THURSDAY, 27 AUGUST 2020Aleena and Matthew write: 'During the summer, we were lucky to have the opportunity to complete a 2-week placement at the University of Cambridge via the in2scienceUK programme'.
Aleena and Matthew shadowed PhD students trying to understand how an embryo transforms from a single cell into an organism with complex body shape. They studied different model organisms (non-human species used in the lab to study biological processes) to gain insights into the mechanisms of embryonic development. They explain, 'We worked with zebrafish embryos, using gene expression to tag different cell types'.
Aleena writes of her experience: 'At university, I wish to study Medicine and although I gained hospital-based work experience, I wanted to understand the research aspect of biological sciences, outside of a school laboratory. The placement gave me an opportunity to delve deeper into the research I was reading about in my school textbooks. But more importantly, I got an insight into the life of a scientist and discovered that it wasn’t a strict, repetitive routine. In fact, every day there’s something new to learn and at the end, there’s the exciting prospect of contributing to the scientific community, something the world has never known about!'
'Having never been in a proper lab before I had no idea what our experience would be like. Our placement gave me the opportunity to experience the life of a researcher and see what a job in science is like. The skills I learnt will prove to be very useful as I aim to go to University to study Biochemistry. Most importantly I felt at home in the lab and can see myself as a PhD student in the future, something I did not consider prior to this placement.
'We both thoroughly enjoyed our experience and managed to pick up essential lab skills as well as being able to work with more advanced equipment not accessible in school. Being in a lab also gave us the chance to see what science is like outside of school and allowed us to explore our scientific interests. We would highly recommend all students to partake in any summer schools or lab placements you can as they not only look excellent on your personal statement, but it will also provide a fresh perspective on science as a whole'.
'How does a virus hijack its host, and how does a virus make the host ill?
I am curious about diseases and how we can best fight against them, so I wanted to learn more about the life of scientists. I was thrilled to start my placement at the University of Cambridge, where I discovered the field of noroviruses. I was shocked to learn that these tiny viruses are capable of shutting down hospital wards and cause many deaths each year among patients whose immune systems are not as strong, for example the elderly and young children. Yet when a patient is infected with norovirus, there’s not much a doctor can do. There are no cures or drugs available. I learned that to solve such a big problem we need to focus on the molecular level. The first step is to understand what the viral proteins do - which I tried out in the lab, particularly identifying proteins’ cellular localisation using the green fluorescent protein and western blotting. This experience has really shaped my understanding of the medical field, and how important scientific advancements are in developing new technologies'.
If you are interested in getting involved and hosting a student this summer, contact the team at in2scienceUK.org. Artwork by Susannah McLaren