The lights and sounds of laboratory machines, accompanied by laughter and chatter, emanated from the ICR canteen on Monday night, confusing resident staff and scientists who are more used to using the space for quiet working and coffee drinking.
Monday 30 November 2015 saw the ICR host a hugely successful open evening, as 77 lower sixth form students from six local schools filled the canteen and the first floor of the ICR’s Brookes Lawley Building in Sutton.
Curious scientists poking their heads through the doorways smelled crushed strawberry DNA extraction, heard delight from students winning the human computer game and saw people taking part in activities that ranged from ‘thinking like a scientist’ to a mock clinical trial.
The evening began with an inspiring talk by Dr Udai Banerji, Reader in Molecular Cancer Pharmacology. He introduced the young people to the future that they will be responsible for – one where one in three people may develop cancer, but where we will also have access to sequencing and treatment technologies that will outshine any that we have today.
Dr Banerji also described what motivates him to go to work every morning – the feeling that he is making a difference in the world. Dr Banerji works in the Drug Development Unit - which is partially supported by the Cancer Research UK Centre at the ICR and The Royal Marsden. Dr Banerji also thanked the Biomedical Research Centre, the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, the National Institute for Health Research and the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre for their support.
As the students left the talk, they were immediately confronted by the first of many interactive activities. The team from the Medical Physics department had bought down an ultrasound machine and were seeking student’s help to identify fruits hidden in jelly!
The clinical trials unit were also on hand, having assigned students to an arm of a mock clinical trial as they entered the theatre. Things were looking good for the blue spotted group! The second floor also featured a chance to design the cancer research of the future, through a discussion of the ICR’s top ten highlights of the year – which are currently being shown on the ICR website.
Downstairs, the fun continued. There was a huge number of amazing activities - I would like to share some of the highlights that I was lucky enough to experience. The careers table volunteers chatted to a teacher who was considering going back into science herself. The representatives from the Biological Services Unit enthusiastically engaged students in discussions about animal research. And tech-savvy students – happily entering into conversation about 3D printers, online policy and electrophoresis gels – put the rest of us to shame with their skill at the smart phone #cellfie microscope.
The students seemed to really enjoy the evening. One student told the ICR: “I very much enjoyed it and learned so much about the ICR's work. It was so interesting to talk to the students, who gave me a lot of insight into their research as well as encouraging me to keep going at my science studies.”
I hope that this will be the first of many such evenings, and want to thank all of the incredible ICR staff members who made it happen.
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