Getting In2Science by Victoria T

By Rebecca Mckelvey 2017

Victoria and her placement with Prof. Dickenson at UCL
This year, we ran a blog competition, supported and judged by New Scientist. The winner was Victoria (Harris Sixth Form, South Norwood, Croydon), who worked with Professor Anthony Dickenson from the UCL department Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology. He works on pain investigating how sensory messages get from the body to the brain, how drugs alter these processes to relieve pain and how pain is a sensory and emotional event. The techniques Victoria explored during her placement included neuronal activity measures, pharmacological studies, and anatomical approaches.

Supported and judged by New Scientist

Sensation and pain are the body’s ways of communicating and in most cases telling us when something is wrong. So, if a venomous insect was to bite you and you didn’t feel anything, chances are, they would have more time to inject a larger amount of their toxins and therefore you would be harmed much more than if you were able to move away or sweep it away as a result of feeling pain. (feeling no pain doesn’t sound like such a good thing now does it?)

I never really gave pain as a subject too much thought and always believed it was just something we would all have to deal with at some point in our lives. However, having had the amazing opportunity to not only shadow highly experienced researchers and watch them carry out techniques such as immuno-histology and electrophysiology (which I would probably never have learnt about at school alone), visiting King’s College and meeting so many inspirational researchers carrying out fascinating research using so many different methods like 3D imaging, also having all of my questions (including the slightly silly ones) answered, creating and presenting small projects that we had to research and find information for and having talks and discussions about topics that would normally be aimed at graduates or doctors, I have gained a real understanding of what a career in research may entail.

From this, I have accepted that a career in scientific research may not always be the most exciting, and you may have to go through numerous days where all you do is run PCR gels, and dip slides in stains/solutions or section frozen blocks of spinal cord, and sometimes, after all that still you may have to accept that your question was not answered or you didn’t quite get the result you wanted, however I honestly feel all the hard work pays off in the end because that one moment when you discover something new, the moment you realize the drug you created works, that EUREKA moment when you finally understand something that you started out having no idea about is worth 100 failures in my eyes.
Over the last 2 weeks I have learned that’s what science is, that’s what research is all about. I have learnt that it is okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and strive to be better. I have learnt to have confidence and believe in myself, to not give up on my dreams and have high aspirations.

In2science has been more than just a work experience placement for me as it has made me learn so much more about myself as a person and that is all thanks to Tony and everyone else in his incredible lab at UCL- NPP who allowed us to watch them work (Thank you Carlota, Leonor, Ryan and also Mat who took us to King’s so we could learn about some different types of research and techniques). I really can’t say thank you enough.