This summer Sara McCarney, Caitlín Milliken, Anne McIlveen and Beth Malcomson took part in 4-6 week research projects funded by the Nuffield Foundation throughout Northern Ireland. These research projects varied between the subjects of astrophysics, engineering and biomedical science. Each student produced a project report and poster which were presented at a celebration event in the Whitla hall.
My name is Sara McCarney and my Nuffield Bursary project took place in summer 2012 in the Armagh Observatory over four weeks. In my project, I was analysing a variable star found on the Kepler Satellite and investigating reasons for this variation. I created a reflecting binary star hypothesis and a mathematical model to test this hypothesis, which I was able to prove. I learnt how to use new computer programs, such as ‘DIPSO’, a spectral analysis program. The very theoretical research helped improve my creative thinking and ability to apply my skills in new and creative ways.
My project was based at the centre for infection and immunity in Queen’s University Belfast. The research group focuses on research into Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a debilitating inflammatory disease in which an autoimmune response (believed to be mediated by T lymphocytes) causes the destruction of the myelin sheath from the axon of neurones (a process known as demyelination). I investigated the stability promotion of IL-10 (an anti-inflammatory produced by T lymphocytes) by IL-27. I contributed to this research for six incredible weeks during which I conducted experiments, attended regular lab meetings and presented my research. I found the research which I was involved in awe-inspiring and hope to become involved in medical-related research in the future.
My name is Anne McIlveen. Over the summer I carried out my Nuffield bursary project in Bombardier Aerospace Belfast. I had to come with a way to prolong the factory life of the drill cutters for Bombardier’s new 5-axis, CNC, Lean Technology Drilling Machine. I ended up designing and making a system of protection for the drill cutters. This was shown to senior management and subsequently implemented on the factory floor. It was calculated that the system would save Bombardier at least £7,200 a year.
This was a fantastic experience and has inspired me to go on and study for a degree in Aerospace Engineering.
Beth Malcomson carried out her six week bursary at Queen’s University Centre of Infection and Immunity. Beth worked in the Respiratory Medicine Programme, conducting research into Cystic Fibrosis, with Queen’s University Lecturer Dr Bettina Schock and her colleagues. The project aimed to reduce inflammation in Cystic Fibrosis, which commonly causes severe tissue damage. Nasal epithelial cells were treated with an anti-inflammatory, Gibberellin (inducing nuclear factor-κB inhibitor A20 in the toll like receptor-4 signalling pathway). The results showed that Gibberellin was anti-inflammatory in non-cystic fibrosis control cells, but failed to show the same trend in cystic fibrosis cells. The project was a fantastic insight into biomedical research and I hope that I will employ the skills that I have learnt as I hope to study medicine.