Megan Gemmell is a 3rd year undergraduate studying Microbiology at Glasgow Caledonian University. She writes about her experience so far interning with our Projects Team for the summer.

As part of the ScotGrad Life Sciences Internship Programme, IBioIC offered various intern positions to first, second and third year undergraduates, and I was lucky enough to be offered a position on the Projects team. It is a 12-week position which is giving me industry-relevant and exciting work experience which I know will help me in my future career, whatever it may be.

Currently, the work I am assisting with is split into two main areas of focus: looking at the composition of various horticulture items and algae to assist a project called ICT-Biochain; and researching the development opportunities currently available in the Scottish biotechnology sector.

For the ICT-Biochain project, I am helping to complete a database which will contain all of the composition information pertaining to plant derived raw materials produced by a specific region. The chemical breakdown of many items is crucial to measure the value of the waste products which could be introduced into a biotechnological process. This is one of the ways that various industries and countries are aiming to reduce waste, carbon footprint and production costs, and increase productivity, environmental awareness and innovation. For this work, I have been conducting advanced searches on peer-reviewed article databases and also looking through government databases to find the information I require. For example, I had to research the composition of tomatoes, and I found information pertaining to whole raw tomatoes, greenhouse plant waste from tomatoes, and the breakdown of tomato peel. All very different pieces of information, but all very useful.

Researching the Scottish biotechnology development opportunities has been a particularly interesting task for me to work on, as I am learning a lot about the various industries involved. There are many innovative companies that are working together to turn waste materials into something useful, or to utilise them in a different value chain. For instance, the whisky industry in Scotland produces a large amount of co-products that can be used to manufacture sustainable, high-protein animal feeds. Renewable energy, bioprocessing, synthetic biotechnology and marine biotechnology are some of the areas that I have been looking at. This mostly involves looking through news articles, journals and company web pages to get a better picture of what companies and technologies are available in Scotland, and also to find what is currently not available in Scotland. I am consolidating the information I find into a report that will detail what gaps there are in the market, and if there are any up-and-coming technologies or new companies that could fill these gaps. This report will be very useful for IBioIC now and in the future as it will help to inform them about what areas have the most development potential, and where more development is needed.

With each week that goes past, I learn more about how to apply my researching knowledge to my queries. For example, I know how to better streamline my article searches so that I receive fewer and more relevant results. This will be extremely helpful going into my fourth year at university for when I am writing my dissertation and lab reports. I am also improving my time management skills by splitting my days appropriately between my two main focus areas. This internship is allowing for both personal and professional development, highlighting why choosing to do an internship this summer was such a good decision for me.