Six Long Road students, Alistair Sydney Devine, Shannah Kerrigan, Emily Bayne, Weronika Robak, Ryan Brown and Bethany Strellis, were extremely fortunate to gain a place on this year’s Young Pharmas programme run by the Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge – and one of our students, Sydney, won the top award for his poster on investigating adrenoceptor subtypes using agonists.
The programme aims to provide a practical insight into pharmacology and experimental design and to inspire A level science students to further their study of the subject.
The students worked on projects in small groups over two evenings in January and February, and there was a one-day masterclass on 5th March. Sydney says: “We studied the way that different chemicals affect the heart rate and its contractile strength. Through these tests we discovered that the adrenoceptor subtype responsible for increasing these characteristics was B1 by process of elimination.”
Emily adds: “We were also looking at the effect of muscle relaxants such as anaesthetics on the heart, and how these relaxants can be used to treat asthma.”
“I found it very interesting to see the way that agonists and antagonists act on receptors in the ileum: an agonist is a chemical that binds to a receptor and activates it to produce a biological response,” says Ryan. “An antagonist blocks the action of an agonist. Whereas an agonist causes an action, an antagonist either blocks the action of the agonist or causes an action opposite to that of the agonist. We were looking at the way that histamines can be blocked by antagonists.”
Shannah says: “It was an excellent opportunity for us to speak to so many people engaged in research – professors, post-docs and those working towards their PhDs – especially as they came from all over the world. It opened my eyes to future opportunities.”
“We learned more about how different chemicals are used and what working in pharmacology involves,” says Bethany. “It was quite a challenging event, but we got lots of help from the Department of Pharmacology staff.”
The programme ended with a reception in the evening of 18th March. Students displayed their posters based on their experiments and presented their findings to the judges, including Dr Ewan St. John Smith MPharmacol, PhD, Group Leader and Lecturer in Acid sensing in physiological and pathophysiological states in the Department of Pharmacology.
There was then a talk in the Lecture Theatre by Dr Matthew Harper entitled: Headaches and heartaches: the secret life of a wonder drug.
Following Dr Harper’s talk, there was a formal presentation of certificates and a prize to the student presenting the best poster – Sydney.
Sydney says: “I really enjoyed the talk, which was on salicylic acid (aspirin) and its uses. The whole event has inspired me to carry out further studies in this area of science.”
Paul Andrew, Biology course team leader, says: “This was a brilliant opportunity for our students to find out more about pharmacology and to work with experts in the field. Our Young Pharmas will definitely have something extra to offer when it comes to university and job applications. I am very grateful to the Department of Pharmacology for setting up this scheme and look forward to further co-operation with them.”
Top photo: Sydney with his poster
Bottom photo: The 2016 Young Pharmas. Long Road students are third left – Shannah Kerrigan, fifth left – Ryan Brown, sixth left – Bethany Strellis, seventh left – Weronika Robak and third from right – Sydney Devine. Emily Bayne was unable to attend the presentation evening.