On Thursday 7th February a group of biology students went to the National Institute for Medical Research; I was fortunate enough to have been selected to attend as one of them. The day included compelling lectures from researchers in the institute. The most intriguing of these, in my opinion, was about Toxoplasma gondii, a pathogen related to the malaria parasite – human disease is of particular interest to me and the lecture helped in confirming this. The later part of the afternoon consisted of four workshops and we were able to see the sort of research that is carried out in the institute. Watching a soon-to-be chick’s heartbeat, during embryonic development was particularly memorable. The researchers were also useful as they reiterated the importance of thinking carefully about our imminent university applications and how imperative work experience is to boost our personal statements.
As an A2 student of biology, going to the National Institute of Medical Research in Mill Hill really brought the theory that we learn at college to life. The afternoon comprised of a series of lectures lead mainly by PhD students, followed by a series of workshops. We had ‘hands – on’ experience of the every-day work of real scientists in their respective fields. The visit to the research institute was not only biology-orientated; it brought together all the three sciences in one working environment. One of the more memorable aspects of the afternoon was the neurology workshop where we saw an experiment where mice were watching a screen with stationary, then moving lines. This stimulated centres of brain in the mice to fire action potentials. This was plotted in a graph and displayed. ‘This research may one day explain how mammals are safely able to navigate around foreign areas by learning where the edges of objects are’, explained the lecturer. After learning about the nervous system and action potentials in A2 biology, this talk linked the theory we had learnt in lessons to what it actually means in real life and where it can be used in practice. Overall, it was an insightful visit to the institute and would recommend it to any A-level science students.