The Francis Crick Institute

During the summer holidays, as part of the Ian ‘Budgie’ Martin Award, I was the first recipient given the incredible opportunity to spend a week’s work experience placement at the Francis Crick Institute in London. The Crick - named after the British scientist Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA – is a biomedical research centre dedicated to understanding the biology underlying human health and disease.


This opportunity was awarded by Dr John Robert Davis, a scientist undertaking research at the Institute, whose family I stayed with for the week while he acted as a supervisor allowing me to participate and conduct an experiment related to his current research. As well as this I also had the chance to work alongside his colleagues and practice new laboratory techniques while shadowing and learning about their own work.


We started the week off with an induction and a tour of the Institute, which is huge but navigable, before going into detail of the week-long experiment planned and the biology behind it. The experiment was investigating the effects of the hippo pathway, a signaling pathway regulating organ size first discovered in drosophila, which has the potential with more research for various cancer treatments. The basis of the experiment was to treat cancer cells with different chemicals while growing them on various micro-patterns and different stiffness’ to record the effects of the cell’s environments. After discussing the project, I got an introduction to cell culture and practice at carrying out procedures in a sterile environment as we prepared the cells for use the next day. After that it was more preparation of the coverslips for patterning and salinisation of the plates before using the UV light to pattern various micro-patterns onto the coverslips.


Over the next few days we started making the MeHa gels before stiffening them with different reagents and then seeding the cells. Although due to problems with gels becoming unattached from the plates, we ended up repeating the entire process with some adjustments, giving an accurate demonstration of what science can really be like. Once we got the gels sticking properly we treated the cells with blebbistatin, an inhibitor of myosin, and 4 HAP which activates it. I then also had an introduction to drosophila where I learnt about the lifecycle, genetics involved and had the chance to dissect them under a microscope before planning laser ablation experiments where I leant about the different lasers used and how they worked. It was then back to cells where we completed the immunostaining of the cells before being introduced and getting familiar with the equipment for the confocal microscopy session to image the cells before finally preparing and analysing the confocal images.


It was an amazing experience and I even had the opportunity to go out for dinner and bowling with John Robert and the rest of the lab team and go sight-seeing around London with his wife and sister. It has inspired me and been invaluable in terms of experience, the opportunity to work in London at such a world-renowned institution of biomedical research is something I will always be so grateful for and I cannot thank John Robert Davis enough for organising it.


Holly Crawford S6