Like every year, over a week in the summer, the Venkitaraman laboratory hosted high school students at the MRC Cancer Unit. Here’s what the students had to say about their visit:
Hills Road Sixth Form College Students’ Venkitaraman Laboratory Visit, Summer 2019
We are 6 students from Hills Road Sixth Form College, and this is our experience of a week in the Venkitaraman Laboratories at the Hutchison/MRC Cancer Unit, a Research Centre located in Addenbrooke’s hospital. Academically, we were pushed hard to understand mechanisms behind cancer, particularly arising out of the BRCA2 mutation. We were taught cutting edge lab techniques, having to draw from knowledge of Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Maths to understand the concept behind the procedures. Each day we were immersed in the basics of a complicated lab technique and have all walked away inspired by research. We loved the friendly vibe the lab had and the diversity of staff. This is our account of the week:
Lauren: I am a year 12 student and hope to study Natural Sciences at Uni, with a focus on Biology. Iwould like to pursue a career in research – particularly cancer research. I study Chemistry, Physics and Biology. I found my broad range of science subjects very applicable to the lab/equipment, allowing me to understand some of the more complicated procedures. This is helpful in the future where the lines between the sciences blur – a multidisciplinary science background is a growing necessity in the research world. I enjoyed learning the mechanisms of some of the general causes of cancer, applying my own previous research from my EPQ (about the link between cancer and obesity) to what I was learning at the lab. I learnt causes of cancer such as the BRCA2 mutation and how it works, broadening my knowledge on cancer past my direct area of interest to other fascinating areas. Overall, I really enjoyed the experience and got to see what my future career could look like. I met some great people and am feeling even more enthusiastic about my subject.
Eden: I applied for this work experience week as I had been interested in studying Biochemistry then further pursuing a research career in Molecular Biology (with a focus on cancer). During this week, I really feel that my lab confidence has greatly improved. We carried-out some rather complex practical experiments, and my knowledge within the field of Cancer Biology has dramatically increased as we focused heavily on experiments investigating the BRCA2 mutations.
Holly: I’m currently studying Biology, Chemistry, and Double Maths at Hills Road Sixth Form College. I had some previous work experience in the Oncology Department at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and upon realising that I really had no clue what really happened within ‘research’,I decided I wanted to find out! Prior to this week I had the typical view of labs – everyone’s working on something world-changing and nobody talks. This week really showed me just how much work goes into finding the knowledge we take for granted. I never would have dreamed just how complex BRCA2 mutations can be! It’s been a real eye-opening experience and I really feel like I’ve gained a better understanding of scientific research and procedures.
Rachel: I applied to the MRC Cancer Unit Summer placement in order to find out more about the research being done on how genes can link to predisposition to cancer. I have undertaken an Extended Project this year focusing on understanding the results of genomic tests, including those which identify BRCA2 variants. It was interesting to see how researchers look for functions of the BRCA2 gene and how mutations lead to disease. I enjoyed the practical activities throughout the week observing proteins involved in DNA damage and repair using a confocal microscope. The placement also provided me with invaluable advice on opportunities for research in Medicine, from studying for an intercalated degree to doing a PhD.
Roshni: I applied for this placement as I want to pursue a career in Medicine and perhaps even develop my career so that it involves both the worlds of Medicine in hospitals and research in labs. My time in the Cancer Unit opened my eyes to the world of Molecular Biology, and the complexities and broad depth of research in the field of Cancer Biology. I left the placement with more depth and knowledge than my biology A level course has to offer about BRCA2 mutations and breast cancer, a condition which my aunt suffered heavily from.
Charlotte: I signed up for this course due to my interest in Genetics. As a student who hopes to read Medicine, I was particularly interested by the topic of cancer, a disease which will inevitably be a big part of a future medical career; understanding both the patient and research ends of the spectrum I find to be increasingly important for making scientific advances. The information I learned about the BRCA2 gene this week has been particularly fascinating and has further substantiated my passion for medicine.