Pearson-Young funding is for postgraduate students who have done their undergraduate at a South African institution and intend on doing an Honours degree at Rhodes University. In order to be eligible for this funding, the student’s chosen project must be related to cancer research. Although it is primarily intended for studies at an Honours level, an application may be made to the Trustees to ask for the funding to be extended to cover Masters and PhD as well.
We were hosted by Prof Sandy Macrobert of University College London (UCL), whose research lab deals with both in vitro and in vivo studies, as well as clinical trials. We worked primarily with Dr Nikoleta Nomikou, who introduced us to the 4T1 cancer cell line. This is a particularly aggressive mouse breast cancer model which, unlike most models, is able to spontaneously metastasize, spreading from the primary tumour in the mammary gland to multiple distant organs. The progressive spread of 4T1 metastases is very similar to that of human mammary cancer, allowing for more meaningful results.
We covered quite a bit of ground during our stay in the UK. Travelling on the underground to the hospital every morning was so quick, and the public transport made it so easy to get around. On one of the weekends, we bussed to Oxford to visit Rhodes alumnus and Rhodes Scholarship recipient, Colin Mkhize, who is doing a PhD in Material sciences. He showed us around the Department of Materials Science and arranged for us to get a tour of the Organic Chemistry building as well (they have 3 buildings just for chemistry: Organic, Inorganic, and Physical and Theoretical!).
It was not all work and no play while we were in London, and we managed to do our fair share of sightseeing as well... We walked the streets flat and this gave us a chance to see the architecture and enjoy the wonderful parks (we even managed to go running in some of them!). We visited a number of museums, went on the London Eye and a Thames boat ride, and watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
Our deepest thanks go to Prof Nyokong for the opportunities afforded to us, as well as to Gail Cobus for seeing it all through, ensuring we had flights and accommodation for the duration of our stay. This trip was eye-opening in many ways. The biggest realization for us was that the facilities and equipment that we have back home at Rhodes University are really top quality. We left the UK with appreciative minds, recognizing that the grass is not always greener on the other side.