Dr Ana Baburamani is a Research Associate working in the Centre for the Developing Brain, Department of Perinatal and Health at King’s College London. Ana hosted two students over the summer of 2017 and here she reflects on the experience.
Over the summer I hosted two students who were on a Nuffield Research Placement. Over 5 weeks they came to gain research experience and run their own mini-research project. The students were intelligent, very enthusiast and had a keen interest in going on to do science at University. This was the first time I had hosted students but had always heard very positive things about getting involved.
So, what is a Nuffield Research Placement?
Nuffield Research Placements are aimed at students going into year 13 that have an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Nuffield also strongly encourages applications from students who don’t have a family history of going to university or who attend schools in less well-off areas, and provides travel bursaries for all students.
Why get involved?
My interest in wanting to get involved as a project provider was because I think it’s really important to be able to provide opportunities for students from all backgrounds (who may live in disadvantaged areas and may not have the chance otherwise). These placements can also help them get into university. I also felt it’s nice to be able to give students that are interested in a career in science a chance to have some practical work experience and see what it is really like working in a lab. It was only after I did a summer research placement during University that I realised I enjoyed research, so highly rate the experience.
So what did they do and how did it go?
Our research project is aimed at understanding brain development in Down Syndrome (DS). DS is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability, but we have little information about the underlying neurobiology and what happens in early life. Here, the students assessed development of the cerebellum in a mouse model of DS. To do this I taught them basic histology and immunohistochemistry techniques that we routinely use to visualise brain sections, and label different cells or proteins. The two students, from two different schools across London, who hadn’t met each other before, got along great. They learnt the techniques, stained tissue sections, used microscopes to take the images, then measured and quantified the distribution of neurons and astrocytes in the developing cerebellum. It was a very successful project, and I think they both really enjoyed working together! The data they generated is very useful as it acts as preliminary data for me that we are now exploring further.
What did they and I feel about the placement?
The students enjoyed seeing different aspects of research. In addition to working in the lab, acquiring data and writing a research report, they had time to observe some of the clinical research which goes on in our Department. These students were incredibly bright and asked some great questions so it was very motivating for me to discuss the project and research field with them. The students are now going to submit their projects for upcoming science competitions, so we are currently helping them to prepare their applications. To be able to share my enthusiasm for research and hopefully inspire the next generation of students to pursue their interests in science makes hosting a Nuffield Research Placement student really rewarding. I would definitely be keen to be involved again next year.