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Elli's blog

We're all mad here..

Of Work, Art, and a little Biophysics

Once you’ve walked into the main entrance of Addenbrooke’s Hospital and to the left of the turning out of the main concourse towards “All Wards and Departments” there is a mural by Quentin Blake, the artist well known for the illustrations of Roald Dahl’s story collection and David Walliams weird books. (Roald Dahl is a particularly good childrens author whom I personally rather like.)
This mural is a collection of important science or medical events in the history of England, including the founding of Cambridge (obviously, since that’s where Addenbrooke’s is based), Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory, and the discovery of the structure of DNA. Ready to be rightfully angry at the erasure of female contributions to science, I was pleasantly surprised to see that, contrary to my expectations, the illustration was far more accurate to history than my biology lessons ever were. Rosalind Franklin is standing with a microscope perched on the double helix, with Watson lounging with a beer and Crick waving a piece of paper. Kudos to you, Mr Blake!
Thank you for acknowledging that Franklin, an extremly talented biophysicist, was not only involved but instrumental in the discovery of the now well known structure of DNA. As a Physicist and a woman, I feel gratified that her work has not been discounted or erased just because she didn’t have boy bits.
(I get angry about things, I rant. I won’t apologise, because erasure happens, and that is something that people should get angry about. If you’re interested about Rosalind Franklin and her awesomeness as a female scientist, please visit this site or search her up on Google.)

The reason I noticed the mural by Mr Blake is because I have started walking past it every weekday on my way to work. Yes, I have managed to procure work over the summer, huzzah! It’s unpaid work experience, but honestly, I’m quite enjoying just having something to do, even though the travelling is expensive, and really really tiring.
I am currently working in the Medical Physics Radiotherapy Department at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Radiotherapy is the use of radiation to treat areas of the body, such as tumours. (More on this after I’ve spent a bit longer there..) Obviously, as an untrained and unexperienced work experience student, I am not allowed to do anything involving patients, but I am allowed to observe, and I have been given some projects to work on.. Basically things that would be nice to have (and make the department more efficient if I do it right) but no one else has time to work on.
One of my projects is a data sort (which I successfully completed this morning after puzzling and stressing over it for a week, hooray!). So I have a database, from which I have extracted the relevant information, and then, after fighting with Excel for a week, I have managed to match all of the relevant conditions and extract the relevant data. It’s been a very interesting, if slightly stressful, project, and one of the things that has made it more interesting is the different environment that I am working in. A work environment is completely different to school or Uni, because once your project has been given to you, you go off and do it. You are in control. I mean, as long as I met my supervisor’s conditions, he was okay with however I did it. It was up to me to do any research I needed, ask the relevant people for help (thank you, Andy-the-Software-Engineer, for steering me away from Visual Basic, and Jenny-down-the-hall, for telling me to stop over-complicating my formulae) and, really, it was a nice project because I didn’t have a deadline (except my ‘I’m not working past this date because I’ve finished work experience’ deadline, which doesn’t really count).

My colleagues (woooaah, I have colleagues!) are very very nice to me, and have only sent me on the milk run once (and even then I volunteered cos everyone looked stressed and like they might need multiple cups of tea). I even have my own desk (!!) and a badge that lets me in to the department! It’s possibly the most exciting thing about the whole experience, really.. Though my computer is one of the oldest (I’m pretty sure in the hospital, let alone the department) and sounds like it’s gonna take off every time I ask it to do something, it does make one feel like a part of something to be able to walk in, smile at the other people in the office, and sit down at one’s own computer.
Maybe one day it’ll actually be mine.

2 comments

  1. aendr kerr says:

    Work experience is a very good way of finding out what aspects of work you like, and what you don’t. Sounds like you have a good one. And yay, acknowledged female scientist!

    (Apparently word press thinks I am posting comments too quickly and I should slow down. I am quick at reading and typing, so…?)

  2. Muhammad Goni says:

    Good job elli

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