Katie & Sophie Work Experience Blog

Hi, our names are Kate and Sophie and we are A level students from Wath Comprehensive School in Rotherham doing our work experience here in the geography department. As we are both looking to do environmental sciences at university, this week has provided us with valuable knowledge and experience of the course at Sheffield and university life.

On the first day after introductions to the staff in the department took place, we went to speak to Professor Peter Jackson and assisted him in his research towards food safety and consumer attitudes. This proved to be a very insightful experience into what research professors do and how they are written.

The next day involved assisting in research again, this time for Dr Daniel Hammett, focusing on higher education; we compiled a document of all the relevant articles and managed to read some interesting insights into the world’s education systems. Located outside the building is a small allotment which we watered and weeded.

On Wednesday (the hottest day of the year) we went to the Western Bank library in order to do research of our own, which helped with our current studies at 6th form as well as allowing us to look at areas of our own interests which would help with our future studies. We looked through the ecology and plant biology sections and even managed to find a geography book in German for Sophie who is currently studying the language. Professor Edward Rhodes showed us the luminescence labs. Here he was doing interesting research into geology around fault lines from China and Azerbaijan. The rest of the day was spent doing office work but it allowed us to see the different modules available.

Thursday was the most exciting day as we were allowed to take part in an experiment with Dr Andy Dean. We tested the Western Park pond for plankton and identified the different genera and species in order to find if the pond was toxic as a result of bacteria. After taking our samples we used the centrifuge to isolate the plankton and identified the different species. We also added ethanol to the plankton in order to extract the chlorophyll-α and used a spectrometer to calculate the trophic state of the pond. In just a couple of hours we were able to determine that the pond was hypereutrophic – simply put highly nutrient rich, and was dominated by the green algae scenedesmus spp. and the daphnia (water flea). We found no bacteria which produces the toxins so the pond is safe!

Our last day included a campus tour around the whole university where we got to see outside of the geography department and managed to see all over the university campus. This meant a trip to the top of the arts tower (78m high) using the paternoster and a look round the Alfred Denny museum.

We would especially like to thank all the staff in C15a for making us feel welcome this week and to all the academic staff in the department for kindly giving up their time to show us around. All the staff were willing to answer our questions and this week has encouraged us even further to study environmental science at university.

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