Teenager’s work experience at University of Leicester sparks passion for science

Posted by pt91 at Sep 08, 2015 11:12 AM |
School student Chelsea Herbert discovers a talent for scientific research after placement at Cancer Research UK Leicester Centre

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 8 September 2015

Leicester teenager Chelsea Herbert first discovered her love for scientific research thanks to the University of Leicester which gave her the opportunity to taste science at the cutting edge.

Chelsea, 18, was invited to undertake three days’ work experience in 2013 alongside Professor Catrin Pritchard, professor of cancer biochemistry at the University and science director of the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Leicester Centre, and she hasn’t looked back.

The youngster’s initial research work helped her secure a coveted Nuffield Research Placement at the University of Leicester, giving her the chance to work full-time for six weeks on her special scientific project.

Chelsea was then entered for the National Science and Engineering Competition (NSEC) 2015 where she came third. Her success in NSEC saw Chelsea awarded the London International Youth Science Forum Prize (LIYSF). And to top it off, Chelsea reached the semi-finals of the Jack Wills Young Brits 2015.

The former Leicester Grammar School pupil said: “After the first three days at the University of Leicester my interest in research was sparked. Through doing a Nuffield Research Placement I was able to spend as much time as possible in the laboratory.  The placement was an amazing opportunity that has led to the NESC and LIYSF, and I made some amazing friends along the way.”

LIYSF attracts over 400 of the world's leading young scientists aged 17-21 years old from more than 60 participating countries.

Chelsea said:  “I have never had such an eye opening experience to the wide reaches of science, from trips to an old surgery theatre, to the medical biochemistry department in Oxford. I gained a broader knowledge of the world of science and made friends from all corners of the world.”

Chelsea’s research project involved the assessment of how BRAF (a protein involved in controlling cell growth) damage initiates uncontrolled cell growth in a colorectal cancer model.

She undertook a range of experimental techniques and generated a number of significant results. She was able to show that damaged BRAF leads to unregulated cell growth in the colon but this was not sustained, suggesting additional damage is required to generate an aggressive cancer.

Professor Pritchard said:  “Chelsea proved to be “green fingered” in the lab, generating high quality data from the outset.

“Her personality is ideally suited to biomedical science. Not only does she have an inquisitive mind, but she has energy and determination - all of which are traits that are required to succeed in science at the highest level.

“Giving young people an opportunity to taste science at the cutting edge is an important aspect of what we do within the Leicester CRUK Cancer Centre.

“I am delighted to see that the work experience Chelsea did with us as a Year 11 summer student created a spark that has lead onto amazing successes in national competitions.

“She has a very bright future and we will be following her career with great interest!”

Speaking of her success in the Young Brits, Chelsea said: “It’s incredible to be considered for such a title. The competition is celebrating the achievements of people aged 16-25, I entered the competition with my research project on the Characterisation of Early Colorectal Cancer Development, my success at the NESC and how I was selected to represent the UK at the LIYSF.”

After a busy summer of scientific successes, Chelsea starts at the University of Bristol studying medicine. However, she hopes to return to the University of Leicester during the summer holidays to continue with her research.

Read more about the work of the CRUK Centre at:


To find out more about the Jack Wills Young Brits 2015, go to:


Read more on the National Science and Engineering Competition 2015 at:


To find out more about the London International Youth Science Forum, go to



Notes to editors:

For more information contact Professor Catrin Pritchard at cap8@leicester.ac.uk

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