Society Summer Studentships fund 10-week placements for life sciences undergraduates. These provide hands-on lab experience and encourage them to choose careers in research related to endocrinology. We caught up with some of our 2021 awardees to find out more about their projects and what they’re doing now.
ZICHENG WANG was supervised by Kevin Murphy at Imperial College London. He is now planning to study global health policy, to diversify his knowledge.
"I conducted a series of independent and assisted experiments to investigate the release and actions of neurotensin in the gastrointestinal tract. I learned a number of laboratory techniques that I will probably use in my future research, including radioimmunoassay, tissue culture, quantitative polymerase chain reaction and calcium imaging of cultured mouse neurones. In addition, I gained valuable experience in experimental design.
"The Studentship gave me a useful insight into the environment of a research lab. What I enjoyed most was the culture of collaboration in Professor Murphy’s lab. Every colleague in the team was happy to show me new techniques and give me much needed career advice. I was never afraid to ask for help. It was the first time I had been immersed in lab life. I really enjoyed my time there, and I’m still considering working in a similar lab in the future.
"It was through conducting my literature research on diabetes and obesity that I learned about the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, which inspired me to explore the field of global health. It was a fantastic experience."
Valentina at the University of Exeter
VALENTINA ABBA recently completed a BSc in biological sciences and has been accepted for an MSc course on human biology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She was supervised by Craig Beall at the University of Exeter.
"My project investigated the intrinsic regulation of pancreatic α-cell glycolytic metabolism by AMP-activated protein kinase and macrophage migration inhibitory factor. While I obtained some interesting results, the COVID-19 pandemic limited my time and therefore my experiments, so there is still scope for further work to be carried out.
"I highly enjoyed the freedom I was given to carry out independent laboratory work and the fact that I was always encouraged to participate in lab discussions, to talk about my own research and to suggest ideas for future work.
"As a result of the Studentship, I also received a grant to attend the Society for Endocrinology BES conference 2021 in Edinburgh. It was a very exciting experience as, aside from being my first conference, I got to attend talks given by experts in the field on all aspects of endocrinology, as well as to network with fellow researchers.
Being able to work alongside and learn from highly skilled researchers greatly improved my confidence in the laboratory. Participating in journal clubs, presenting my own research and discussing ideas with other members in the group allowed me to develop communication and data-presenting skills. I would definitely consider carrying out a Master’s project in an endocrinology-related field!
"I greatly enjoyed my research project and working with the group. Getting hands-on experience, carrying out advanced laboratory techniques and learning from experts in the field are valuable opportunities which I would highly recommend to other students."
MAGDALENA KOWALSKA is currently completing the fourth year of her medical degree. She was supervised by Mark Russell at the University of Exeter.
"My project investigated β-cell heterogeneity in type 1 diabetes at the Exeter Centre of Excellence for Diabetes Research. I learnt new techniques and focused in particular on using Exeter Archival Diabetes Biobank pancreas samples, a Phenolmager HT digital pathology imager for special phenotyping, and InForm trainable software for visualising and quantifying biomarkers and phenotyping cells. One of the most interesting things I looked at was the relationship between inflammatory cell expression in the islets and the degree of damage of insulin-producing cells and the expression of other mediators, to try and find a pattern.
"I still work closely with the team to manage the analysis of my work, but I found that this project made me really appreciate the complexity of type 1 diabetes. I very much enjoyed being integrated as part of a research team and taking an active role in their research. I felt I could be quite independent and direct my interests in the project. My favourite part was looking at the stained samples under the microscope and mapping the individual stains. I produced the most beautiful photos of my samples!
"I think the Studentship gave me the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art equipment and to develop my independent researcher skills. Although I’m a medical student, I want to pursue research alongside my practice, and I’m considering specialising in endocrinology. I’m soon starting my final year of medical training and I hope to continue working with the research team remotely, to stay updated on the progress of the project.
"I would advise future participants not to be limited by the initial outline of their project. The path of your project may change and you need to be flexible, to adapt and follow new tangents which interest you. I also shadowed other lab members working on different projects. The Studentship is a great opportunity to get exposed to as much research as possible!"
JOSEPH TONGE is in the final stages of his medical degree and will graduate in 2023. He was supervised by Richard Ross at the University of Sheffield.
‘The Summer Studentship gave me such an invaluable experience, which stands out on my CV.’
"I developed a novel salivary collection technique for use in very young children, using a salivary steroid swab and pacifier modification (SaliPac). We demonstrated a close and reliable relationship for salivary cortisol and cortisone when collected with the SaliPac and the two current standard collection techniques. The Studentship enabled me to assess the usability, acceptability and tolerability of the new collection technique in a small patient cohort, in both hospital and home settings. This proved hugely successful. The work is currently being reviewed by Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism and the data are being presented at the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology Meeting in Rome, Italy.
"I loved the opportunity to prepare for and run my own clinical study. This gave me enormous insight into the workings of a clinical study in a paediatric setting. I also particularly enjoyed creating a method which could potentially be used in the evaluation of paediatric adrenal function in the future. Furthermore, I felt humbled to be supervised by experts in their field guiding me and providing advice.
"It has certainly solidified my desire and passion to pursue a career in academic endocrinology in the future. The skills I learned to publish and present my work will be invaluable for my future academic career. It has also strengthened my application for the Academic Foundation Programme. I’m still active in endocrine research and hope to be in the future.
"The Summer Studentship gave me such an invaluable experience, which stands out on my CV."
Find out more about summer studentships