Inspiration in Immunology
Isby visited the Institute for Schools’ Day and took part in a project to investigate white blood cells in a mouse model. As she starts her degree in Biochemistry at Durham University she looks back on her experience in our labs.
In March 2018 I was part of a group of students from St Mary’s School, Cambridge who came to Schools’ Day at the Babraham Institute. My expectations before the project were high, as the Institute is well known for the quality of its research and so I was very excited to find out what life in a lab was really like. I expected the project to challenge me whilst extending what I was learning on my A Level Biology course – at that time I was not as knowledgeable about monoclonal antibodies as I am now.
There were many projects to choose between, hosted by both Institute labs and companies on the campus. I was pleased to take part in one of the new projects introduced at this year’s event, investigating the production of monoclonal antibodies in a mouse spleen.
On the day, we were shown around the labs – all of which were very bright and shiny, filled with very expensive equipment that both scared me (as I didn’t want to break anything) and filled me with excitement and inspiration.
The first part of the project was to obtain the spleens we would be investigating. We were each given a lab coat, dissection kit, a mouse, and full instructions. So much independence was a little daunting at first but it was soon replaced by the thrill of discovery. I have always been interested in anatomy, so to be carrying out the dissection myself and seeing the organs up close was definitely a key step.
Once we removed the spleens, they were processed and centrifuged. At each step of the process we were given instructions and explanations, and we used air displacement pipettes occasionally throughout the practical. I had never used air displacement pipettes so I felt very professional! After the white blood cells in the tissue had been tagged with fluorescent antibodies they were analysed by flow cytometry and we examined the processed data. As some of the analysis equipment used was very complex and expensive, the researchers carried it out, however I still felt involved.
Everyone I met during my visit was very nice and willing to explain anything I didn’t quite understand. I was already considering a degree in science, but seeing what goes on in a real research laboratory confirmed my choice and gave me more inspiration, especially in oncology and immunology. Since Schools’ Day I have completed my A levels and have now secured a place to study Biochemistry at Durham University.
I hope to further my knowledge in science so that one day I can use it in a research institution like the Babraham Institute and know that my work is making a difference.
The Institute runs Schools' Day for GCSE and A-level students from across the UK each year in early March. Teachers should contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org by mid-November to register interest for the next Schools' Day.