Science-minded TAISM Students Take on Cancer Research at SQU

Ever wondered what it would take to be a scientist?  Ever wanted to solve a world problem that affects the lives of millions of people around the world, and their families?  Twelve inquisitive TAISM students did, when they traveled to Sultan Qaboos University to learn about cancer research happening right here in Oman.  

Dr. Sirin Adham met our bus with a big wave and an even bigger smile as we pulled into the Department of Biology parking lot

. For the past four years, TAISM has been donating our Terry Fox fundraising Rials to Dr Sirin’s breast cancer study.  As far as we are aware, TAISM is the only school in the world with a direct friendship with the researchers who receive their Terry Fox funding.  It is a symbiotic relationship (biology pun intended) because TAISM students are grateful for the opportunity to learn about cancer research, and Dr. Sirin and her team are grateful for TAISM’s support of their work. 

We made our way to a lovely conference room where our students introduced themselves to the team of scientists, each sharing their name, grade, and why they signed up for the trip.  Some students shared that they are interested in biology, chemistry or physics. Some share that they have career goals to be scientific researchers, doctors, surgeons, and biomedical engineers.  Dr. Sirin’s graduate students also introduced themselves and shared their areas of focus, such as studying genetic differences in cancer patients to provide more effective individualized treatment. 

Once acquainted, Dr. Sirin introduced her study and shared a video with the group to educate us about the genetic foundation of cancer. Students then took part in a contest, to see if they could match biomedical equipment with the correct name. The contest was for fun, but also primed the students’ brains for learning before their lab tour.

Dr. Sirin then led us into her lab. Students quickly identified all the medical equipment they had just learned about through the contest, before splitting off into three groups.  Each group rotated around the lab learning about the steps of cancer research, and how the equipment is used in the context of Dr. Sirin’s breast cancer study.  Students learned how scientists use a real-time PCR machine, a fluorescence microscope, and multiple centrifuges, and they learned how to compare protein expression in different cancer cell samples using a gel documentary system.

After the tour, students returned to the conference room to revisit the game to see what they had learned. Students were able to identify every medical device correctly, as well as answer Dr. Sirin’s questions about how they function. Dr. Sirin was impressed with our students’ engagement, enthusiasm, knowledge, and level of inquiry.  We wrapped up with a more informal Q&A session, where students had a chance to ask Dr. Sirin about her journey to achieve her dream of starting her lab, and her advice about what to study in university.   

We are grateful to Dr. Sirin and her team for this valuable experience for our TAISM students, and for their continued research to better help people in Oman with breast cancer. Long may our symbiotic relationship continue!