Summer Placement Experience: Carly Macmillan
2021-12-16

This summer, I completed a remote HotStart placement run through the University of Aberdeen and I was supervised by Professor Valerie Speirs. I spent 8 weeks researching the question “should animals be used as experimental models for cancer research in the 21st century?”.

Firstly, I designed a questionnaire suitable for academics and students, in order to find out their opinions and knowledge of the different types of cancer research methods, namely research using animals but also the alternatives available today. I went through the process of submitting the questionnaire for ethical review. Unfortunately, approval would take longer than my 8 weeks, however it was still a valuable experience to go through the process.

To find out opinions on a broader spectrum out-with the university, I created a twitter poll, targeting five key questions, which can be viewed here. I then got in contact with Animal Free Research UK, Understanding Animal Research, FRAME, and The Humane Research Trust in order to promote my poll, and overall I gained between 107-149 responses per question. Professor Speirs also promoted my poll and was able to tag pages who were for and against using animals in research. It was very interesting to see the split of opinion, which at closing stood at 42% of voters agreed animals should be used in cancer research in the 21st century, with 58% opposing.

A portion of my project also involved looking into the impact of Covid-19 on the numbers of animals used in research. I was able to analyse the Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals, available on the government website yearly and also I collected anecdotal evidence from local research centres that used animals.

Alongside my independent research, I attended weekly meetings with the Speirs group where I was able to learn about their ongoing work, and to discuss different areas of research that were new to me, as well as receiving advice and encouragement from my more experienced team members.

Ultimately, I created a presentation which I gave to my research group on my final week in order to share my conclusions and I received very positive feedback! Overall, this project has allowed me to expand on my knowledge and given me a wider outlook on the different, successful approaches to cancer research. I thoroughly enjoyed my placement and look forward to future research projects.

You can watch Carly's video summary of her project here.

Published by The School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, University of Aberdeen

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