A Year in the Lab: Identifying Bacterial Collection

After spending my first week re acquainting myself with important techniques I will need for identifying, this week I began working through the collection of samples. As I was working as a lab demonstrator on Monday and Tuesday, I had to carefully plan my week in order to utilise my time effectively.

Monday 21st October

After demonstrating, I started my own work at around 5pm, by making up more MacConkey agar, autoclaving and pouring agar plates for tomorrow. I left these to dry completely before inverting and leaving them to dry further at 15ºC overnight.

Tuesday 22nd October 

Like Monday I began my own work at around 5pm, by labelling up my MacConkey agar plates with my initials, the date, the sample number and MAC (For MacConkey). I then removed my chosen samples from the freezer, allowing them to warm for a few minutes and vortexing each to ensure homogeneity. After photographing and describing the appearance of the samples, I spread plated 50μl of each sample onto individual MacConkey agar plates. I allowed the plates around 15 minutes to absorb the sample, and then incubated them all at 30ºC overnight.

IMG_2879Bacterial samples in the collection

Wednesday 23rd October 

I started the day by making up more MacConkey agar and putting it on to autoclave. I then got my spread plates out of the incubator and began observation. Using the colony counter I carefully observed the plates, took photographs of the whole plate as well as individual colonies and then began to select samples I wanted to Gram stain. As my agar had autoclaved and cooled by this point, I then poured plates and allowed them to set completely before inverting.

100 - Possibly salmonella or proteusLactose negative spread plated sample on MacConkey agar

IMG_3032Observation of spread plated samples on MacConkey agar

Once finished I began to segregate the two batches of samples I had processed into categories. I separated plates into three rough categories: Yellow (Lactose negative), Red (No reaction) and Pink (Lactose positive). Within these categories I ended up with three more specific categories, which allowed me to begin identifying specific organism colony characteristics.

IMG_2921Collection of samples, spread plated on MacConkey agar

I then selected the next set of samples to be spread plated, and as before allowed them to warm before vortexing. Again, I photographed and described the appearance of the samples and spread plated 50μl of each sample onto individual MacConkey agar plates. After allowing the plates time to absorb the sample, I incubated them overnight at 30ºC.

Thursday 24th October

On Thursday my day ran pretty much the same way as Wednesday. Making up and pouring more MacConkey agar plates, observing my incubated spread plates, Gram staining, processing my new chosen samples before spread plating and incubating overnight at 30ºC. I also re evaluated my collection categories, adding my new batch of processed samples and making small tweaks.

IMG_3120Viewing Gram stained samples

Friday 25th October

As it was the end of the week, and I couldn’t continue work over the weekend my day didn’t include production of new MacConkey agar plates and processing of new samples. Instead I got my spread plated plates out of the incubator, carefully observed, took photographs and then Gram stained. After this, I re evaluated my collection categories, adding my new batch of processed samples and ensuring I was happy with the results so far.

Next week…

I am very happy with the progress I have managed to make this week, as I have nearly spread plated all the collection onto MacConkey agar. After continuous daily practise, I feel really comfortable with the techniques required for this part of my project: Agar production, Pouring plating, Heat fixing slides, Gram staining and Spread plating.

I am very glad I took such detailed notes and photos of each plate as this has allowed me to always be able to view any plate, whether I am in the lab or working elsewhere. From this I have managed to start identifying the samples within the collection, both initially in the lab and then more definitely afterwards. I think the categories I have established in order to help me process the collection have worked well and I will continue to use this system as I begin further confirmatory processes.

A Year in the Life…

A Bake in the Life: Sticky Buns

I love watching the Food Network. It never fails to give me new ideas of things to cook, make and bake. My most recent inspiration comes from an episode of Ina Garten‘s Barefoot Contessa series, where Ina recreates recipes she originally produced while running her gourmet food store – Barefoot Contessa. As soon as I saw her make these sticky buns I knew I had to have a go at making them!

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Sticky Buns

You will need:

For the sticky bun sauce:

6oz/180g Softened Butter

1½oz/40g Light Brown Sugar

2oz/50g Chopped Walnuts/Pecans

For the pastry filling:

2 sheets of Puff Pastry

1oz/30g Melted and Cooled Butter

3oz/80g Light Brown Sugar

3 tsp Mixed Spice/Cinnamon

9oz/250g Sultanas

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Let’s get started!

  • Preheat the oven to 200ºC/392ºC/Gas Mark 6.
  • Grease/line a 12 cup muffin/bun tin.

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  • Cream together the softened butter and light brown sugar.

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  • Place a tbsp of the butter/sugar mixture in the bottom of each of the cups.

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  • Sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly among the cups, on top of the butter/sugar mixture.

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  • On a lightly floured chopping board/surface, unroll the puff pastry sheet out flat.

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  • Brush the sheet with half the melted butter, leaving a 2½cm border around the pastry.

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  • Sprinkle the sheet with half of the light brown sugar, sultanas and mixed spice/cinnamon.
  • Roll the pastry up snugly like a Swiss roll.

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  • Trim the ends down by around 1cm and discard.
  • Slice into 6 equal pieces and place spiral side up on top of the butter/sugar inside the tin.

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  • Repeat using the other sheet of puff pastry, to make 12 sticky buns.

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  • Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch.
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes, as the caramel produced at the bottom of the cups will be very hot!
  • You are all done! 🙂

I really enjoyed making these sticky buns! The recipe is simple to follow and the nuts, sultanas and spices can be changed to suit your personal tastes. When you tip the buns out of the muffin tin, the caramel underneath soaks the puff pastry. The puff pastry is flaky and filled with crunchy nuts and soft sultanas which are complimented well by the spice. They taste amazing warm, so after they cooled I heated them up in the microwave to remelt the caramel. I would recommend trying them with ice cream. Definitely have a go at making them!

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A Bake in the Life…

A Craft in the Life: Bunting

Ever since I decided to take textiles for A Level I have really enjoyed designing, making and learning about fashion and textiles production. I have been wanting my own sewing machine for ages but I could never really afford one, or knew which one to buy. So when my parents brought me one for my birthday this year, I couldn’t wait to make something!

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I have made fabric bunting on my mum’s sewing machine before, and when my sister said she would really like some bunting for her university room I thought I would make her some for her birthday. I decided to use two different complimentary fabrics, one purple and one in a cupcake style design, along with purple ribbon.

Lincoln in August 2013 012The first bunting I made, using my mum’s sewing machine

You will need:

Fabric(s) of your choice (The amount you will need is based on the size of your bunting triangles. For mine, I brought half a metre of each, and that was more than enough to make 2m of bunting. Just remember to be careful where you place the template to minimise fabric loss)

Ribbon of your choice (Again this depends on the size of your bunting triangles. For mine, 1m made a small section of bunting 4 flags long, while 2m made a longer section of bunting 8 flags long)

Paper template (This can be made by hand to suit your personal needs. I made mine around 12cmX12cmX12cm, with a 1cm border seam allowance)

Sewing machine

Thread that matches your chosen fabric/ribbon colours

Scissors

Pins

Let’s get started!

  • Start by making your paper template, remembering to include a seam allowance of around 1cm.
  • You can either make your bunting triangles 1 layer of fabric thick, or use two layers of fabric. Once you have chosen this, begin by pinning the template to your chosen fabric – Remember to fold the fabric in half to give 2 triangles for every template.

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  • Carefully cut out your triangles, until you have as many as you have decided you want. Approximately 4 for 1m (8 if you are using two layers of fabric) and 8 for 2m (16 if you are using two layers of fabric). If you are using 1 layer of fabric you can do this with pinking shears to give an interesting look!

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  • Pin the 2 layers of fabric, right sides together (If you are only using 1 layer of fabric, skip the next 2 steps*).
  • Stitch the 2 layers of fabric together, leaving the top side open in order to turn the triangle right side out.

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  • Trim the fabric close to the stitch.

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  • Turn the bunting triangles right side out, then iron flat (Rejoin at this step if using 1 layer of fabric*).

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  • Laying your chosen length of ribbon out, place your triangles where you would like them to be and pin in place.

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  • Carefully fold the top of the bunting triangle, so that the fabric is neat on the ribbon and re pin in place.  If you are only using 1 layer of fabric, skip this step.

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  • Stitch the bunting triangles neatly to the ribbon, trimming any excess fabric that overlaps the ribbon.

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  • You are all done! 🙂

I think this fabric bunting is easy to make, looks really good and makes an amazing homemade gift! You can use any fabric you like – all the same, a mixture of two complimentary fabrics or a selection of several fabrics. Brought new from a fabric shop, second hand from a charity shop or from the bottom of your sewing collection! The ribbon choice is variable too – the thickness, colour and style are totally up to you and your tastes. You can also decorate the fabric however you like, with buttons, beads or applique.

IMG_3192Finished purple and cupcake design bunting

Even if you don’t think you are much of a sewer or crafter this is a really simple project to get you started, and allows more experienced sewers and crafters to experiment. You can do this without a sewing machine, but it may take longer as you will need to hand stitch each triangle. It may be better to just use 1 layer of fabric, as then you will only need to stitch the bunting triangles to the ribbon. I would definitely recommend giving this fabric bunting a go!

A Craft in the Life…

A Year in the Lab: Getting Started in the Lab!

After the initial period of supervisor meetings, filling in what seemed like every form under the sun, plenty of literature research and getting together a good starting plan I finally got to start working in the lab! As a postgraduate research student in the field of Biomedical and Medical Science, I am based in the University of Lincoln‘s microbiology and molecular biology postgraduate research lab. I have been in this lab before, but only ever under supervision, so it was really fun if not slightly scary to be able to work there unsupervised!

After my initial literature research and discussion with my supervisor, my research work begins with further classification of a collection of bacterial samples that were collected and stored by a MScRes student last year. These samples were collected in Lincoln from waste water, post treatment and analysed for antibiotic resistance along with genotypic analysis by PCR. The collection remains phenotypically unclassified and therefore is the starting point of my research.

IMG_2722University of Lincoln postgraduate research lab

Wednesday 16th October

I began my work in the lab by observing the collection of samples (Currently stored in the freezer as glycerol stocks), describing their appearance, taking photos and making a note of the amount of samples in the collection. The previous work conducted on the collection should mean that I am working with a collection of samples that contain a variety of Gram negative Enterobacteriace.

IMG_2731Bacterial sample collection in glycerolIMG_2739Individual samples in the collection

In order to observe the bacterial samples, obtain single colonies and begin classification of the collection of samples, I began by making up MacConkey agar plates. I am using MacConkey agar as it allows the growth of Gram negative organisms and the differentiation of lactose fermenting bacteria from non lactose fermenting bacteria.

How to make up MacConkey agar

  • To begin with, weigh out an appropriate amount of MacConkey agar powder into an appropriate sized conical flask (You can calculate this based on the production information on the side of the container, and on how many agar plates you require).

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  • Dissolve the powder gradually in distilled water.

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  • Using cotton wool, plug the top of the flask, cover with grease-proof paper and seal this with autoclave tape. Make sure to label with your initials and the content of the flask, for example MAC (For MacConkey agar).

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  • Autoclave the agar for 45 minutes at 121ºC.

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  • When it is finished, remove the flask carefully and allow it to cool until comfortable to the touch.

 

How to pour agar plates

  • Begin by setting up an aseptic work space.

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  • Ensure you have empty plates, a bunsen burner flame and flask of molten agar within reach.
  • Remove the paper and cotton wool, and briefly flame the neck of the flask.
  • Begin to pour the plates in stacks according to your preference, gently swirling between pours to ensure even coverage and prevent bubbles (How many plates you pour at a time is up to you, I have small hands and therefore pour 5 at a time!).
  • Allow them to cool completely before inverting.
  • Clean the flask out with hot water to prevent any remaining agar from solidifying.
  • I allowed the plates to dry overnight at 18ºC.

Although I haven’t ever used MacConkey agar before and have limited experience in pouring plates I found the process fairly simple and problem free. However, during this first plate production I learnt several very important tips. Firstly, remember to dissolve the powder slowly and carefully in order to prevent clumping and burning during autoclave. When removing the cotton wool remember to twist as you remove, as this prevents cotton wool from sticking to the rim of the flask and burning when being flamed before use. Make sure the plates are inverted to prevent excessive moisture forming on the surface of the agar, as this can interfere with bacterial growth.

IMG_2726MacConkey plates are a really nice colour when poured 🙂

Thursday 17th October

I began by removing my MacConkey agar plates and selected bacterial samples from storage, allowing them to reach room temperature before use. I also vortexed the samples individually, to ensure they were as homogeneous as possible before spread plating. After labeling my plates with my initials, the date and sample identification number, I spread plated 50µl of each sample onto individual agar plates. Once spread I allowed the plates to absorb the sample for around 15 minutes before inverting and incubating at 30ºC for 24 hours.

During my undergraduate degree I had the opportunity to spread plate, so I was familiar with the process and therefore found it pretty easy and problem free. One problem I did have was more to do with the consistency of the samples. Even after vortexing some samples contained very large pellets and this made it very difficult, if not almost impossible to remove 50µl of sample. I made a note of these samples as I went, so that I can refer back if growth is subsequently effected.

How to spread plate

  • Begin by setting up an aseptic work space.
  • Ensure you have spreaders, an appropriate pipette, pipette tips, waste bucket, samples, and labelled plates within reach.
  • Using your pipette, take your required amount of sample and disperse it onto the surface of the plate.
  • Dispose of the tip in the waste.
  • Using a spreader, spread the liquid evenly across the plate.

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  • Dispose of the spreader in the waste (Unless you are using a reusable spreader).
  • Allow the sample to absorb into the plate for around 15 minutes before inverting and incubating appropriately (This will depend on your sample/plate).

IMG_2771Sleep tight plates!

Friday 18th October

I started the day by removing my plates from the incubator, and observing them using the colony counter. Although I wasn’t counting colonies, this gave me a good backing light in order to observe the plates. Working through the plates I made detailed notes, took photos of the plates and began to group similar looking plates/colonies together.

IMG_2815Selection of observed plates

Once finished, I selected a few plates with single colonies and interesting growth to heat fix onto a slide and Gram stain. As the collection should contain Gram negative bacteria, I used the Gram stain as a way to ensure this was the case and to view individual cell morphology.

How to heat fix a slide

  • Begin by setting up an aseptic work space.

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  • Ensure you have blank microscope slides, water, plates and a wire loop within reach.
  • Start by sterlising your wire loop in the blue bunsen flame (Ensuring you sterlise as much as the wire as possible).
  • Allow to cool then place 1/2 drops of water in the centre of the slide.
  • Sterlise the wire loop, before taking a single colony of your chosen sample and spreading it thinly and evenly in the water on the slide.
  • Sterlise your wire loop before laying it on the bench.
  • Keeping the slide close to the bunsen, or holding the slide above the flame (Making sure it doesn’t get too hot!) allow the water to evaporate.

How to Gram stain

  • Make sure you are wearing gloves, as the chemicals used during Gram staining can stain the skin.
  • Place your heat fixed slide on the bars over a sink. If you are using more than one slide, make sure the slides aren’t touching, as this can allow stains to move from slide to slide.
  • Apply crystal violet to the slide for approximately 30 seconds (This allows staining of Gram positive organism’s thick peptidoglycan wall, giving them a purple colour).
  • Rinse well with tap water.
  • Apply iodine to the slide for approximately 30 seconds (This binds crystal violet ensuring it remains within the cell wall in Gram positive organisms – it sometimes appears black on the slide).
  • Rinse well with tap water.
  • Rinse the slide with ethanol until it runs clear, around 10 seconds (This allows rapid decolourisation of the sample, as Gram positive organisms have a thick peptidoglycan wall and have been treated with iodine, the crystal violet is not removed. However as Gram negative organisms have an outer membrane with a thinner peptidoglycan wall beneath, they are decolourised – so don’t be worried if all the staining is washed off!)
  • Rinse well with tap water.
  • Apply safranin to the slide for approximately 2 minutes (This allows staining of Gram negative’s thinner peptidoglycan wall, giving them a pink colour).
  • Dry the slide before use (If you are too heavy handed you can rub your stained sample off the slide – so be careful!).

IMG_2822Gram staining

Microscopy

The slides were then observed under kholer illumination at X1000 oil immersion magnification.

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All the samples I Gram stained were Gram negative, rod shaped organisms, which was consistent with what was expected of the collection. I have heat fixed slides and Gram stained many times before, so I found these processes very simple and easy to complete.

48 - x1000 magGram stained sample at X1000 oil immersion demonstrating the individual Gram negative rod shaped cells

This was taken down the microscope on my phone, so apologies for the quality! I should be getting to use the microscope camera soon, so hopefully better quality photos 🙂

A Year in the Life…

A Day in the Life: Forms, Forms, Forms!

When I began my first blog during my final year dissertation project I wrote a section on the many forms that need to be completed before you can start work in the lab. Naturally they are all very important and are essential in any research, but they can be very daunting if you haven’t completed them before. We were lucky enough to be supplied with sample forms and detailed information on how to fill them out when we began our final year dissertation projects, which really helped! Now I have completed a fair few of these forms I thought I would share my experiences and tips for those who need some guidance.

While these lab based forms are less of a mystery to me, I now have another set of forms that are essential for MSc research to get to grips with! At the University of Lincoln these forms are known as GS (Graduate School) forms. So far I have been introduced to GS1, 2, 3 and 4, so I thought I would explain a bit about the purpose of these forms are and how they are completed.

formsForms, forms, forms!

Research Forms:

COSHH (Control of substances hazardous to health)

COSHH forms are filled out for every procedure that is to be conducted in the lab, and therefore are constantly being updated based on where your research is heading. The first part of this form involves listing the chemical/biological agents, the quantities that are to be used, their physical forms and most importantly the dangers of their use. While the second part of this form is based on the hazard and exposure potential of the agents and a final containment level. This is an important stage as it ensures that you are aware of the hazards associated with any chemical/biological agent to be used and allows you to properly think about suitable safety procedures that need to be in place, including first aid and disposal after use.

How to fill out the form:

At the University of Lincoln you start by filling in your details and those of your supervisor. You then need to identify and describe the procedure you are going to be completing. This can be very specific (Such as, Gram staining) or more broad (Such as, identifying a collection of unknown samples).

COSHH form 1Example of COSHH form, including details of yourself, your supervisor, project and procedure to be conducted 

You will then need to identify the chemicals/biological agents you will be using, the maximum amount you will be using, hazard category/microbial category, physical form and hazard rating.

  • The chemicals and their amounts will be based on your own methods/procedure plans. For example, when Gram staining although you would only be using a few drops of each chemical, as you would be using the chemical straight from the bottle the amount is 20ml. This is because you would be exposed to the whole stock bottle, not just the few drops.
  • In order to find a chemical’s hazard category you can look on the side of the chemical bottle/container for symbols/information, look for a company that sells the chemical and check it’s safety information, or use the material safety data sheet (MSDS). If you are unsure what certain hazard symbols mean there are lots of sources you can use, like this one from Sigma Aldrich. Microbial category is based on the danger of each organism to health and therefore is related to the biohazard level laboratory in which they can be used. Here we are using Escherichia coli which is a category 2 organism.
  • The physical form of most agents will be self explanatory based on the bottle/container in which they are stored.
  • The hazard rating is determined by the hazard categories. For example, a low hazard rating is given to an agent that has no classification, medium for agents that are classed as harmful or irritant, high for agents that are classed as toxic, corrosive, flammable, and extreme for agents that are classed as carcinogen, teratogen, pathogenic.

COSHH form 2Example of chemical/biological agents used, quantities, hazard category, physical form and hazard rating

For chemicals/microbiological agents that have a high or extreme hazard rating, more specific details are required to ensure safety.

  • Exposure potential is calculated as low, medium or high based on quantity of agent being used, physical form and containment. In this case, as we are using a reasonably small amount of each chemical, they are all liquid and are contained in sealed bottles the exposure potential is low.
  • Possible routes of entry are then identified, including skin, eyes, inhalation and ingestion.
  • Frequency of use should then be determined, as either seldom (Less than once a week), daily (Once a day) or frequent (Several times a day).
  • Length of exposure should be noted, based on how long the chemical/biological agent will be handled, for example: a few minutes, 30 minutes or 2 hours.
  • Finally containment level is identified for the procedure by cross referencing hazard from most hazardous agents (In this case low) and exposure potential (In this case low). This results in a final result of low or 1.

COSHH form 3Specific details for high risk agents, including exposure potential, possible routes of entry, frequency of use, length of exposure and final containment level for procedure

The final section of a COSHH form is concerned with identifying personal protective equipment required, first aid for all possible routes of entry and waste disposal of chemical/microbiological agents.

COSHH form 4Personal protective equipment, first aid and waste disposal for chemical/microbiological agents 

This information can be found on most MSDS forms or in your laboratory’s safety/waste disposal measurements and procedures. The form is then signed by yourself and your supervisor, and given to the laboratory’s manager to keep on file. A copy should be kept for your own reference and for inclusion in dissertation/final write up.

Risk Assessment 

Risk assessment forms are used to list all the hazards that are associated with any equipment intended for use during a specific activity or procedure. Scores for probability of loss/injury and severity of loss/injury are calculated and initial controls are noted. Control measures which can be put in place to reduce risk from the hazard are then described. Scores for probability of loss/injury and severity of loss/injury can then be re calculated, including frequency of use. A final risk rating can then be assigned to each hazard, and an overall risk assessment value given to the activity/procedure. Risk assessment forms are important as they allow you to properly identify any hazards that may occur during your research and implement appropriate control measures to help minimise risks.

Risk assessment 1Example of a completed risk assessment form

Similar to COSHH forms, at the University of Lincoln the form is completed first with your details and those of your supervisor. The activity/procedure you are going to be completing should then be described. Hazards should then be identified based on the equipment to be used, examples of these include: autoclave, microtome, microscope, centrifuge. A score from 1-4 for probability of loss/injury (1 being unlikely and 4 being very likely) and for severity of loss/injury (1 being minor and 4 being fatal) is then given for all hazards. Initial control measures should also be noted as either none, part or full.

Appropriate control measures are then described, and both the probability and severity of loss/injury are re assessed, including the frequency of use (1 being seldom and 4 being frequent use). Using these re assessed scores a final risk rating is calculated for each hazard. The highest of these risk ratings is then used to give the activity/procedure an overall risk assessment score of low, medium, high and very high. Based on this score, degree of risk acceptability can be determined. A lower score is considered acceptable in terms of risk while a higher score may be considered unacceptable in terms of risk and will need to be reviewed and modified urgently to ensure safety.

The form is then signed by yourself and your supervisor, and given to the laboratory’s manager to keep on file. A copy should be kept for your own reference and for inclusion in dissertation/final write up.

Ethics 

Ethics forms are used to ensure that all ethical and social considerations have been properly assessed prior to starting research. Questions range from the use of animal tissue, to the physical/psychological effect of research on both yourself and others you may be working with. At the University of Lincoln there are a series of forms that, depending on the nature of your research, may or may not be applicable to you. EA1 is generally for library/desk/lab/studio based work, where ethical and social implications are at a minimum. While EA2 and EA3 deal with research that involves working living human participants/ tissue and living animals/tissue. As my work does not deal with living human participants/tissue or living animals/tissue, I have only completed a EA1 form and therefore will only be working through this form.

Ethics forms 1Example of a completed EA1 ethics form, including details of yourself, your supervisor and project description 

At the University of Lincoln the EA1 form begins with filling in your details, your University details, list of supervisor(s) and the nature of your research/procedure.

Ethics forms 2Ethical checklist

The rest of the ethics form is a series of questions that address’ both ethical and social factors in research. If all questions are answered with NO, you and your supervisor just need to sign the form and give it to your institutes ethical supervisor. However if any questions are answered with YES, you either need to complete a EA2/3 or wait until you have the ethics committee board’s approval to conduct your research. As before, a copy should be kept for your own reference and for inclusion in dissertation/final write up.

Project materials and service requirements requisition

Request forms are fairly self explanatory, in that they are simply a list of the consumables and equipment you require for your research that either need to be gathered together or ordered. As expected these forms need to be filled in as soon as possible, as things do take a while to be gathered together and ordered. At the University of Lincoln, request forms require the consumable item name, amount needed, catalogue code and price. While the equipment section requires item name and amount needed.

Request form 1Example of request form

At the University of Lincoln completing this form begins with filling in your details and your supervisor’s details, project description/title and start date. The rest of the form is fairly simple, listing the consumables you need to purchase/pay for and any lab equipment or instruments you require. The form is then signed by yourself and your supervisor, and given to the laboratory’s manager to keep on file. A copy should be kept for your own reference and for inclusion in dissertation/final write up.

MSc Research Forms:

GS1

When you first request application forms or create an online account (As I mentioned in my ‘How to find a masters’ post) for the University of Lincoln, you will complete a GS1 form. This form is Lincoln’s official postgraduate application form, and has sections including: personal information, nationality, contact details, qualifications/experience, course selection, personal statement/research description, references and any supporting documents. I found this form very easy to complete as it is very similar to many other application forms, and Lincoln’s online account system offers advice as well as a FAQ section.

GS1GS1: Online account for the University of Lincoln, postgraduate application

GS2

After you submit your GS1 application form, and are short listed for study by members of academic staff you will be invited to attend an interview with at least two members of staff, most likely your proposed supervisor and second supervisor/s. After this interview, the members of staff will complete a GS2 form, which is known as an interview decision form. If you successful this form will then be used in your initial enrollment.

GS2GS2: Selection decision record form

GS3

The GS3 is known as the confirmation of programme of study form, and is completed a few months into your research. This allows you time to begin initial research work, finalise your project direction/plan and describe recent literature in your field of study. The form includes: a brief 100 word description of your planned research in lay terms, a more detailed 1000 word statement of your research, research methodology and key milestones, details of resources/facilities required and recent reference literature in your field of study. You will need to start thinking about submitting your GS3 form around 3 months after you enroll (If you are completing your masters part time then you will have a bit longer, while for a PhD you have until around 6 months). As I have only been enrolled since September I will need to submit my GS3 form around December.

I have started to complete this form, and am finding it fairly self explanatory with no major problems so far. The graduate school at Lincoln offer a training session on how to complete the GS3 form, which offers more information and tips. If you are finding it difficult you can also ask your supervisor for advice, speak to another postgraduate student who has already completed the form or speak to your postgraduate support staff!

GS3GS3: Confirmation of programme of study

GS4

The GS4 form is used as a record of consultation between research student and supervisor throughout study. It has a section for you and your supervisor’s details, and then space for details of your meeting. Starting with a summary of your current work, ethical issues that may need to be discussed, summary of advice and ending with action agreed and a proposed date for your next meeting. The form is then signed by both you and your supervisor. When and how much you meet your supervisor is up to you and your supervisor individually, so the amount of GS4 forms completed during your study will vary. However, the GS4 form is important to ensure that meetings are taking place and that a record is kept of any plans made between you and your supervisory team. A copy should be kept for your own reference, another given to every member of the supervisory team and a copy given to your College office.

GS4GS4: Record of consultation between research student and supervisor  

A Day in the Life…