For the last two weeks, 14 A-level students have joined the MRC WIMM for our annual work experience programme. The programme is run in partnership with in2scienceUK, a charity that specialises in organising STEM placements for under-represented students.
12 research groups from across the MRC WIMM and the MRC Human Immunology Unit and MRC Molecular Haematology Unit participated in this year's programme. Each student was assigned to a specific research group, embedding themselves in the research and life of a specific team. They were under the watchful guard and supervision of a mentor but could also shadown and work other members of the lab.
During the two weeks with us, the students got an opportunity to observe and try out a variety of research techniques, from simple pipeppting to flow cytometry and imaging. The range of research topics was also diverse, from ovarian cancer to neuromuscular disorders.
Alongside their lab work, the students had a range of extra sessions, that exposed them to the main research themes in our institute and gave them an opportunity to think about scientific topics outside the research of their assigned lab. To encourage the students to consider the wider research landscape and the various pressures on scientific research, our MRC Human Immunology Unit organised a session where the students played the role of scientists, government and pharmaceutical companies, and had to decide in which vaccines to invest $5 billion.
Meanwhile our MRC Molecular Haematology Unit organised a session on the haematopoietic lineage. The session included a card game to consolidate main concepts, and activities on gene expression and how we diagnose blood cancers, covering the wide range of approaches and angles within the Unit.
In the second week the students learnt how computer modelling and virtual reality are helping us understand how DNA folds in 3D and how gene expression is regulated. The session took place in our Centre for Computational Biology. This was followed by a session organised by our Oncology labs. Prof Adrian Harris gave an insightful and thought-provoking talk on medical oncology, followed by fun ways to learn about endonucleases, DNA repair, hereditary maps and cancer immunotherapy.
The two weeks concluded with a poster presentation and certificate ceremony. We wish all the best to our students and thank everyone across the MRC WIMM who participated in this project!