PRACTICAL LAB SKILLS
Our MSc course was specifically designed to include intense laboratory practical training. Students 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 programme is the fact that each of our students are individually trained by Senior Clinical Embryologists from Oxford Fertility in gamete manipulation/injection and laser-assisted embryo biopsy using sophisticated, top of the range, micromanipulator systems. All practical skills and techniques acquired during the taught part of the course are logged, along with appropriate grading/test results, in a ‘Practical Skills Portfolio’, a document that will be officially authorised by the Course Director and made available to students at the end of the course.
This Portfolio represents a very useful resource 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 (but not exclusive) summary of some of the techniques and skills included in our MSc are given below.
LABORATORY METHODS AND PRACTICAL SKILLS
Essential laboratory equipment and procedures, liquid handling, pH and buffers, making solutions, solution chemistry, scientific methodology and experimental design, scientific writing, and oral presentation skills.
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, reproductive histology, reproductive immunohistochemistry, and the developmental biology of zebrafish and chick embryos.
Clinical Modules: human semen analysis, cryopreservation and vitrification, in vitro maturation, sperm DNA fragmentation, embryo/oocyte grading, gamete micromanipulation, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, laser-assisted embryo biopsy, and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (single cell PCR, aCGH).
BASIC INDUCTION TRAINING
Laboratory health and safety, electronic literature databases, avoiding plagiarism, essay writing skills, scientific writing skills, and laboratory practical reporting.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT)
Using the internet as a medical and learning resource, electronic literature resources (e.g., PubMED, Medline, Web of Science), Endnote Reference Manager, and Microsoft PowerPoint.
(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 light and fluorescence microscopes with special emphasis on understanding the principles behind microscope function and the importance of strict set-up procedures to maximize performance].
(3) Essential Statistics and Microsoft Excel (provided by Course Lecturer)
[Two hour workshop designed to teach basic statistics and how to use computer software to perform basic statistical tests and draw graphs/figures]
(4) Recruitment procedures in ART (provided by Consultant Embryologist)
OBSERVATION OF CLINICAL TECHNIQUES IN AN IVF UNIT
As an essential part of the course, each student will spend at least one day as an observer in Oxford Fertility shadowing the clinical and scientific staff as they treat patients and carry out ART.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOPS
Technology transfer and intellectual property, business management (operations management, human resources), statistics, and patient counselling in IVF. In addition, students are directed to the University Careers Service for career advice, writing CVs, and interview skills. The course staff also provide advice on interviewing and CVs, and hold mock interviews to provide our students with valuable experience of the recruitment processes used to select trainee embryologists and candidates for higher degrees (e.g., PhD) and research positions.
Our students also have ample opportunity to benefit from the Medical Science's Division’s own Skills Training Programme