For the third of our guest blogs by participants of this year’s Dr Bessie Lawrence International Summer School Institute, we hear from Charlotte Butterworth who is about to begin her degree in Biochemistry at Imperial College.
Charlotte Butterworth’s ISSI experience
I applied for the Dr Bessie Lawrence Summer School on the recommendation of a Professor from Cambridge University who I did work experience for - she took part over 30 years ago and still talks about the life changing experience.
Following a successful Skype interview from my gap year ski season as a chalet chef in France, the prospect of working alongside experienced scientists at a highly regarded research institute in Israel didn’t really sink in until we arrived.
Sharing this opportunity with 80 likeminded students from around the world made it extra special. We all had a passion for science and learning and enjoyed discussing our home lives, education, culture and future plans.
The scientific research made up the bulk of our time in Israel. I was lucky enough to be placed in an Immunology Lab looking at the role that the CD84 receptor plays in the microenvironment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia cells. We were immediately immersed into our mentors’ PhD project and under her supervision completed complex experiments using specialist equipment such as a FACS scanner.
I found this ground breaking research so exciting - the results we collected were significant; nobody else had done it before and we were hoping to uncover information pivotal in understanding more about the mechanisms behind this type of Leukaemia! This prospect made having to source cells from mice for the experiments feel slightly more purposeful.
Over the 3 weeks in the labs our results led to the discovery of a new direct cell-signalling pathway active in these leukaemic cells owing to their increased survival and less active immune system. As cancer research is something I am hoping to pursue in the future I found it fascinating that our results could be pivotal to cutting edge treatment for future Leukaemic patients with potentially fewer side effects than current treatment methods! My experience at the Weizmann Institute has greatly increased my interest and motivation to pursue a scientific research career; even though the research process can take many years I experienced the satisfaction from such discoveries.
Our time in Rehovot was unique as the amazing research opportunities were interspersed with weekend excursions allowing us to explore history, culture, religion, environment and the differing ways of life in Israel.
My favourite memory is sleeping in the desert, under the stars in a sandy, mountainous landscape surrounded by new friends, while hiking the length of Israel. We covered so much in the short time we were there – here are a few of the other highlights during our explorations.
We got up early to catch the cooler weather for the hiking expeditions, one of the things we all noticed by walking in different parts of the country was the wide variety of landscape terrain topography across such a small country; many people imagine Israel as a large desert full of sand but this is certainly not the case. With coastal cliffs, Mediterranean pine forests and rocky mountainous deserts there was an incredible variety of rock colours and formations ranging from bright yellow to dull beige. The rising sun illuminating the landscape during our breakfast stopovers made this even more beautiful. During one hike we stopped off at a waterfall spring and all jumped in for a relaxing dip before taking a bumpy open jeep ride back to the field school.
Visiting a bustling market in Jerusalem definitely gave us an insight into Israeli trade and how to haggle with the locals for what we though were the best prices only to arrive back to the bus to find someone else had bought the same item for half the price!
Floating in the Dead Sea after coating ourselves in sea mud, effortlessly drifting though the water and snorkelling in the Red Sea with tropical fish and colourful coral was an experience I will never forget. On the final day in the desert we took a boat ride in Eilat, anchored up and jumped in with giant floats – a great party to celebrate the end of one of the best months of our lives and the many memories that we had all created together that will be remembered for life!
Read our other ISSI blogger's experiences:
Published: September 07, 2016
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