Practical Lab Skills

MSc student using Pipette Our MSc course was specifically designed to include intense practical training. Students will learn skills and techniques directly relevant to assisted reproductive technology (ART), as well as a range of ‘traditional’ and ‘cutting edge’ scientific techniques and procedures. A particular strength of our MSc is the fact that each of our students will be individually trained in gamete manipulation/injection and embryo biopsy using sophisticated, top of the range, micromanipulator systems. For this purpose, students will predominantly use gametes and embryos acquired from respected animal models including zebrafish, sea urchins, frogs (xenopus) and mice. In addition, students will also have the opportunity to manipulate/inject human oocytes procured by the Oxford Fertility Unit that are surplus to clinical requirement.
    
All of the practical skills and techniques acquired during the course will be logged, along with appropriate grading/test results, in a ‘Practical Skills Portfolio’, a document that will be officially authorized by the Course Director and presented to students at the end of the course. 

This Portfolio is likely to prove highly useful for our graduates in terms of future job applications as it forms an official record of individual training in a suite of laboratory, research and clinical skills.

A brief summary of some of the techniques and skills included in our MSc are given below.

BASIC INDUCTION TRAINING

Laboratory health and safety, electronic literature databases, avoiding plaigiarism, essay writing skills, laboratory practical reporting and IT skills evaluation.

Benjamin lab image

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT)

Using the internet as a medical resource, the internet as a learning resource, electronic literature resources (PubMED, Medline, Web of Science), Endnote Reference Manager, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Powerpoint.

LABORATORY METHODS AND PRACTICAL SKILLS
Essential laboratory equipment, essential laboratory procedures, liquid handling, pH and buffers, making solutions, chemistry of solutions, scientific method and experimental design, scientific writing, oral presentation skills.

TRAINING COURSES

(1)  Liquid Handling (provided by Eppendorf, UK)
[Hands-on training using a variety of pipettes/volumes with special emphasis on accuracy and quality control].
(2)  Microscope Skills (provided by Nikon Instruments, UK)
[Hands-on training using a number of different types of light microscope with special emphasis on understanding the principles behind microscope function and the importance of strict set-up procedures to maximize performance].

LABORATORY PRACTICAL CLASSES:
Non-Clinical Modules: extraction of genomic DNA, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), agarose gel electrophoresis, DNA cloning and recombinant DNA technology, purification of plasmid DNA and restriction analysis, immunohistochemistry, histological analysis, fertilization and early embryogenesis in the sea urchin and zebrafish.

Clinical Modules: human semen analysis, cryopreservation, in vitro maturation, embryo/oocyte grading, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, embryo biopsy, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (single cell PCR, aCGH).

OBSERVATION OF CLINICAL TECHNIQUES IN AN IVF UNIT
As an essential part of the course, each student will spend significant time as an observer in the Oxford Fertility Unit shadowing the clinical and scientific staff as they treat patients and carry out ART. 

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOPS

Technology transfer, intellectual property, business management (operations management, teamworking, human resources), statistics, getting research published, patient counseling in IVF (workshop and roleplay). Our students will also have ample opportunity to benefit from the Medical Science Division’s own Skills Training Programme (see http://www.medsci.ox.ac.uk/portal/skillstraining).

All images are copyright of Matthew Lodge 2010