Armita Abolghasemi, who had bilateral Rb as a child, is a second year genetics student at the University of York. She recently assisted with Professor Ohnuma’s Rb research, funded by CHECT.

As a genetics student and an Rb survivor, research into retinoblastoma has been something that I have been very interested in. Needless to say, when I got the opportunity to take part in Professor Ohnuma’s research for a month, I was very excited! laboratory

After being shown around the laboratory and introduced to new techniques for the first two days, it was time to start my own project. This was exciting but also nerve-wracking, especially after realising how expensive everything was!

The project that I was working on was looking at the functioning of a specific protein that is not found in cancerous cells. A series of experiments were conducted which tested the effect of the protein on Rb cancer cells. If successful, results of this research could act as a basis for future treatment of Rb!

I learnt a lot during my time at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.image of a laboratory

There are the five main things that I learnt:

(1) Scientists LOVE Ethanol– In the lab, whenever you’re working with cells, ethanol becomes your best friend. To avoid infecting your cells (as well as everyone else’s), you have to make sure that all the equipment you use is fully sterile – ethanol is a useful way to ensure this. As well as avoiding contamination through your tools, it’s important that you also don’t infect your cells, so this is where lab coats and gloves come in handy (assisted by a generous coating of ethanol).

(2) Science Requires Patience- This is one of the biggest things that I learnt during my placement. As exciting as conducting research is, in order to get the answers that you want, you need to wait for science to do its thing. Cells need to grow, things need to dry and reactions need to take place, sometimes this takes a long time.

(3) Try and Try Again- Following on from how important patience is in science, experiments don’t always work the first time so it’s often the case that experiments need to be repeated again and again, each time with slight alterations made to the method.

(4) Read, Read, Read- This is a perfect way to pass the time while you’re waiting for science to do its thing. Scientists never stop learning, there’s a constant need to read lots of papers to build on your knowledge which can benefit your research massively. Often, if a certain experiment doesn’t work, someone would have published a paper using the same experiment and you can use this to modify your method.

(5) Weekly Lab Meetings- Each week, the entire team and the Professor meet up to discuss anything business related as well as any research progress that has been made in the past week. Each team member gives a presentation to show what experiments they conducted as well as what result they obtained, even if things didn’t work. Then, there are discussions within the group on how to modify protocols and resolve issues faced by the researcher.

The time I spent at the Institute showed me how important it is to fund and support research, it has the potential to change so many lives for the better. I am excited to continue exploring different aspects of science and how they can impact the lives of the public.

I must say a special thank you to Professor Ohnuma for allowing me to gain invaluable experience in his research laboratory.