The 2016 Eisenthal Prize winner

The Eisenthal prize is awarded to the top ranked student report submitted after the completion of one of the Society’s Summer Vacation Studentships. This years winner, Rachel Lau, writes about her experiences over the summer vacation. You can find out more about the Eisenthal prize and read Rachel’s report here. You can apply for a 2017 Summer Vacation Studentship here.

Rebecca Downing, Rachel Lau and Sarah Martin (L to R)


“During my summer placement, I investigated the role of FOXM1 and RAD51 in cell line models of Herceptin resistant breast cancer under the supervision of Dr Sarah Martin and Ms Rebecca Downing at Queen Mary University of London. Having read about targeted therapies and learning about DNA repair in lectures, I was excited to enter the labs as soon as term finished and actually experience scientific research for myself. At first, I was nervous when handling cell culture as I did not want to contaminate anything and was overwhelmed with all the new knowledge and procedures I was taught. However, with more time spent under the flow hood dealing with cell culture, I became more comfortable and familiar with the techniques. Also, remembering the location of all the equipment and stock solutions was no mean feat if I did not take note of it in my lab book!

Breast cancer cells (credit: Dr Cecil Fox, National Cancer Institute, USA)

I was excited when I did my first figure where I showed that one of the breast cancer cell lines was Herceptin resistant because the number of surviving cells, after various Herceptin concentration treatments, remained the same. However, scientific research is not a smooth ride where everything goes according to plan or results are as expected. This was the reality I was faced with but I was still keen to improve my techniques and to learn how to optimise experiments.

I also attended lab meetings, journal clubs and department meetings, which made me more aware of the current research in progress. I did find it hard to fully understand and critically analyse the papers selected for discussion at the journal clubs, but I found it easier to read the papers as I attended more of them. With these meetings and having lunch with the lab members, I not only gained scientific knowledge but was able to talk about different experiences and topics with them, which made me feel welcome in the lab.

This studentship was definitely an invaluable experience which has prepared me well for my third year research project on my degree course where I have been able to build on my experience and carry out cell culture experiments with confidence. I have enjoyed the lab experience at Queen Mary University of London and it was a fantastic opportunity that I would not have had without the support of Dr Sarah Martin. It has reaffirmed my goal of pursuing further education and going into research. I definitely recommend people to take up a summer placement!”

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