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Work Experience Week at Ignite!

On Monday, we went to City Arts and took part in a textile workshop. The group were creating cell inspired artwork which is going to be used to create a lab coat for Nottingham University. We painted cells inspired by a stem cell specialist researcher at the University and used heat to transfer our designs onto fabric with coloured backgrounds. We got to talk to the stem cell specialist about her research, creating stem cells out of skin tissue. This is done through reprogramming cells back to their original undifferentiated state which can then be specialised into any type of cell. This allows scientists to test drugs on these cells to see how they are affected, reducing the need for animal testing. Animal cells also react differently than human cells so this will give a more accurate representation of the drugs effect on the body. After the workshop, we travelled to St Ann’s library and helped run a STEM club for children aged 5-10. We helped the children create recycled paper out of blended newspaper, corn leaves and water. This day was very enjoyable, and I especially enjoyed painting the cells and talking to the stem cell specialist about her research.

On Tuesday, we spent the day at Nottingham Girls’ Academy where we took part in their STEM Day. Our job was to show the students in years 7-9 various science busking experiments to get them excited about STEM and consider it for a career in the future. One of these experiments we got the students to partake in was a metal cooling rack attached to four strings, the students put the loop of the string through their index fingers. We then banged a spoon once with their fingers at waist height and another time with their index fingers in their ears. At waist height the noise in quiet and a ting however with their fingers in the years students described the sounds as loud almost like a drum. This is because the string is a denser medium than air therefore the sound vibrations travel much easier through the string. Another busking trick was a chicken wire suspended between a picture frame, the student would rub their hands in a circular motion over the wire. This creates a sensation in their hands described as “marshmallowey”and squishy. At this event there were also multiple companies in STEM - we had the opportunity to speak to these professionals and gain an insight into what they do. For example, a biomedical engineer named Dalia who is learning how to make the machines used in the medical industry. Overall, this day was very exciting as not only learnt new science facts but also learnt how to engage children in STEM- it was also very fun!

On Wednesday morning, we prepared interview questions for our interview with Nicola Richards, a biomedical scientist. We then visited Nottingham Trent University (NTU) where we interviewed Nicola. Nicola specialises in haematology and transfusion and helped with diagnosing patients’ illnesses. She didn’t enjoy a patient-facing role and therefore, this job suited her as it allowed her to help people through research and diagnostics, without speaking to patients. After the interview, we had a tour of the labs and got to speak to some students about their research projects they are working on. We then got to see some different cancer cells under a microscope which was very interesting. We also spoke to a lecturer about their experiment where they inserted a human gene into a fly to see the phenotype that was expressed. They then used different drugs on the flies (after making them fall asleep with carbon dioxide) to see the effects the drugs can have on different genes/phenotypes. This was a great opportunity for us to get a better understanding of career ideas and what it would be like to study biomedical science. It was extremely interesting to see some of the research that the students and lecturers were doing and we thoroughly enjoyed it!

On Thursday morning we prepared questions for the interview of Christine Norman, a research psychologist, and a senior lecturer at Nottingham Trent University. We went to city campus at NTU in order to interview Christine. We found that Christine was originally a nurse, however, after spending time working on a mental health ward she found her true passion - psychology. She specialises in forensic psychology and has done vital research into the use of Prozac to treat inmates with excessive sexual tendencies. She is also particularly interested in schizophrenia and polyvagal theory. Afterwards, she took us on a tour of the research technology used in the psychology department in NTU. This was really inspiring, and we learned that the psychology department is the best equipped department of any non-red brick university in the UK. After lunch we attended a council meeting about methods of improving youth outreach in Nottingham so that Nottingham’s young people truly can say they have a voice in the city, with the aim of making Nottingham a UNICEF certified child-friendly city. We gave our input - as the only young people at the meeting - about where young people tend to spend their time in the city. Ultimately the day was really insightful for us as we experienced first-hand the way in which meetings within the council take place, plus we were inspired by Christine’s research in psychology.

On our last day, Friday, we attended a STEM City meeting at Nottingham City Council - this meeting aimed to ask the public what topics they want scientists and academics to research with the ultimate goal of creating an inspiration book for researchers to refer too. Alongside members of STEM City, we brainstormed ideas about where exactly the council, and members from NTU could go to gain ideas from everyone within the community of Nottingham, including unrepresented voices such as young people. This was a great opportunity to help the community involvement in STEM research and give an insight into young people’s ideas. In the afternoon we spent our time writing up articles on the interviews with Nicola Richards and Christine Norman for the Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity magazine aimed at children ages 7-13. We also came up with activities for the children to do based on biomedical science and psychology to further their interest in the article. This was a fantastic end to a wonderful week where we got to use the information gained from the interviews to help kids learn about science subjects!

By Katie, Maddy and Casper


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