New Challenges with Public Health England

Daniel Yara, a University of East Anglia PhD student, was keen to experience research in a non-academic setting and therefore choose to complete his PIPs internship with Public Health England (PHE). Daniel found his internship by contacting a visiting speaker from PHE and through a further link via his supervisor. Daniel’s PhD is very wet-lab based, so he was keen to diversify and his project with PHE ended up being bioinformatic related. His main aims during his PIPs internship were to learn new skills and to gain a better understanding of PHE, both of which he achieved.

The main objective of Daniel’s project with PHE was to analyse Shiga toxin-encoding prophages of difference Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) clinical isolates and analyse whether the location and genomic architecture of the Stx-encoding bacteriophages differed or were the same.  To achieve this Daniel had to:

  • Learn how to use Linux/Unix on a command-line interpreter.
  • Isolate genomic STEC DNA and prepare the samples for sequencing on the Oxford Nanopore minion.
  • Process the sequenced samples using bioinformatic programmes to obtain complete assemblies of each genome.  This data was then used to find and compare the Shiga toxin-encoding prophages between samples.

Daniel is very positive about the benefits of his internship with PHE having gained many new transferrable skills.  Daniel felt that his biggest ‘gain’ from the internship was an increase in his confidence to tackle new subject areas and approaches.  During his internship Daniel had to undertake new challenges, learn new skills, network and work with different people in new work situations.  The scientific outcomes were successful and the results from his project will hopefully be published and as he has already begun to write a literature review and in introduction to a paper.   He also now feels that he understands better how this sector operates, its competitors and the broader environment in which it operates.

 Daniel’s advice to future PIPs students is to, “choose wisely how to spend their three months as it can benefit your career prospects and be open in doing something that you wouldn’t normally do or which you feel is out of your depths.”