Each year, RCUK give the winner of the ‘RCUK Best Use of Research Prize’ the opportunity to experience a personalised experience of one of our world-class Research Council institutes. This year’s prize winner, Maria Thankachan, whose project examined the Deltex-2 gene, thought to be involved in autism spectrum disorders, chose to visit the Babraham Institute in Cambridge. After returning, we asked Maria a few questions about her visit.
What did you see? Did you see any research? During the morning at the Babraham Institute I got to see mouse embryonic stem cells and also did some lab work which involved characterising cell lines, made by Sarah Elderkin’s group to help understand the control of gene regulation in these cells. Some of the equipment I used was similar to that which I worked with during my Nuffield Research Placement (gel electrophoresis).
Did you meet any researchers? Yes, I met Dr Sarah Elderkin, a group leader in the Nuclear Dynamics programme at the institute. Also in the afternoon I visited the Cancer Research Technology (CRT) labs (which are located on the Babraham Research Campus), where researchers showed me the high-tech equipment and explained what it is used for.
Did you see everything that you expected to see? I saw much more! One thing that stood out for me was CRT’s Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer; it was huge! This was particularly exciting to see, as I have recently covered it in my classes.
Did you learn anything on your visit? I learnt about the extensive research that takes place within the CRT labs. I was also able to see how the NMR machine works. The whole experience showed me how vast the research world is and this has inspired me to find out more about the things I saw and about cancer research. I was excited about getting home, as I had so much to speak to my friends about!
What were your most enjoyable experiences of the day? Seeing embryonic stem cells was amazing, as it is a rare sight for an A-level student!
Would you consider working as a researcher following this trip? Why? Yes I will definitely consider pursuing a career in research in the future (perhaps through an intercalated medical degree). The visit has made me realise how much of a lasting impact a researcher can have on people’s lives and the lives of future generations