Phoebe Ellwood and Joanne Doleman analysing samples on the HPLC
15 year old student Phoebe Ellwood from Framingham Earl High Scoool has been spending the week on the Year 10 Science Camp, which is designed to give an inspirational insight into life as a scientist at the Norwich Research Park. She spent part of this time working with Dr Joanne Doleman from the Institute of Food Research, as well as the IFR Communications Team, where she blogged about her day in the lab:
“Eating the right foods as part of a balanced diet is important when it comes to being healthy. Some foods are thought to have beneficial health effects on our bodies, even when it comes to fighting and preventing certain diseases. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage have associated with a reduced risk of diseases such as cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables contain compounds called glucosinolates (GSLs). The protective effect of the vegetables may be a result from the breakdown of these into active compounds called isothiocyanates (ITCs).
Scientists at the Institute of Food Research are researching this idea by creating capsules containing glucoraphanin, a type of glucosinlate that has been purified from broccoli. Participants in the study will be given the capsule to be taken with their breakfast. This process is to see whether the glucoraphanin, in the capsule, is still available to be used by our bodies, and how well it can be converted to ICTs by the bacteria in our gut.
As people change GSLs to ITCs at different rates and in different amounts, the scientists at IFR want to look at the rate at which the volunteer gets rid of ICTs from their body by collecting urine samples. They are also interested in finding out the different types of bacteria the volunteers gut contains. This is done by extracting bacteria from a faecal sample.
I was lucky enough to spend a morning in one of the laboratories at IFR with Dr Joanne F Doleman. Joanne showed me how to analyse and record the collected data from the samples onto their computer systems as well as printing out hard copies. Afterwards we transferred the data onto a spreadsheet. I then used formulas which allowed me to present the data in Graphs making it easier to compare and view. Putting the data on the spreadsheet also allowed me to create and view averages for the data. Additionally I created a bar chart to display the data showing the name of the sample and the concentration of ITCs it contained. Joanne was also kind enough to let help her finish preparing some more samples for testing which was by far my favourite part. It was really interesting to learn and discover how real research scientists collect, analyse and present their findings, and to see what they do on a day to day basis at work. I am extremely grateful to have been offered this experience and would like to thank Joanne for letting me join her for the morning.”