From the Science Camp to the lab

Abbi Taylor first came to the John Innes Centre as a Year 10 Science Camp student back in the summer of 2017.

She enjoyed her time here so much, that before the year was out, she had contacted Sam Fox, who she met on the camp, to request coming back as part of her one-day per-week college internship. Impressed by both her enthusiasm and proactiveness, Sam agreed and Abbi joined us in September 2018.

We sat down with Abbi to ask her what she was up to and what she’d like to do in the future.

“I am currently doing an internship at the John Innes Centre, while studying for my A Levels in Biology, Chemistry and Engineering.

Every Friday I come in to the lab and work with Prof Enrico Coen, Samantha Fox and Rebecca Horn. I essentially assist with the project by keeping on top of the plants that are being grown, sorting through the seeds, plate pouring, crossing, and everything that the lab needs to do their research. What is nice is that, rather than just helping out on a, “can you just…” basis, I have been given a dedicated role within the project. I also engage in outreach programmes such as the Norwich Science Festival and the mid-year YSA Conference, which I really enjoy.

We are currently looking at Arabidopsis to try and uncover how an individual gene informs leaf shape development.  There is a possibility that I will be able to have my name mentioned on the paper that accompanies the work we’re currently doing, which is really exciting. Before I came the John Innes Centre, I thought Arabidopsis was just a weed, I had no idea how important it is.

My Grandad has always been one of my biggest supporters and when I told him, I might get my name on an actual scientific paper, he was over the moon and he’s really proud of me.

I love microscopy. During the Year 10 Science Camp, I got to spend a day with a PhD Student, who was working in the microscopy lab at the time, I absolutely fell in love with it and from that moment, I have been asking people to let me go back and peer into the different pieces of bioimaging equipment we have here. It is just fascinating. I find it incredible that we’re able to look into a whole different world that we can’t normally see. I’m trained on the Leica DM6000 so I love spending all the time I can on it.

I didn’t do a proper science lesson until my first year of high school, as before that I had gone to quite religious schools, so we never did any real science. When I had my first science lesson I fell in love. It is just amazing to know, or at least try to find out, how things happen and why the world is as it is.

For example, the project I am currently working on looking at the gene responsible for how plants know what shapes to grow into. It’s amazing and yet I had never considered how plants grow into their incredible and diverse shapes before. We take it for granted that plants grow, but we don’t know what is making them grow in the way they do. I find that idea and the opportunity science provides for us to find out, incredible. Some people might think it isn’t important to know why leaves are different shapes, but to me it is amazing.

Last year, I heard Enrico Coen talk at the Norwich Science Festival about how as humans, we still fundamentally don’t know either how plants form different shapes, or how foetus’ form the shapes they do in the womb. I remember thinking; “how don’t we know that?” The work we’re doing here can inform both of those things.

In the future, I would love to do Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia and do a ‘Year in Industry’ here at the John Innes Centre at the same time, before ultimately going on to do a PhD here.”

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