Bella: A GCSE student’s one week research secondment with the MetaboLight team

My name is Bella and I’m 16 years old. I’ve just finished GCSEs and next year, I hope to study biology, chemistry, maths and further maths at A Level so I can go onto pursue a career in medical research. I contacted the MetaboLight team in the hope to gain some experience to find out what working life is like in a research lab.


Upon first impressions, I felt welcomed into the department as I met many of the team’s friendly faces. I had the pleasure of spending the majority of my week with Gemma Bale, who showed me the NIRS device she had developed called Cyril. I spent most of the 5 days experimenting and using Cyril to monitor effects of occlusion of the arm including concentration of oxyhemoglobin, concentration of the enzyme CCO and hyperaemia over different time intervals. I was particularly impressed by Cyril’s ability to accurately measure many things about the patient non-invasively.


Over the week, I learned not only how to use Cyril, but how to accurately record results and analyse the data. I also learned a lot more about the different types of medical imaging from NIRS to ultrasound, the process of metabolism and how to use lots of the lab’s equipment. In addition, I got the opportunity to sit on a panel of scientists where we gave feedback to a group of mature students who were pitching ways to educate people, particularly children and teenagers, on medical engineering. As the target audience for many of the pitches, I represented the teenagers by giving feedback and asking questions on their proposals.


Overall, it was a really exciting opportunity and I feel very fortunate that I got to spend the week in the medical physics department. It has inspired me to continue to pursue my dreams to become a researcher in the future!

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