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On the 4-6 July 2022, the Department of Oncology took part in the UNIQ Summer School, which is run as part of the University of Oxford’s programme to increase diversity amongst students and is a committed supporter of making Oxford accessible to everyone. UNIQ gives students the opportunity to explore the field of cancer research and decide if studying at Oxford is right for them. Students spent three days taking part in a variety of lectures, tutorials and lab sessions, talking to Oxford staff and students about their education and experience, and even living in college accommodation to get the true Oxford experience!

On Day 1 the students took part in a morning of lectures that covered the history of cancer, differences between normal and malignant cells and causes of cancer. The students had hidden talents when it came to spotting normal and cancerous looking moles! In the afternoon the students were split into groups and rotated around three different lab practical sessions: 2D cell culture, 3D cell culture, and fluorescent microscopy. They tried their hand at freezing spheroids in OCT moulds, learning advantages and disadvantages of spheroids vs organoid culture, and how to grow cancer cells in the lab.

Students started Day 2 with lectures on surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. The afternoon lab sessions included qPCR, pathology, and western blot. Students learnt about the theory behind qPCR and tried their hand at primer design. Day 2 saw several competitions, with prizes awarded for most accurate pipetting and best pathologist!


A screen showing a mouse embryo under a microscopeA screen showing a mouse embryo under a microscope

Day 3 began with a lecture about cancer vaccines and screening followed by a careers discussion session. Staff and students from a variety of backgrounds were invited to come and speak to students about how they prepared for a career in cancer research, the best things about their job, and what skills are required to be successful in this career. This led to some really insightful and interesting discussions about dealing with imposter syndrome and difficulties faced when deciding between a career in medicine or research.

Hannah Bolland giving a lecture on DNA repair pathways as part of the 'what causes cancer' lecture for the UNIQ Summer School 2022.Hannah Bolland giving a lecture on DNA repair pathways as part of the 'what causes cancer' lecture for the UNIQ Summer School 2022.

The visiting students were amazing; they were bright, enthusiastic and curious. The week also placed an intense demand on the lecturers and lab tutors and they did an incredible job and put in huge amounts of effort to design and deliver fun and inspiring lab sessions. The Department would like to take this chance to personally thank each of the tutors who made a contribution to this year's school:

  • Hannah Bolland (Academic lead)
  • Tom Whyntie (Radiotherapy Lecture)
  • Elaine Johnstone (Surgery & chemotherapy lecture)
  • Cameron Lang (Cancer screening & vaccines lecture)
  • Doreen Lau (What is cancer lecture)
  • Nuria Vilaplana Lopera and Wei Song (qPCR practical)
  • Cagla Tosun and David Maclean (Western blot practical)
  • Jamie Kwon and Matthew Jackson (2D cell culture practical)
  • Sophie Twigger (3D cell culture practical)
  • Hala Estephan and Simei Go (Fluorescent microscopy practical)
  • Kay Shigemori (Pathology practical)

For more information on the programme, visit the UNIQ website.