Science for Health
11 April 2012
Mariam Zaidi, one of NIMR’s 2011 Research Summer School students, has won an award at the National Science and Engineering Competition for her work investigating arterial valves in mice and human embryos.
Mariam, aged 17, is a student at Kingsbury High School. She spent five weeks over last summer, funded by a Nuffield Science Bursary, working on a project in Tim Mohun’s lab in NIMR’s Division of Developmental Biology. She investigated the early development of the heart in mouse embryos, looking in particular at the way in which the aorta, pulmonary artery and their corresponding valves develop in an embryo. These two blood vessels develop from a single vessel, known as the outflow tract, originating from the right ventricle. As the embryo develops, the outflow tract splits into two vessels. The precise mechanism by which the two vessels form is a longstanding and poorly understood problem that remains important because failures in this aspect of heart development can lead to severe congenital abnormalities in newborn babies.
Mariam's project entailed working with conventional techniques such as studying cells through a microscope as well as using a novel imaging procedure developed at NIMR that allows highly detailed 3D models of the embryo heart to be constructed. In the process she learnt to use various computational software packages and staining techniques, which allowed her to analyse the different samples of mouse hearts.
Mariam was a great student - quickly learning an impressive amount about the subject along with experimental and computer techniques needed for the project. I'm delighted that she has received this recognition of her hard work and everyone in the lab is thrilled that she has won this award.
Mariam attended the National Science and Engineering Competition at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, which aims to recognise and reward young people’s achievements in all areas of science. She had the opportunity there to discuss her project with a variety of people, including research scientists, business organisations, academics, visiting school groups and the wider public. She was presented with the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar award, sponsored by Saudi Aramco Ltd.
Winning this award shows not just that the student is very talented, but also that she was working on a piece of cutting-edge research with excellent supervision.
Another NIMR Research Summer School student, Vincent Poon, was also a finalist in the competition. Vincent, from Ilford County High School, also worked in Tim Mohun’s lab, on computer modeling of heart development.
Mariam’s award entitles her to attend the prestigious Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar in December - an annual weeklong event for young international scientists. She will be able to attend lectures by Nobel Prize winners and visit research centres of international renown, alongside other young scientists from all over the world.
Representing the UK in Stockholm in December this year is exciting! I am extremely grateful to my supervisors, Tim Mohun and Stuart Smith, as well as all the staff in the lab that I worked with at NIMR for supporting me enormously throughout my stay at the Institute. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and it has confirmed my career ambitions, to study medicine and specialise in paediatric cardiology.
The Nuffield Bursary Scheme is an excellent way of encouraging young people to take an interest in science. Having learnt an incredible amount from this experience, my advice to other students is to work hard, seize opportunities and keep determined.
The NIMR Summer School for Research is funded by the Nuffield Science Bursary Scheme. Each year NIMR runs the Summer School for students from local schools who have been awarded a Nuffield Bursary. The closing date for places this year is 26 April 2012.
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