Kathryn Hutchinson, from The Henley College, Oxford spent 4 weeks this summer working on her Nuffield project. Working with Remko Prevo, Kathryn was based at the Radiobiology Research Institute at the Churchill Hospital. Kathryn’s project investigated how a protein known as POLQ can increase the radiosensitivity of tumour cells.
How did you get involved in the Nuffield Research Placements Programme and why did you want to take part inthe programme?
I heard about Nuffield Research Placements through my college and was really attracted to the idea of spending a summer in a scientific environment. I have always loved science and known from a young age that I wanted to pursue a scientific career.
What were the aims of your project, and how did you go about achieving these?
The aim of my project was to investigate methods of increasing the radiosensitivity of tumour cells. The protein POLQ has been shown to have some involvement in cell replication and as part of my project I tested to see whether there was an antibody specific to this protein. To do this I used a technique known as Western Blotting. I also investigated whether a drug increased cell radiosensitivity by performing a full clonogenic assay on cervical cancer cells.
What did you learn from your placement experience?
I learned valuable practical laboratory skills by working in the tissue culture labs. It is very important to keep your experiments and flasks of cells free from contamination as you can compromise not only your results, but the results of your fellow scientists. I also learned how to write a scientific report and increased my communication skills. I learnt how science can be frustrating as well as rewarding. When results do not turn out the way you hoped, perseverance is vital.
How have you shared your placement experience with others at school?
I have been sharing my experience with many of my fellow students and encouraging anyone who wants to apply to go for it - it is an amazing experience!
What are you longer term plans and how did your placement experience affect these plans?
I was originally going to apply for Medicine at University but my Nuffield experience showed me how fascinating the world of research is! I have applied to study Biological Sciences at Oxford and hope to continue work in cell biology and cancer research. I am looking forward to studying a subject that I am passionate about and hope to be able to give lectures one day to other students.