14 July, 2022
My name is Jaspreet Bansal. I am a PhD student with the BBSRC funded Midlands Integrative Biosciences Partnership (MIBTP). I undertook an internship with the KEC Team as part of my DTP PIPS scheme. My PhD project focuses on rejuvenating older donor mesenchymal stromal cells to improve their anti-inflammatory properties so they can be utilised for cell therapy.
Last year I was accepted onto the BBSRC-funded Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership to start my PhD in investigating the ageing and immunology side of mesenchymal stromal cells at Aston University. What I found really exciting about my PhD programme was that it allowed me to explore different research labs and also pursue a non-lab based project (‘Professional Internship for PhD students', PIPS). Being someone who enjoys being in the lab and having chosen a wet lab PhD I had never thought what I would do outside the lab if given the option, so whilst this was an exciting opportunity I found it quite daunting at first!
Fortunately, my PhD programme provided a list of options and places previous PIPs students had been before. When I came across the Babraham Institute I saw the opportunity to work with the Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation (KEC) team and the opportunity to learn about IP, patents, spin-offs and knowledge exchange. This area was totally new to me, and one I thought it would be a good opportunity to pursue, especially because it is so important whether you are in academia or industry. I also noted that as my research follows a lot of the research areas at the Babraham Institute such as ageing, immunology, stem cells and I also used flow cytometry as one my main techniques, it would make discussing and diving into a variety of projects with the KEC team easier for me, at least in terms of having relevant background knowledge! I decided to move to Cambridge and begin my PIPS placement in April 2022.
After starting my placement, I was introduced to the whole KEC team and to a variety of projects which involved looking at IP, patents, marketability of novel research. I was also given the opportunity to attend a range of translational talks and events such as the CamNTF (Cambridge New Therapeutics Forum) and the annual symposium of the Milner Therapeutics Institute. One of my projects allowed me to experience the other side of events and I was fortunate enough to be involved in planning an Animal Technicians’ conference that will be taking place at the Institute in the autumn.
When I started these projects I never really anticipated how complex patenting was or the activities involved in the process of getting a technology into market. I was included in innovation disclosure discussions and joined group leaders in meetings as well having the opportunity to undertake two flow cytometry courses run at the Institute. I really enjoyed being able to fully immerse myself into the variety of research taking place. Normally in the lab you do not get to look at so many different projects so it was really nice to learn about a range of research activities outside of my field.
It was amazing to observe how the KEC team takes on so many different projects and utilises the expertise from each member to promote collaboration within and outside the Institute. My team also shared an office with the Institute’s Communications team and so I was able to see how both teams interact and work together to achieve the Institute’s aims. It was really nice to be exposed to so many different aspects of the Institute.
Jaspreet and friends enjoying a day out.
For me this was the first time I had lived alone and lived anywhere beyond Birmingham as I stayed there for my undergraduate and Master’s degrees. This was an exciting opportunity for me but I was naturally nervous about it.
Before arriving, I was told it was much quieter in Cambridge and being from a large city and having never lived away from my family I wasn’t sure how I’d adapt. My move was made easier by having accommodation options available through the Institute-owned housing, handily located just next door to the campus in a residential area called The Close. After arriving, I met my new housemates who helped me settle right in. We all got along so quickly and discussed having cultural food nights, travelling and taking in Cambridge together. To make my stay even better my housemates were friends with our neighbours as they worked in the same labs together. One by one we made a little community in our row of The Close, welcoming new people and saying goodbye to people who had become good friends. We regularly met up and took evening walks, played our favourite game, Catan, did our weekly shopping and travelled around the UK together. We embraced each other’s cultures and formed great friendships. For me this was the best experience of living on my own for the first time.
I’m really grateful for this opportunity and have enjoyed my time at the Babraham Institute and in Cambridge. I’d like to thank everyone in the KEC and Communications teams for making me feel so welcome and supporting me. In particular I’d like to thank Emily Boyce and Kate Dulwich from the KEC team for giving me an insightful and engaging experience here. Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone from The Close community for being so welcoming and for making my time here memorable.
Jaspreet and friends sharing a meal.
Main image (top): Knowledge Exchange Manager, Dr Emily Boyce (left), Jaspreet Bansal, PIPS student (middle), Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation Officer, Dr Kate Dulwich (right)
14 July 2022
By Guest Blogger