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DMU student helps PHE test coronavirus samples


Biomedical Science student Mikaela Belza has been assisting with COVID-19 testing while on placement with Public Health England (PHE).  

When the second-year student at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) secured her microbiology placement, she initially started working on a research project looking at antibiotic resistant bacteria in the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis. However, since the arrival of the coronavirus in the UK earlier in the year, her placement focus changed to help tackle COVID-19.

Mikaela Belza article image

The 21-year-old from Lincolnshire was recruited into the drive to increase testing, and has been handling samples and assisting in the diagnostic work by ensuring the samples are labelled and processed correctly.

Mikaela said: “It’s been absolutely fascinating to get involved with this. It’s such a pivotal point in our lives and I’ve been able to contribute behind the scenes to tackle this pandemic.

“The samples have been coming in from hospitals across the country, and because there’s such a large amount, it’s vital that we follow the correct process for handling them.

“Working for PHE during this crisis is an opportunity that I’m really grateful for, because it’s quite an unusual experience to have gained while still being a university student. It will definitely be an advantage for the future to have this hands-on experience.”

Mikaela successfully secured the placement with PHE after going through the rigorous application process, with the help of the university’s placement team.

She said: “I feel so lucky to have been able to get a placement with such a big household name and in the field that I want to go into after university.

“I’ve always wanted to study science, but I didn’t think I had the right skillset to be a doctor or a nurse. Biomedical science seemed perfect for me because I still wanted to contribute to science and society, and it’s such a fundamental area.”

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As lockdown measures increased, Mikaela is now working from home and is using the time to focus on her university work. She’s found the remote support from her supervisor particularly helpful: “Our supervisors have set up a WhatsApp group so that we can contact them directly. They have all been so understanding and given us lots of support, which is great if you’re living further away and don’t know who you can contact for help,” she said.

Mikaela shared some of her top tips for working from home: “Make to-do lists of things you need to accomplish, but don’t be too hard on yourself,” she said. “There’s a lot going on at the moment, so don’t add unnecessary pressure.

“Working and studying from home requires a lot of motivation, especially because you’re in an environment you associate with being comfortable, so I find it really helpful to get changed into normal clothes. It might sound silly, but getting out of your pyjamas really does help to make it feel like a normal day,” she added.

Posted on Wednesday 6th May 2020

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