Tag Archives: work experience

Shakera Begum at MRC BNDU – Oxford


“My impending aspirations have been transformed since this placement and I look forward to what the future holds for me thanks to in2scienceUK”

My placement was with the University of Oxford in the Brain Network Dynamics Unit, alongside Petra Fischer and Eduardo Martin Moraud. I don’t think ‘passion’ is a strong enough word to describe their love for the infamous Basal Ganglia and its role in Parkinson’s disease.

Yes, I too first thought Basal Ganglia was an Italian dish and I couldn’t have been further away from the truth!

During my placement, I participated in several experiments and observed methods for recording or stimulating brain activity during different behavioural tasks. An EEG procedure was one of these, where Petra designed a programme to record brain activity during rhythmic movement to investigate how this activity changes with cognitive load.

In case you were wondering, this cap cannot be purchased anywhere on the high street – I know, what a shame!

The cap was connected to an amplifier in order to record the signals. The same amplifier can also be used to record activity of the basal ganglia from Parkinson’s disease patients to understand their involvement in movement related or cognitive tasks. We were shown different types of oscillations and readings to expect and how to filter a signal, which really just makes the data look clean and pretty.

We also had some fun controlling Edu’s movements with TMS, a tool that is not only used for research but also for example to treat depression. TMS relies on electromagnetic induction to stimulate a focal region of the brain. The procedure involves placing a magnetic field generator or coil near the head of the person receiving the treatment.

Researchers use TMS to measure the connection between the brain and a muscle to evaluate damage from stroke, multiple sclerosis, movement disorders, motor neuron disease and other disorders affecting the spinal cord.


As if all these new research skills were not already enough, we conducted a practical regarding muscle movement led by the King of the Spinal Cord himself. Edu showed us how to analyse muscle activity when movement change in speed or when they follow a template or shape in comparison to when freely performed. We observed greater muscle activity when movements were fast and more tightly constrained.

The past two weeks have not only been eye-opening for a new career path and a wonderful experience to learn new skills, but I genuinely feel it has been such a privilege to work with some of the world’s top scientists! I don’t think I have enough words to express my gratitude for the knowledge shared and the hospitality shown by the entire team. My impending aspirations have been transformed through this placement and I look forward to what the future holds for me thanks to in2scienceUK.


Visits visits visits!

Skies are blue, the sun is shining, and the 2014 in2scienceUK summer programme is well and truly underway. I have had the privilege to see several students on their placements already, and have been amazed at the variety of projects they’ve been involved in. Yesterday, I began my day at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology where our student has been learning about Müller glia and their role in neural regeneration. It was then on to see our student placed at the UCL Institute of Neurology, who was making a comparison of motor and sensory nerve cells using fluorescence microscopy.

Then, for a change of subject: it was on to UCL Computer Science.  Following an insightful presentation by @manoj_r_v at our recent Skills Day, I’d already had my perceptions of this subject altered (in a good way!), and visiting Rae Harbird and her two in2scienceUK students further confirmed this. It was very interesting to see our students’ work using an Engduino device, which they’d programmed to change colour in response to a magnetic field (https://twitter.com/UCLEngEdu/status/497036657573765120). It was also wonderful to hear that these two female students were considering studying Computer Science.

Next stop was UCL Physics, where I interrupted Michael (a Physics PhD student) teaching what I’m told was second-year undergraduate level physics to our students. They showed me the Scanning Tunnelling Microscope that they’d been working with (it’s much smaller than you might imagine); I was then lucky enough to see a giant version at the London Centre for Nanotechnology.  My last visit of the day was to UCL Chemistry, where our student has been learning about X-ray diffraction and methods of storing hydrogen.

In the coming weeks our students will be posting here about the exciting work they’ve been doing  on their placements, so stay tuned to find out more.

by Angela Barrett

Welcome to the in2scienceUK blog

In2scienceUK placements enable AS-level science students to experience research science first hand, to learn research methods and techniques, and to undertake wider reading around their subjects. In 2014, over 100 students have been placed in laboratories around London and Bath, covering the entire range of STEM subjects from Cell Biology to Computer Science, Nanotechnology, and Neuroscience. In this blog we invite our students to showcase what they got up to in their placements, and what they aspire to do next.

Rebecca McKelvey, Angela Barrett, and Becky Mead

In2scienceUK Coordinators