NIMR work experience student wins international accolade

A teenager from north London who took part in a placement at the National Institute for Medical Research - one of the Crick's founding institutes - has won a prestigious award for the work she did while at the institute.

Mariam Zaidi, from Kingsbury High School, won the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar prize in the National Science and Engineering Competition for an investigation into arterial valves in mice and human embryos.

Mariam, who's 17, will attend the prestigious Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar in December - with all expenses paid. She will be able to attend lectures by Nobel Prize winners and visit research centres of international renown, alongside other young scientists from all over the world.

Mariam spent five weeks over last summer working at Tim Mohun's lab at NIMR. She investigated early development of the heart in mouse embryos, looking in particular at the way in which the "great vessels" of the heart - the aorta and the pulmonary trunk - form from an initial common outflow tube. The precise mechanism by which these two vessels form is a longstanding problem which is still poorly understood but remains important because failures in this aspect of heart development can lead to severe congenital abnormalities in newborn babies.

Mariam's project combined conventional techniques such as studying cells through a microscope with a novel imaging procedure developed at NIMR that provided highly detailed 3D models of the embryo heart to be constructed. Using this approach, Mariam was able to identify some fascinating changes in structure that are clearly important in how the two vessels form. Her work now forms the basis of ongoing research.

Tim Mohun said: "Mariam was a great student - quickly learning an impressive amount about the subject along with experimental and computer techniques needed for the project. I'm delighted that she has received this recognition of her hard work and everyone in the lab is thrilled that she has won this award."

The aim of the Competition is to recognise and reward young people's achievements in all areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The Competition's finals are held annually at The Big Bang Fair where each finalist displays and demonstrates their project work to visiting school groups and the wider public. By seeing the achievements of their peers, it is hoped that students visiting the fair will be encouraged to engage with STEM themselves.

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