Nurturing Tomorrow’s Biotech Leaders: A Conversation with ImmuONE’s Student Interns


Chat with Riqza and Beverely, Student interns

At ImmuONE, we believe in fostering the growth and development of young talents in the field of biotechnology. Our commitment to nurturing bright minds extends beyond cutting-edge research; it’s about shaping the future of healthcare by empowering the leaders of tomorrow. We offer secondary school students valuable experiences through initiatives like the Nuffield Research Placements, which allow young people to find out what it’s like to work in a real biotech company and engage in a meaningful scientific project. Today, we’d like to introduce two of our promising students, Beverley Twum and Riqza Shad, who recently embarked on a two-week placement journey with us. Nilab Hydare, pre-clinical scientist at ImmuONE, skillfully led the project and served as a supportive mentor and supervisor to the students. Their guidance and expertise were instrumental in the success of this endeavor. They’ve agreed to share their insights and experiences, offering a glimpse into what they’ve learned at ImmuONE.

ImmuONE: Thank you, Beverley and Riqza, for joining us today. Let’s start by getting to know a bit about your background and what led you to pursue a placement at ImmuONE.

Riqza: I’m Riqza Shad, and I’m currently studying biology, chemistry, and physics for my A-levels in Hertfordshire. My journey towards biotechnology began during my GCSEs when I discovered my passion for science. I realised that I was particularly interested in biology and chemistry. As I progressed through my studies, I knew I wanted a career in healthcare, and that’s where ImmuONE comes into play. They offer placements that align with my goal of working in healthcare, focusing on biomedicine and lab work.

Beverley: I’m Beverley Twum and, like Riqza, I’m also studying biology, chemistry, and psychology for my A-levels. My interest in science was sparked during my GCSEs, and I decided to pursue it further. When applying for placements, ImmuONE stood out because they encouraged applicants to write a personal statement about their future aspirations. I mentioned my interest in biomedical science, which aligned perfectly with my A-level subjects. This led me to ImmuONE, where I’m gaining practical experience in line with my career goals.

ImmuONE: Can you tell us about your initial expectations when you started your placements here?

Riqza: Initially, I expected the work to be highly technical and challenging. As A-level students, we were entering a professional environment alongside individuals with degrees. I anticipated a steep learning curve. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The ImmuONE team was incredibly welcoming and hospitable. They encouraged us to get involved from day one, allowing us to handle their experiments and data. They offered support and bridged the gap in our knowledge by providing resources, videos, and practical guidance.

Beverley: I echo Riqza’s thoughts. I expected the work to be complex, given our educational backgrounds. However, the ImmuONE team was patient and open to our questions. Initially, understanding the project’s complexity was a challenge, but they provided resources, procedures, and hands-on guidance. It was an eye-opening experience, as it allowed us to see the practical application of our A-level knowledge in a real-world context.

ImmuONE: It’s fantastic to hear about your positive experiences. Could you share some insights into the specific projects or tasks you’ve been involved in during your placement?

Beverley: We’ve been working on a project involving the combination of macrophages and epithelial cells to create a model of lung cells. The aim is to maintain these cells in optimal condition during transportation to customers. Typically, cells are frozen, causing stress for customers and requiring additional procedures to restore them for testing. Our project aims to eliminate this hassle by ensuring the cells remain in pristine condition. We’ve performed assays, such as measuring current between cell layers, and this practical work has been immensely rewarding. It’s allowed us to bridge the gap between theory and practical application.

Riqza: In addition to Beverley’s project, we also decided to work on separate posters during our placement. My poster focuses on analyzing the effects of known agonists and antagonists on cells in both vegan and non-vegan mediums. The goal is to determine if vegan cells and mediums produce similar results to non-vegan ones, and findings indicate they do. ImmuONE encourages us to create these posters to showcase our work, which we’ll present alongside other students. This experience has been incredibly valuable in developing our presentation and research skills.

ImmuONE: That sounds like you’ve been involved in some significant projects. How has the ImmuONE team supported you throughout this process?

Riqza: The team has been remarkably supportive. We can’t emphasise that enough. We had a substantial knowledge gap when we began, which is understandable given our educational background. However, the ImmuONE team patiently explained procedures, provided hands-on training, and helped us analyse data. Our coordinator was open to questions and always eager to guide us through every step. This mentorship approach enabled us to understand not only the practical aspects but also the technical nuances of the work, bringing us up to speed with the team.

Beverley: Our coordinator was instrumental in our growth during this placement. She took the time to break down complex concepts, showed us the ropes in the lab, and even assisted with data analysis. ImmuONE provided various resources, including procedural guides, research materials, and informative presentations. This support made a world of difference in our ability to contribute meaningfully to the projects.

ImmuONE: It’s wonderful to hear about the mentorship and guidance you’ve received. Every journey has its challenges. Could you share some challenges you faced during your placement and how you overcame them?

Beverley: One initial challenge was comprehending the complexity of the project. The scientific jargon and processes were overwhelming at first. To overcome this, we had to build our confidence in asking questions. Initially, I was a bit shy, but as time went on, I realised that asking questions was crucial to understanding the work. We also took diligent notes, referred to resources provided by ImmuONE, and actively sought clarifications, which significantly improved our comprehension.

Riqza: Another challenge was the resilience required in biotechnology. Experiments don’t always go as planned, and sometimes you must start from scratch. While we didn’t encounter such setbacks, we learned from discussions with the team that resilience is a fundamental trait in this field. Understanding this aspect of science and staying committed, even in the face of setbacks, was an important lesson.

ImmuONE: Valuable lessons, indeed. As you near the end of your placement, can you reflect on how this experience has shaped your views of the biotechnology field and your career aspirations?

Riqza: This experience has illuminated the multifaceted nature of biotechnology. It’s a field that demands organisation, independence, and teamwork. I appreciate the independence I’ve had here, working at my own pace while contributing to the team’s goals. It’s a blend of individuality and teamwork that I find particularly rewarding. I’ve also learned that setbacks are part of the scientific process, and resilience is key to overcoming them. It has reaffirmed my aspiration to pursue a career in healthcare, potentially in a role that involves biomedicine and lab work.

Beverley: This placement has been eye-opening. It’s exposed me to the practical aspects of biotechnology, bridging the gap between theory and real-world application. I’ve gained insights into the intricacies of the field and the importance of maintaining cell conditions for testing. It’s been an invaluable experience that aligns perfectly with my career aspirations. I’m more motivated than ever to pursue a career in biomedicine.

ImmuONE: What advice would you offer to other students considering a similar placement at ImmuONE in the future?

Riqza: Come with an open mindset. Biotechnology is a broad field with diverse experiences. Be organised, stay committed, and embrace challenges as opportunities for growth. And remember, it’s okay if you discover this isn’t your path. Understanding why it isn’t is just as important for your future choices.

Beverley: Understand that there’s a significant gap between A-levels and real-world work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek clarification. ImmuONE is incredibly supportive, and your mentors are here to help you grow. Lastly, be open to the idea that if it doesn’t align with your career goals, that’s perfectly fine. It’s all part of the learning experience.

ImmuONE: Thank you both for sharing your incredible journey with us. We’re delighted to have played a part in your growth, and we look forward to seeing you thrive in your future careers. Your dedication and enthusiasm are a testament to the bright future of biotechnology.

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