My exciting two weeks with PEARG

By Aiswarya Sankar

I was so excited when my nomination for a work integrated learning at the Pest & Environmental Adaptation Research Group (PEARG) was accepted. I had never been to a work integrated learning before and as a Diploma in Lab Techniques student at RMIT, it was a fantastic opportunity for me to spend two weeks at The University of Melbourne. This was an opportunity to gain experience about a new research area which I was unaware of and understand the laboratory setups required in that space. The excitement soon was overcome by nervousness as I kept thinking about the two weeks. However, I was fortunate to get Nancy Endersby as my WIL Supervisor. Our initial correspondence was through email and Nancy provided clear guidance and walked me through all the pre-joining formalities.  A bit of paperwork, IT work and some reading, I was ready for Day One.

The onboarding experience on Day One was made simple and interesting by all the PEARG colleagues. Nancy had a very practical plan and schedule for the two weeks, and I really liked the structured format as it provided good clarity on my tasks. My induction included a guided tour of the Molecular Lab, Live Insects Lab, the equipment, and safety features. I was introduced to my other mentors Ashley, Monica, Courtney, and Alex. They guided me through different sections of the lab including Aphids, Pesticides, Shade House etc. It was a different world indeed and my mentors ensured that I was setup for success.

Over the course of next 9 days, I worked across in multiple areas and went through a lot of learning. It was a revelation for me as I was not aware of the amount of research being done in the field of Pest and Environmental Adaptation (which is just one area of research). I could understand that these research studies and analysis had a significant impact on our environment and sustainability. All my mentors and colleagues were extremely knowledgeable in their area of research and by assisting them in lab work, I was able to expand my knowledge in the areas including PCR, Agarose Gel Electrophoresis, Maintenance, Transfer (Aphid and Drosophila colony), DNA Extraction etc. 

My professors from RMIT came over for a visit and they were satisfied and happy with the progress and learning. Apart from the learning, I was able to network and connect with other colleagues which is an invaluable experience. The work environment at the PEARG is very addictive. I was always around a group of very focussed and committed individuals working as a team towards a common objective. The team (Nancy, Ashley, Monica, Courtney, Alex, Qiong, WenJuan, Xinyue, Eloise, Jing, and Jade) were extremely welcoming, helpful and a joy to work with.

As I head back to RMIT for completing my Diploma, I can look back at this two-week experience and say that it was amazing. I would cherish the learning and the connects I have made.

Thank you team at PEARG.