Science week in Mosspits Lane primary school, 6-7 March 2017

As part of her honours project Mary Roughley visited Mosspits Lane Primary School in Wavertree, Liverpool, during Science week. She has spent an afternoon with each year 6 class and engaged with the pupils on topics such as scales in the universe, the concept and calculation of magnification and the power of using microscopy in biology. As part of her honours project, Mary has planned the session and developed the supporting worksheets and instruction protocols. After a short presentation, the whole class went out onto the playground to collect their own live samples to view under the microscope, the class were then split into three groups to rotate between the three exercises that were organised. The most popular activity was collecting and viewing their samples. The pupils were given magnifying glasses and also had access to the Zeiss stemi labscope to enable them to examine their specimens. They collected insects, worms, leafs, bread crumb, aphids, hairs…They really enjoyed this activity and were fascinated and very excited by what they could see with a microscope: worms digestive tubes, tiny unsuspected hairs on insect legs and “a starry night sky” (salt imaged with transmitted light)!

The pupils also made their own magnifier using water in petri dishes. They learnt how to calculate magnification and used this knowledge to calculate and compare the magnification of a magnifying glass and the magnifier that they made. They realised that their magnifier made with a drop of water was as good as a commercial magnifying glass.

For the third activity, the pupils used the schools computers and an online programme to learn more about scales. The software showed objects of different sizes ranging from galaxies to a proton nucleus. This activity reinforced the idea that microscopes are essentials to biologists, as many things are much too small to be seen with the naked eye. This is what Mary says about her experience: “I received excellent feedback from the pupils. They thoroughly enjoyed the session and some mentioned that they would like to become biologists. They particularly enjoyed using the microscope and collecting their samples and a number of pupils said that the only bad part of the session was packing away! As a proof of the success of the half-day, the teachers had to fight for the children to go out at playtime. They preferred observing their samples under the microscope. I have personally really enjoyed delivering the sessions, I found the experience very rewarding especially when the pupils said they wanted to be biologists! The experience has also made me consider teaching as a career.” This is what the children wrote about the session: “‘I wish the session was longer!!; I liked seeing the intestines in the worm, it was gross but cool!; The bacteria in the pond water was really cool.” It was a very enjoyable experience at all levels: for the children, the teachers, the undergraduate student involved and me, the academic supervisor. Thank you to Mosspits Lane to have worked with us on this project.

Violaine Sée, IIB

11 Nuffield students visited IIB this summer

This past summer, the Institute of Integrative Biology has once welcomed Nuffield students, just, many more than last year. Thank you to Jane Hurst, Michael Gerth, Philipp Antczak, Violaine See, Luning Liu, Dave Mason and Raphael Levy for providing these placements.

 

 

The importance of culturing cells in hypoxia – Dr. Violaine Sée

The company don whitley scientific has produced a video of Violaine Sée explaining the importance of controlling the oxygen level when culturing cells; excerpt

For example, we have shown that if cells are cultured in hypoxia [low oxygen] for several days, then they become resistant to chemotherapeutic treatments

Speaking at the AGM of the Neuroblastoma Society: a privilege and a challenge

wpdcbc3682_05_06Violaine Sée is Lecturer in the Institute of Integrative Biology and co-director of the Centre for Cell Imaging. Find out more about her research here.

Last Saturday (25/04/2015), I had the huge privilege but also the challenging task to present our research at the annual general meeting of the Neuroblastoma society in London. The society was founded in 1982 by a group of parents whose children were suffering from or had died from neuroblastoma, a very aggressive childhood cancer. Thirty years later, the society is still run in large by parents and grand-parents, who have experienced very difficult times because of this terrible pediatric cancer. It was a privilege to talk to the members of the society who are working so hard to fund medical research into improving diagnosis and treatment of the disease. It was also a challenge, talking to an audience that relies on you and your research to make a difference to the treatment of their children’s disease. It is a very difficult task because science is slow and does not translate immediately to the clinic, yet there are many hopes that it will. Not only scientists must convey their message in lay terms and make sure that they keep their audience with them at all time, but, just as importantly, the message has to be right, fair and humble, even though the audience might have high expectations. Fundamental research makes slow progress, new cures cannot be found within the timescale of a project and the worst message from such a presentation would be based hypes and false hopes, instead of rigorous and objective scientific facts. This is a huge responsibility for us as scientists and I had in my heart to keep this right.

The chick embryo as  a model for metastasis

The chick embryo as a model for metastasis; credit Anne Herrmann

So I explained my vision on one important aspect of the disease, which is its metastatic spread in the body. I presented how such spreading can be studied and the models that are available in laboratories. I introduced our chick embryo model, which for this developmental disease is particularly well suited and explained the metastatic spread using metaphors such as the ability of crawling in the jungle with the need to cut tall grass, bushes etc (invasion and metalloproteases) and the ability to escape the crocodiles in the stream of the river and grab something like a branch on the river bank to come out of the water (cell circulation in blood vessels and extravasation with the use of integrins). Because I work in the Centre for Cell Imaging, I had plenty of images and videos to show what the cells really do when they travel in the body.

I would like to thank the Neuroblastoma Society and their always welcoming members for the nice meeting. I have a great admiration for the society dedication and contribution to the scientific and clinical research, and I have no doubts, that it has contributed to many recent advances in the knowledge and management of the disease.