How the GOSH Young Persons’ Advisory Group for research is helping to inspire the next generation of women in science

11 Feb 2023, 8 a.m.

Our GOSH Young Persons’ Advisory Group (YPAG) for research is a group of young people aged between 10 and 21 who work closely with researchers and clinicians across GOSH and the UCL GOS ICH to advise them on many aspects of their research.

6 GOSH YPAG members stand on the steps of the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health

GOSH YPAG members on the steps of the UCL GOS ICH at a recent event

Many of the group represent young women and girls with a keen interest in science and medicine, with the group getting to interact with a variety of scientists, researchers, and clinical staff at their meetings.

This International Day of Women and Girl’s in Science we chatted to three new members of GOSH YPAG to understand why the group is so important to them.

Rose, joined GOSH YPAG in November 2022

What do you like most about science?

I love that science is dynamic. Progress and new discoveries are being made regularly, which is what makes it so exciting. It is a subject of the present and is constantly evolving, responding to the needs of society at the time. I also like that science is collaborative. Scientists work in teams and build on the work of their predecessors, making science proof of the power of communication and cooperation.

Who are the female scientist role models who have inspired you?

I am inspired by the female staff at GOSH. Whereas women are often pigeon-holed into being either compassionate or professionally excellent, the female staff at GOSH defy this. Working kindly in a world-leading hospital, they prove that expertise and tenderness are not mutually exclusive.

Do you feel that being a member of GOSH YPAG has helped you learn more about science and research?

Definitely! It has reminded me that there is always ‘behind the scenes’ research being conducted. Even if we only hear of the large, revolutionary discoveries, smaller progress is being made daily and being part of GOSH YPAG reminds me of this.

Why do you think it’s important for more girls to study science?

If girls are being treated with the findings of research, girls should also be involved in building the research. This will ensure that studies and treatments do not overlook the needs of women, therefore creating more widely effective results.

Leila, joined GOSH YPAG in April 2022

I joined GOSH YPAG after realising how it perfectly combined my interests of medical research and public health/ improving patient care! Being a member has meant I’ve learnt a lot about science and research from many different healthcare professionals and from discussing topics with peers.

At a GOSH YPAG meeting with members of the cancer research team at UCL, I was introduced to the case of a patient whose acute lymphoblastic leukaemia was thought to be incurable and fatal until her family and healthcare team decided to take a ‘leap of faith’ and trial CAR-T cell therapy. Despite her initially not improving, she managed to survive and is now 10 years free of cancer - effectively cured. It was inspiring to be able to learn about this case and see how much impact research can have on individuals, but also on society as a whole; especially since this case kickstarted the use of the treatment for other patients.

The researchers also highlighted the ever-evolving nature of science and medicine: this treatment is in fact less useful now on acute myeloid leukaemia and research is being done to study whether micro-RNA can mediate immune suppression to improve the immunotherapy’s efficacy.

What do you like about science?

It’s constantly changing as new discoveries are made which can change the lives of so many patients and their families. It is not necessarily always predictable due to our equally changing environment, e.g., with COVID-19, but I do hope in the future to contribute to these medical advancements and conduct research of my own. In the meantime, I am enjoying being able to support these discoveries by advising health care professionals on how to improve local young people's health services through providing insight into what would be most beneficial to this group and how to improve engagement with them.

What is the significance of International Day of Women and Girls in Science to you?

I believe it’s important in highlighting different woman’s achievements in research so that these role models can inspire a future generation of girls. Women participation itself is essential in making sure that the demographic of people working in science is reflective of the general population they’re aiming to treat. This is particularly important as they can provide insight into certain issues faced by this group.

Danait, joined GOSH YPAG in November 2022

Which female scientists have inspired you?

The inventor of a ground-breaking technology for editing genomes, named CRISPR-Cas9, Jennifer Doudna has allowed scientists to make ultra-precise edits to DNA in cells, which has the potential to cure genetic diseases and deformities such as cancer. I also resonate with her view that “getting girls into STEM takes representation and investment in early education for girls”.

You and some of your classmates took part in the UCL Great Ormond Street (GOS) Institute of Child Health (ICH) work experience scheme last October – how did you find the experience?

Thoroughly enjoyable and engaging! We toured the state-of-the-art laboratories in the new Zayed Centre for Research and learned about the machinery they contain (such as flow cytometers) and how they function. My favourite activity was looking at muscle cells under a fluorescent microscope and distinguishing between cardiac and skeletal cells. I also feel like I gained insight into the administrative side of research that all scientists must go through such as applying for funds or the path towards a clinical trial.

Why do you think it’s important for more girls to study science?

Stem careers now are male dominated and that must change. There are many factors that cause this such as the environment, social beliefs, and stereotypes, which greatly determine how likely girls and women are to retain their interest and motivation in STEM subjects and pursue their passion in their adult life. These factors hinder many girls from reaching their full potential with regards to studying science which is very sad to see. Therefore, I feel strongly that it is imperative that schools, institutions, and we ourselves strive to diminish these barriers.

Read GOSH YPAG member Parveen’s Blog about our November 2022 GOSH YPAG meeting.

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