Infection, Immunology & Translational Medicine (IITM) Oxford

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A week in the life

One of our DPhil students describes a typical week in the life of an IITM student


Last week I ran a couple of fairly large flow cytometry experiments, which need analysing. I spend most of the day in the write-up area working on this. The data look very promising and I make arrangements to sit down with my supervisor and discuss it tomorrow. Around lunch I break to have a Skype meeting with collaborators overseas to discuss and plan upcoming experiments.



Usually on Tuesday mornings we have a lab meeting where two people present their data for half an hour each. The whole lab is on a rota to take it in turns to present. This week, however, there was no lab meeting as our principal investigator (PI) was unavailable and meetings don’t go ahead without him. In addition to this there are once a month meetings where everyone is required to update the PI and the rest of the group on their progress. I work in a large group and, in addition to the PI, I have another lab-based supervisor. The IITM programme includes labs of a whole range of sizes. Smaller labs will allow much more one-to-one contact with the PI so there’s a lab to suit everyone’s learning style!

I continue yesterday’s analysis this morning and meet with my supervisor after lunch. She is very pleased and we discuss including it in an abstract with the rest of my data to present at an upcoming conference in the USA. The deadline for submission is very close so I spend the rest of the afternoon drafting my application! I receive feedback from my supervisor and PI the same evening.


I make changes to my abstract based on yesterday’s feedback and send it off. It will be a long 4 month wait till I hear back! For the rest of the morning I plan the finer details of an experiment I’m going to be carrying out over the next couple of days.

After lunch, I walk over to the nearby John Radcliffe hospital site for a seminar from an external speaker from Newcastle University. Each department holds regular seminars with both internal and external speakers. A list of all seminars across the Medical Sciences Division goes around every week which you can check to find the ones you’re interested in.

After the seminar, I’m in the lab for the first time this week. I thaw cells and prepare reagents for tomorrow.



It’s a full day in the tissue culture suite today isolating T cell subsets and setting up a proliferation assay. It’s a long day but it goes quickly. Most of the time we work independently in the lab but there are always people around willing to help if we are stuck.



This morning I stain some cells from my proliferation assay for analysis by flow cytometry. In the afternoon, I meet my supervisor again to discuss a grant application I’m going to write for some transcriptomics work.

Finally, we finish the week by celebrating as one of the DPhil students in our group has just completed their viva examination!

The week wasn’t all great: I have to walk home from the lab as my bike has acquired a puncture.