My mind-changing Science Summer School experience

Summer School Accomodation

From Monday 24th to Friday 28th July 2017 I had attended a residential Sciences Summer School which made me even more set on a future career in STEM (which I didn’t think was possible, haha) and especially medicine. Moreover, I made an abundance of fellow nerd friends who didn’t make me feel as lonely. There were a total of 58 fifth year pupils from all different backgrounds, Scottish, English, Welsh and 1 lone Northern Irish guy but somehow we all connected in a way which prior to the summer school, I believe to be impossible in the span of only a week.

Sunday

To give myself enough time to travel to the college, I had packed up my bags a day before and arrived to explore the city. Like the tourist I was, I stocked up on a plethora of various fridge magnets depicting medieval buildings and misleadingly sunny postcards which did not accurately depict the British weather. We (10 other people who also travelled down on Sunday) met and were instantly friends. I tried my hand at the out of tune piano and out problems just melted away for a while under the diminishing sunlight.

Monday

After everyone else arrived and the different procedural introductions we got stuck in problem solving. (Note: the icebreaker we had to go through did not in fact break-the-ice for it was a bingo involving facts of students. An absurd example being to find someone with blue socks which I was only one of a precious few.) The director of studies did not treat us like kids, as a brilliant mathematician he questioned our intuition. After explaining Claude Shannon’s Information theory, he asked an array of mind-bending questions, but even the simplest one caused commotion amongst budding mathematicians:

I have a bottle and a cap, together costing £1.10. The bottle costs exactly £1 more than the cap so my questions to you is: How much does the cap cost?”

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My month as an immunologist

logoAs mentioned in one of my previous posts [click here] this summer I am undertaking a biomedical research project in collaboration with the Nuffield foundation on the topic of: “The role of Tenascin C in tendinopathy”. My main goal for tackling on this ‘challenge’ (I guess) was to engage in some real life science and to better myself in preparation for university. Though I am fortunate to attend a school which go out of their way to provide specialised scientific equipment, I had never experienced university style labs in (as the researchers I worked with called it) the big bad world. I realised that I took for granted the seemingly simple apparatuses such as autoclaves and centrifuges as some undergraduates haven’t even seen one in real life until university, never mind using them. I was overjoyed to leave the world of school bucket chemistry behind which solely consisted of school technicians tirelessly making up solutions only for us to haphazardly throw them all together to see the really tell-tale signs such as a colour change. No, I savoured every moment of making my own discoveries, never again shall I robotically repeat the same boring experiments to end up with a result I already knew.

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Morphine and its cousins

 

Quinine

The term ‘alkaloids’ may be unfamiliar to most of us but if I start naming some examples which fall into this group of ‘nitrogenous bases secondary metabolites’, you will know what I mean. nicotine2 Some of the big names include morphine, quinine, strychnine, nicotine etc. basically a continuous list of –ine’s. The thing to note is that though the alkaloids were attributed to pharmacologically active bases derived from plants however, animals (including us!), insects and microbes also produce them.

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Death and Transplanting Life

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For many, the heart is synonymous with passion, personality which is literally at the heart of a person. We even carelessly use the phrase “broke my heart”, however, what does happen when our thick- muscular pump of an organ truly breaks down? The assumed answer would be death; no heart beat=no longer living…right? Well, in reality, a stopped heart can restart, there is no true universal rule in death determination. You are dead when the doctor says you are dead.

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Exciting enzymes?

So…I haven’t written a sole biology blog post in such a long time so I thought I would share some of the knowledge covered in class, more specifically on exciting enzymes.


Enzymes are biological catalysts made by living organisms which speed up chemical reactions. Each cell in our bodies is like a factory, constantly using up raw materials to turn them into useful products and also resulting in waste products. These reactions are usually slow if unaided by either heat or enzymes. This can be annoying in everyday life, for example, delayed respiration rates which rely heavily on enzymes. The food we eat in turn become the energy we use (vastly simplified). Continue reading

Plastic Surgery…in the war

This week I have received some exciting news. No, I didn’t win the lottery, if that’s what you’re thinking. Or discovered a cure for cancer. I received a letter from a certain university which more or less confirmed my research placement for the summer of 2k17. However it’s is on the condition that I am accepted through the Nuffield summer placement. Without exaggeration, I opened the acceptance email and I gave myself a high five (sad, I know).
The short email was formal of course but I would like to summarise it to a brief ‘you go girl!’. This was I had waited for, my chance to discover a side of medical research, which is fundamental to medical discoveries. I will be undertaking a 4-6 week journey through the world of research based around infection, immune system and inflammation, so I decided it was appropriate to write this post surrounding this matter. So without further ado, let’s get started.

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Stem, Stem and STEM

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Stem cells, and nope I don’t mean the acronym for science, technology, engineering and math which this blog is focused on. (hint hint – self-promotion, there are also many other interesting posts which Susan and I have written). I mean the unspecialised cells which have the ability to cure currently untreatable diseases. In plants, these cells are known as meristems, usually found in the root and shoot tips. In our bodies there are two types of stem cells. Continue reading

Catastrophic Cancer


Cancer has been defined as the disease of our era. Even with advancing medical technology, it is one of the few ‘incurable’. Those who are diagnosed with cancer are often generalised as ‘patients’ who are solely characterised by cancer. However it is important to recognise they are people with every right to live and love.

In “The fault in our stars” by John Green, the protagonist, Hazel Grace Lancaster, a ‘grenade’ as she refers to herself, has been through a huge amount strain with her disease.

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5 Myths regarding Evolution 

One good subject to write a blog post on is something you’re passionate about. Something you want to exclaim to the world. For me, one of them has to be evolution. Hank Green, a science educator (probably more well-known as half of vlogbrothers) made an excellent and hilarious video on some facts that simply cannot be disproven. Check that out here – Facts are Facts..OK?

I had a substitute teacher for Religious Education class the other day and I was reading The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. Through coincidence the teacher happens to despise Dawkins (probably because he’s an advocate for atheism), and he saw the book on my friend’s desk.

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Proteins

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The human genome is estimated to contain between 20,000 and 25,ooo protein coding genes, however the number of proteins present within the human body is far greater that this. Within humans and other organisms a variety of proteins must therefore be expresses from the same gene. This is a result of alternative RNA splicing and post translational modification.

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