July saw the return of our National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Guy’s and St Thomas’ Biomedical Research Centre’s (BRC) I ♥ Research Academy, with a new cohort of 30 enthusiastic students completing 12 interactive online workshops over three days delivered by researchers from across King’s Health Partners.

Organised by the Research and Development Engagement team at Guy’s and St Thomas’, the Academy is supported by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and King’s Health Partners. It aims to engage young people from our local communities on a long-term basis to gain new experiences and skills relevant to careers in healthcare research.

Following completion of the workshops, 74% of students said they were more likely to consider a career in clinical research, and 79% said that they felt very inspired by the programme. Academy student Sophie said: “I’m really glad I took part as it opened my eyes up to so many amazing and interesting things. I have had the opportunity to see/speak to real-life scientists and very knowledgeable people, who I would have otherwise never seen.”

Day one of the Academy started with a session on artificial intelligence in healthcare by Renne Gu, PhD student from the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences at King’s College London (KCL). This was followed by a session with Lucy Vanes from the Department of Neuroimaging at King’s College London and was voted by students as the favourite session.  Students “brainstormed the brain” together, by exploring what the brain’s functions are and how this can be imaged in the clinic using interactive visuals. A team from the Translational Oncology and Urology Research team at KCL then gave an insight into what real-world evidence is in research, and how their teams used it to improve cancer care over the pandemic, and in crises such as the current war in Ukraine. The final workshop of the day was delivered by Dr Konstantina Dimitrakopoulou and Dr Flavia Flaviani from our NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ BRC’s  Translational Bioinformatics team. They discussed with students how bioinformatics is used in the analysis of healthcare data, and how these methods can be harnessed to deliver personalised medicine.


Day two of the Academy workshops was kicked off by Xinyu Yan, a second-year PhD student working with King’s College London’s TwinsUK. She covered her research project exploring the genetics of adipose fatty acids and their association with chronic diseases.  Paz Garcia, also from Twins UK, then delivered a session filled with lots of discussion on what researchers need to consider to get approval for their studies and why. The next workshop was delivered by Maurice Griffin from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Research Governance team and highlighted the importance of representation in research with a fun mini experiment collecting basic physiological data from the students, and how outcomes were altered by excluding arbitrary groups. The last session of the day was delivered by Imogen Brooks, a PhD student within the Centre for Gene Therapies and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London. Students had fun virtually editing DNA to try to cure a genetic disease.


The final day of workshops began with a session from Laura McCabe and Ope Olusoga research midwives working across reproductive health and women’s services research at Guy’s and St Thomas’, who shared their experiences of research in this sector.  Students then had a go at extracting DNA from strawberries in a session with Ariella Amar, a Senior Research Technician working within the translational genetics group at our NIHR BRC. We closed the day with a presentation skills workshop delivered by our comms and engagement team, to give students top tips on how to design and deliver an engaging presentation.

Well done to all the students for completing these fantastic workshops with such enthusiasm and being so engaged with the programme, and a huge thank you to all our demonstrators that have contributed to the Academy!

Following the completion of this first stage of the programme, the students are now working with mentors on a six-week project, the findings of which will be presented at a youth conference on 30 August. We can’t wait to see what they get up to!