Getting In2Science Research

Author: Kerry's story | Posted: 23 August 2018

Dr Kerry McLaughlin is one of our JDRF-funded researchers, investigating the role of protein tetraspanin-7 in type 1 diabetes. She works at the University of Oxford, and this summer she mentored A-level students who came to get a taste of a career in research.

Photo of Dr Kerry McLaughlin
Dr Kerry McLaughlin

Stereotypes of scientists are hardwired into us from a young age – mad hair, wild eyes, concocting potions in a darkened room! The reality of course is very different, but it can still feel like an inaccessible career to young people. And so, encouraging and inspiring bright young minds to engage in science and become the next generation of researchers who will be able to face the challenges of modern medicine is essential – including finding the type 1 diabetes cure.

Open house

Six A-level students from schools in Oxfordshire had the opportunity to gain valuable work experience during the summer holidays at the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism (OCDEM) as part of the in2science scheme, a programme which supports students from disadvantaged backgrounds to progress to careers in science and research through high quality work placements and careers guidance.

The students were matched with a group of mentors, all early-career scientists themselves, and which included me. The students had the opportunity to get hands-on experience of working in a laboratory and performing a range of different experiments across the different groups in the department.

Students and researcher mentors at Trinity College, Oxford
Students and mentors at Trinity College, University of Oxford

Scientist or sports star?

They also had the opportunity to get to know real-life scientists in the department and hear about their career paths and the different choices they made along the way. Several had come from families where they were the first to go to university or had originally aspired to be professional sportspeople or rock stars! Over a special lunch in the dining hall at Trinity College for students and mentors, the students shyly revealed how they had been a little surprised to see how ‘normal’ we were. Some had expected laboratory research to be tedious and repetitive, and had really enjoyed seeing the variety of work ongoing at OCDEM and how different scientists with different skill sets worked together to solve big problems.

Pursuing a passion

Seeing the students get excited looking down the microscope at fluorescent cells that they had carefully handled on ultra-thin glass slides was very rewarding for me and reminded me of the first time I got really excited about science (aged 12, dissecting a shrew on a school field trip). I hope that we were able to persuade some of them to pursue careers in science, maybe even in diabetes research!

 

The in2science scheme was supported by the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre. Find out more about the students’ experiences here.

Researcher with microscope

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