Wellcome Trust Centre For Mitochondrial Research

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The WCMR team were busy celebrating British Science Week 2019 in lots of different ways! Here we provide a brief summary of the events and activities team members were involved in over the 10-day celebration of STEM.

Dr Amy Vincent, a Research Associate in the WCMR and CAV, and Dr Julie Murphy, our WCMR Public Engagement Manager, were at Dame Allan’s School in Newcastle to attend a career event organised as part of National Careers Week 2019. The event involved health professionals and academics from a number of different organisations who were asked to provide an insight into different career pathways that are available to students.  Amy and Julie talked with students about the research we do in the Centre and shared videos from a number of different researchers talking about their career path. The event was very popular with students of all ages, and both Amy and Julie were delighted to take part.

Dr Laura Greaves, a Research Fellow in the WCMR, was invited to speak at a public event organised by Explore as part of International Women’s Day and British Science Week. This event was listed in the top ten events taking place in the UK to celebrate women in science and we were delighted that Laura was part of it!  Laura talked about her research that involves investigating the role of mitochondria in the development of colon cancer, and how this could be exploited in the search for a much-needed treatment. Christine Burridge, an Explore board member, said that Laura was able to “present the complex science of the role of mutations in mitochondrial DNA in the development of cancer very clearly but without oversimplification”. She also commented on Laura’s last slide in her presentation, which was a colour-stained image of the bowel.  Christine said, “this convinced us that the bowel is indeed a very beautiful and important part of our bodies, just as attractive as images of distant galaxies and nebulae”.

Prof Rob Taylor, who is Professor of Mitochondrial Pathology, was invited to speak to senior students at Durham School as part of British Science Week.  Rob talked to members of the Tristram Society, which is made up of potential scientists and those with an interest in the subject, about mitochondrial disease, with a focus on how it is diagnosed and how we can prevent transmission. This was followed by a question and answer session, which stimulated a lot of debate and discussion. Ben Lumsden, a member of the Tristram Society who attended Rob’s talk said, “it was interesting and enjoyable, and we probably had the most questions we have ever had at the end of a talk!”

Dr Sarah Pickett and PhD student Roisin Boggan spent time engaging younger children with fun activities about genetics and DNA at Archbishop Runcie First School, whilst Dr Lyndsey Butterworth did the same at Gosforth Park First School. This involved getting hands-on with small lab gloves and appropriately sized lab coats to squash fruit and extract DNA.  The children were asked to think about the genetic traits that make us who we are and completed their own ‘DNA instruction manual’, answering questions about their hair colour, eye colour and whether they like sprouts (there was an overwhelming ‘NO’ in most cases!) The answers were used to make personalised DNA bracelets with pipe cleaners and coloured beads, which the children enjoyed comparing with one another to see how similar they were to their friends.

Dr Amy Vincent led a social media campaign that took place over British Science Week and involved sharing the short videos of researchers from both the WCMR and CAV talking about their research and career pathway.  These videos were prepared by PhD students with both clinical and research backgrounds and were shared every day on social media.  The response to these videos was fantastic, with a reach of nearly 6,000 people and ‘likes’ from British Science Week themselves!  In addition to this, final year PhD student Shane Bell did an interview for The Lily Foundation as part of British Science Week and Brain Awareness Week. Shane’s interview can be read here: https://www.thelilyfoundation.org.uk/news/brain-awareness-week-2019/.

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