By Joy Aston, in2ScienceUK
In2Science helps young people from low income backgrounds progress to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers with the aim to not only improve social mobility, but also encourage a more diverse and inclusive culture within the sector. We work by leveraging the STEM community to host bespoke two-week work placements, matching students with active researchers in academia and industry. In2scienceUK coordinators also provide all the students with university access workshops and careers guidance.
This year, we ran a blog competition, supported and judged by New Scientist. The winner was Victoria (Harris Sixth Form, South Norwood, Croydon), who worked with Professor Anthony Dickenson from the UCL department Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology. Professor Dickenson works on pain, investigating how sensory messages get from the body to the brain, how drugs alter these processes to relieve pain and how pain is a sensory and emotional event. The techniques Victoria explored during her placement included neuronal activity measures, pharmacological studies and anatomical approaches.
Getting In2Science by Victoria T
Sensation and pain are the body’s ways of communicating and in most cases telling us when something is wrong. So, if a venomous insect was to bite you and you didn’t feel anything, chances are, they would have more time to inject a larger amount of their toxins and therefore you would be harmed much more than if you were able to move away or sweep it away as a result of feeling pain (feeling no pain doesn’t sound like such a good thing now does it?).
I never really gave pain as a subject too much thought and always believed it was just something we would all have to deal with at some point in our lives. However, through having had the amazing opportunity to shadow highly experienced researchers and watch them carry out techniques such as immunohistology and electrophysiology (which I would probably never have learnt about at school alone), I have gained a real understanding of what a career in research may entail. Visiting King’s College and meeting so many inspirational researchers carrying out fascinating research using methods like 3D imaging; having all of my questions (including the slightly silly ones) answered; creating and presenting small projects that we had to research and find information for; and having access to talks and discussions about topics that would normally be aimed at graduates or doctors has also been hugely inspiring.
From this, I have accepted that a career in scientific research may not always be exciting. You may have to go through numerous days where all you do is run PCR gels, dip slides in stains/solutions, or section frozen blocks of spinal cord and sometimes, after all that still you may have to accept that your question was not answered or you didn’t quite get the result you wanted. However, I honestly feel all the hard work pays off in the end, because that one moment when you discover something new, the moment you realize the drug you created works, that EUREKA moment when you finally understand something that you started out having no idea about is worth 100 failures in my eyes.
Over the last 2 weeks I have learned that’s what science is, that’s what research is all about. I have learnt that it is okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and strive to be better. I have learnt to have confidence and believe in myself, to not give up on my dreams and have high aspirations.
In2science has been more than just a work experience placement for me, as it has made me learn so much more about myself as a person and that is all thanks to Tony and everyone else in his incredible lab at UCL-NPP who allowed us to watch them work (Thank you Carlota, Leonor, Ryan and also Mat who took us to King’s so we could learn about some different types of research and techniques). I really can’t say thank you enough.
We also ran an image competition among the students this year, which was judged by Abcam with an additional public vote in each category. The categories were:
- Category 1: Under the microscope
- Category 2: Science through the lens
- Category 3: The faces of science
You can see the 2017 winners in each category below.
To see Victoria and some of our other alumni talking about the programme you can watch our short film (below).
If you would be interested in hosting a student in future please take a look at our website. We currently work mainly in London, Oxford and Cambridge, but have big plans to expand nationally over the next few years.
The Biochemical Society is proud to support in2scienceUK. In addition to sponsoring five students each year, the Society also gives delegates attending our events the opportunity to donate to the scheme. In 2017, we collected £400 for in2scienceUK (data from September 2017).