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Schoolboy inspired to find a cure for diabetes following work experience placement at Bristol laboratory

Boy in lab coat smiling.

Ahead of World Diabetes Day, Ben from Somerset opens up about his experience of living with diabetes, how a Diabetes UK-run lab tour inspired his recent work experience placement and his dreams of one day finding a cure for the condition.

Boy in lab holding a test tube

Then and now – an eight-year-old Ben on the tour of the Bristol Diabetes and Metabolism Labs at Southmead Hospital, and 15-year-old Ben during his work experience at the same lab. 

From a young age, I have always been fascinated with the sciences and biology. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was three, so I have been used to regular trips to hospital, blood tests, injections, insulin pumps and all the paraphernalia that goes along with diabetes. 

I always had a passionate need to know how my body works, and how diabetes works. I think it’s why I have always been interested in biology.  

When I was eight years old, I went to the University of Bristol Diabetes and Metabolism Labs at Southmead Hospital and met Professor Kathleen Gillespie. I remember being in awe of all the scientific equipment and the possibility of a cure being developed. 

Seven years pass by, and I’m now fifteen studying for my GCSE’s. I have chosen Triple Science with a keen interest in biomedical science. My school raised the subject of work experience, and it made me think about where I could possibly find a lab that offered the chance. 

I emailed Diabetes UK and explained my memories of the day in the lab that Diabetes UK organised when I was eight. I asked if there was any plausibility of going back for work experience. I was optimistic but knew it could be difficult.  

“I was overjoyed; it was a chance to experience working in a lab and learning more about research. ”

To my surprise I had a very quick response from Diabetes UK and in turn Kathleen Gillespie and the University of Bristol Alistair Williams Antibody Facility. They even remembered me from years ago going on the tour. I was overjoyed; it was a chance to experience working in a lab and learning more about research.  

I got to learn about experiments and see research in action, including research looking at the causes of type 1, and research which screens participants to determine whether they possess high risk genes for type 1. I also got involved with the research, helping to make scientific solutions, and transferring and organising samples.  

I learnt so much in such a short space of time. Everyone was so passionate about their work and really showed me what it was like to work in a lab. It has definitely confirmed I want to pursue a career in biomedical science. Maybe one day I will work in diabetes research, and can help provide data which in turn, could lead to scientific breakthroughs or even a cure.  

You can donate to our lifesaving research here: Donate to Diabetes UK 


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