, flower and plant species. It was the most fascinating thing because there is more to everything. More to a split end, more to a flower leaf and more to an insect than one could ever imagine.
After a whole day of experimenting with the microscope, we got the option to attend a public hearing about the education of civics and politics at schools. There were about six senators and they heard some students’ views about what they described to be ‘next to zero’ education about the voting system and the political system. Their arguments were very valid and the senators worked with the students to gain a better insight on how to fix the problems.
We finished off the day by looking at the results of our agar plates with were absolutely disgusting! I tested out: hair, the sink, a computer mouse, cough, the fridge door and the door handle. Surprisingly hair had the most bacteria and the door handle had the least.
In our free time we started working on our blogs which were so hard to write because we did so much.
Last day, parting is such sweet sorrow! We spent the first half of the day writing and fine tuning our blogs before we headed off to be part of an advertisement photoshoot. It was quite unnerving being in front of a camera as you don’t know how to behave, how to sit or how to stand. It’s like you forget how to do anything. However, in light of the whole situation, we got to use the fluorescence microscopes which magnified the brain endothelial cells. The cells had been dyed with special fluorescent dyes that colour each part of the cell a different colour. The nucleus was blue, mitochondria red and the cell membrane green. It was fascinating how beautiful and clear they were. Last but not least, everyone farewelled us with a beautiful chocolate sponge cake which we all shared.
All in all it was one memorable experience that is going to stick with me my whole life!