Isabel Boden

Isabel Boden completed her Nuffield Research Placement in 2016 at the University of Portsmouth. She went on to present her work at The Big Bang Fair, and was shortlisted for the Rotary Prize for Outstanding Medical and Scientific Achievement.

Why did you apply for a Nuffield Research Placement?

I have a passion for science and I was fascinated to find out more about what it would be like to work in a research lab in a professional environment alongside Professors and PhD students.

What was your project about and did you know anything about the area before you started the placement?

My project title was ‘Investigating the life-long generation of Oligodendrocytes and Myelin’ which focused on remyelination in Multiple Sclerosis as part of a project funded by the MS Society. The project looked into the role and the potential Oligodendrocytes -the myelinating cells of the Central Nervous System – had for stimulating remyelination in MS in acting as an effective therapeutic treatment for MS. To investigate this, I looked into the role a particular enzyme, known as GSK3b, played within Oligodendrocytes specifically.

I had a brief understanding of what Multiple Sclerosis was and how neurons functioned but I was completely unaware of what glial cells were and the importance within the Central Nervous System. My supervisor however gave me several resources to look at and helped me improve my understanding of this area, so having only a brief understanding of neurology was not a problem and did not limit my potential and progress during my Nuffield Placement.

How did your supervisor help you with your project?

At the beginning of my project, my supervisor went through the theory behind the project and what I was to expect during my Nuffield Research Placement. We set weekly goals for the placement and at the end of each week we had a discussion about what I had learnt. The research placement also gave me a degree of independence where I was able to use my own initiative to tackle problems.

Has your experience helped you to decide on a career path?

I have applied and had offers to study Natural Sciences at Universities including UCL and Durham. My Nuffield placement confirmed my ambition to follow a scientific career, either in research or as a clinician in the future.

Following from my Nuffield Research Placement, I was asked to become a STEM Ambassador for Hampshire.

What advice would you give to students applying for a Nuffield Research Placement?

Don’t be scared to email or directly approach Professors regarding the possibility of them taking you on as a Nuffield student for one of their projects. Personally, I researched several Professors at local Universities in departments of my interest. I then researched their history and their current projects so that when I approached them I could say directly why I would like to carry out my project with them.

Perhaps attend one of their lectures and approach them there – easiest way to directly contact them other than an email. Being at a lecture also shows your interest.

Don’t be disappointed if you can’t secure a place in an area you want – you will gain so much from it either way and I’m sure it will be an invaluable experience for whatever you plan to do in the future.

What was it like presenting your work at The Big Bang Competition?

The Big Bang Competition was an incredible experience. I thoroughly enjoyed presenting my projects to others including research institutes like Roche as well as Neurologists and Doctors attending the exhibition. It was also an amazing opportunity to inspire younger students to take up an interest and passion in STEM. I also had many people approach me who had relatives or friends suffering with Multiple Sclerosis and it was truly heart-warming to know that my contribution to this research field through my Nuffield placement may help patients with MS in the future.

I was also able to meet many other like-minded students who had also completed STEM placements like Nuffield.