Summer Research Program, John Hopkins University

15 March 2019

With support from the Santander Universities Mobility Bursary, Indi Sunner undertook a nine week research placement at the Sgouros Radiopharmaceutical and Dosimetry Laboratory at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

johns hopkins
Indi Sunner, Natural Sciences

This summer I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work in the Sgouros Radiopharmaceutical and Dosimetry Laboratory at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The placement was in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. The Sgouros Lab focuses on marrying Physics with Chemistry and Biology to determine how radiation can be effectively used in the treatment of cancer. As a Natural Sciences student, the opportunity allowed me to employ the knowledge I have gained at UCL from all three science disciplines. 

I was positioned within the Organic Chemistry division as this is my degree major. My work involved synthesising Macropa-NCS, a compound capable of attaching antibodies with radionuclides. Antibodies can be engineered to recognise particular markers present on cancer cells, and so can distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells. If the antibodies are attached to radionuclides, which emit lethal doses of radiation, they are able to selectively kill cancer cells. This would mean that healthy cells are unaffected, which is advantageous over conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy where all types of cells can be killed. 

indi and colleagues

Working on the project itself was a personal highlight owing to its contribution to the scientific community and the well-being of others. The opportunity was also informative with regards to my career path, as I thoroughly enjoyed working in the laboratory setting. Working in a different country was also a personal highlight, as I learned about different cultures and made life-long relationships. I was also able to try new things such as visiting my first baseball game and picking crabs (a Maryland tradition). I was also able to travel on the weekends, and was able to visit Philadelphia, New York, Florida and D.C. 

I would greatly recommend that students undertake an opportunity abroad if possible. It is an immensely rewarding experience which teaches you that there is more to life than just work and studying. I have always believed that travelling is one of the best ways to learn and experience life, and I stand by that.