Communicating our work and discoveries to a wider audience
We believe that science is meant to be shared, and not just with other scientists. Below are a few details of some of the activities in which the Wilson lab participates to disseminate science to the public
Clapton Girls' Academy
In November 2012 20 A level students from Clapton Girls' Academy visited the Wilson lab for an afternoon. They have the opportunity to gain some insight into the life of a scientist and to gather practical experience with zebrafish.
For the past few years, members of the A-level biology class from Wimbledon College have visited our lab to gain insight into the life of a scientist and to gather practical experience with our favourite model system, the zebrafish. During these visits, students tour our fish facility; learn to use microscopes to examine wild-type, mutant, and transgenic (fluorescent) zebrafish embryos; and interact with graduate student and post-doc researchers, hopefully gaining an appreciation of why we love science so much! After each visit, several students have been so excited by our work that they returned to the lab for their summer A-level work experience.
One of our students, Michael Adjei-Tabirade (pictured), had this to say about his work experience in our lab "The environment was calm and welcoming, and I always felt a sense of hard work and achievement from the scientists. The ideas and concepts they shared did not overwhelm, but were, at the same time, challenging. I am pleased and privileged to have gained work experience here."
Here is some more of the feedback from the last visit (November 2011) by Mr Adams class:
"It was great to see first-hand how work is conducted in labs and how several techniques are used to observe development in organisms"
"Very interesting insight into embryonic development and the application of transgenic processes. It also gave me a good idea of how laboratories work. I especially enjoyed witnessing the development of the zebrafish under the microscope."
"I learned a lot and would like to come back again. The facilities were excellent and the experiments were fun to do."
"It helped me with the understanding of how eyes actually develop. The microscopes were very high tech and easy to use. It is quite interesting to understand what type of research is going on in this field."
"I learnt a lot about how the right conditions may affect an organism and how the two sides of the brain are different. I also learnt many things about mutant organisms and how they are useful"
Visits to the American School in London (ASL)
Whilst in the lab Kara Cerveny visited the mid and upper-level science classes at the ASL to introduce students to developmental biology, evolution, and zebrafish embryology. By coordinating with the ASL teachers who arranged her visit, Kara tailored each of her visits so that students not only gain hands-on experience with zebrafish embryos but also learnt how basic scientific research is linked to the topic they were studying.
Every year we host several Biology A-Level students for work experience. The placement week is designed to give students an insight into the daily life in the lab by carrying out an independent research project under supervision.
This August we hosted a record 6 students, in groups of two they worked on three projects that cover the research interests of our lab: eye development, CNS asymmetry, and our neuroanatomy atlas. For their project students used traditional Molecular Biology methods (e.g. TUNEL staining to detect apoptotic cells, Wholemount In Situ Hybridisation to detect CNS asymmetry, PCR to genotype fish embryos) as well as transgenic fish, fluorescent immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy to analyse altered neuroantomy in mutant larval fish. We all had fun; the students were enthusiastic and a pleasure to interact with and supervise, and the students seemed to really enjoy themselves too and worked extremely well together. On the final day they impressed us with very well organised presentations of their results and their ability to place their work in the greater context of our research questions.
"My placement at The Wilson Lab was an amazing experience. I really enjoyed pushing my A Level knowledge to go into more depth on topics such as DNA replication and protein synthesis. It was also a hugely valuable experience because I was able to improve my lab technique as my partner and I carried out own protocol over the week and presented our results back to the team. It gave me an insight into scientific research and has inspired me to continue my studies. I would recommend the placement to anyone: you meet inspiring people, learn a lot and have a lot of fun!"
"This placement was a brilliant opportunity to get a taste of what life would be like being a scientist. I have gained enormously from this experience not just in term of knowledge but becoming a more independent learner. Although I found the projects to be quite challenging, it was also very rewarding. We were shown some very cool pieces of equipment including the laser camera and it has broadened my view in the field of scientific research. All in all, the experience was very enjoyable"
"I would just like to thank you for the amazing opportunity in the summer. I recently got an offer to study at Cambridge which is in no small part due to the great experience that you gave me, which I was able to talk about at the interview"
Please do not enquire about our INDIVIDUAL A-LEVEL STUDENT WORK PLACEMENT scheme outside the stated application period.
Dates for 2015 A-Level Placements and the application period will be announced in late January 2015.
In2science is a non-profit scheme founded by Rebecca McKelvey that places bright pupils from traditionally low achieving schools into a research lab. The 2-week placements over the summer enable students to get first hand experience of scientific research by working alongside a researcher on a project, with the hope of developing key skills and experience in order to support their university applications.Video introduction
Since the project was established in 2010, the Wilson lab has continued to provide placements for in2science pupils. In August 2010, Ana Faro and Rodrigo Young hosted a student each from the programme.
In July 2011 and August 2012, Matina Tsalavouta took an A-level student eaach time under her wing. Matina says "having the opportunity to show to a student the day to day work that we do in the lab, and talk to them extensively about a career in science, is a very rewarding and fun experience"
The last two years the Wilson lab has been hosting OpenLab sessions organised by the UCL student initiative OpenLabs. The OpenLabs events are organised to give small groups of UCL students from diverse disciplines access to cutting edge research labs at UCL. Matina Tsalavouta hosted the events almost every other fortnight from December 2011 until April 25th 2012 and from October 2012 and they have been a great success!
In just over an hour, small groups of students from a broad range of disciplines within UCL are introduced to the research undertaken by the Wilson lab and why the use of zebrafish is favoured as a model organism for developmental biology studies. By organising the events, OpenLabs "hope to give students the food for thought to reflect where to take stock in their scientific career and gain appreciation for the broad research opportunities available at UCL". Feedback from an open lab participant has been published in the UCL student publication, Pi magazine..
London international youth science Forum
From 2004 onwards, we have hosted annual visits organised by the London International Youth Science Forum. During their visit, we present talks and lab demonstrations for visiting students from over 50 countries around the world. Visit the Forums website if you are interested in participating.
Next Generation Science Programme
In 2006, we hosted students on the Next Generation Science Programme sponsored by the British Council Netherlands. This visit explored the theme "From Molecules to Behaviour" and gave both students and their teachers an opportunity to take science out of the classroom and participate in a programme of science-based activities in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at UCL. A pamphlet describing the outcome of the Programme is available here.
Zebrafish in music
We've all heard that scientists are working in laboratories around the world, experimenting and solving problems, but what exactly are scientists doing on a daily basis? Our lab was one of six UCL biomedical science labs that helped Wellcome Trust sponsored artist, Gethan Dick, discover what it's like to be a research scientist. This cooperative project produced an album of six songs - all truthful, poetic representations of different types of research ranging from basic developmental neurobiology to clinical studies using functional MRI.
Hear about our research on eye development by listening to Fish Eye/Fix Me, the track composed by Gethan Dick and Hannah Marshall in collaboration with Wilson lab post-doctoral fellow, Kara Cerveny. You can check out all of the songs on the album Trying and Trying and Trying.
Kara says, "Gethan captured the essence of my lab work, right down to the way I hold my breath when moving cells from one embryo into another. In the past, I have often found that words are no substitute for actually showing someone what it means to pipette, to transplant cells, to look through a microscope, to cut frozen sections. With this track, Gethan has used words to paint pictures of these exact things. Fish Eye/Fix Me is an evocative, haunting, and truthful piece about the life of a developmental biologist, investigating the environmental signals that override mutations and rescue sick cells from their intrinsic cell death program."
British science festival
From time to time, members of our lab serve as judges, facilitators, and presenters at London events in the annual British science festival.
Fabric of Life workshop
In May 2008, we participated in the Fabrics of Life Workshop that brought scientists, artists, designers and architects together at St Martin's College of Art to explore how scientific research on model systems can provide inspiration for design projects. One of the outcomes of the workshop was a dance performance inspired by the behaviour of blood cells migrating around wound sites in zebrafish embryos! link
We have also recently started to write summaries of our research publications that we hope will make our research more accessible to a wider audience. You can find these summaries here. If you really want to know the details of our work, you can consult our research pages or download pdfs of our publications.