Dr Helen Baldwin

Dr Helen Baldwin, Arthritis Research UK Foundation Fellow at the Glasgow Biomedical Research Centre, University of Glasgow supervised a school student as part of the Nuffield Research Placements scheme. Helen studied for a PhD under the Oliver Bird Rheumatism Programme at Newcastle University.  

 Dr Helen Baldwin with Lyndsey Harris and Professor Gerry Graham

Dr Helen Baldwin (right) with Lyndsey Harris & Professor Gerard Graham

What motivated you to supervise a school student through the Nuffield Research Placements scheme?

I found from my past experience of supervising students that I really enjoyed the teaching aspect and got a lot of satisfaction seeing students progress throughout the project.  I was also keen to get some assistance with a part of my project that I had not had time to concentrate on and I thought that having a Nuffield student would be a great way to start to work on this area.

My supervisor, Professor Gerard Graham is also very keen to get involved in teaching students and is focused on inspiring them to take science as a career path. Having a supportive supervisor who is willing to provide the finance for this was also a motivating factor. 

What was the aim of the project?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease dependent on chemokines - molecules produced in inflammation which guide cells to inflamed tissues. The aim of the project was to investigate the role of the chemokine decoy receptor D6 which is involved in resolution of inflammation.

Lyndsey obtained blood from RA patients and healthy controls and extracted blood cells using standard techniques. She then measured the expression of D6 using a technique called flow cytometry and found that RA patients had an increased expression of D6 on their blood leucocytes.  We are now investigating the impact of this in inflammatory disease.

What was the biggest benefit to you as a researcher?

As a researcher the biggest benefit was to get assistance with an area of my project that I had not been able to focus on fully. It was very useful to get an insight into the project from a fresh point of view, as questions asked by a student with no prior experience in the area really get you thinking 'outside the box'.

How does the student benefit from the experience?

The student benefits from being in a working research environment and seeing how science functions in the working world. Their laboratory experience will provide them with more insight into choosing the correct career path for them and make informed decisions about their future. In addition, the experience may help to consolidate information learnt at school and help with achieving better grades.

Is the scheme of benefit to supervisors?

Yes, having supervisory experience is a great addition to your CV. I would recommend it as the placement is for a fairly short amount of time (4-6 weeks), so it is not too much of a long term commitment. The scheme is also a great way to get help with parts of the project which you may not have had the time or manpower to pursue. It is also a great confidence building experience!