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A student’s first experience of animals in research

Posted by on December 2, 2013

James Iremonger is a second year Cell and Molecular Biology student at Heriot Watt University, with interests in nutrition and neuroscience. 

As a winner of the Society of Biology Animals in Research essay competition, I was given the opportunity to complete the Home Office Modular 1-4 courses, provided by Learning Curve. The course, held at King’s College London, was a fascinating insight into such topics as anaesthesia and animal behaviour.

I am a molecular biology student with a particular interest in nutrition, and realise that in vivo work is an unfortunate necessity for much of our knowledge about living systems, especially disease states such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Many target animal research as a needless and cruel endeavour. However it is a sense of wonderment and utmost respect for life that drives biological research – a dichotomy that made me interested in writing an entry for the competition. Home Office legislation makes it impossible to use an animal model for research unless the researcher can prove that no alternative is available, and the 3Rs (reduction, refinement, replacement) are an integral part of that framework and were omnipresent throughout our training. It was encouraging to see the breadth of knowledge and care that exists within an animal unit; from veterinary surgeon to animal technician, all I encountered were experts in the handling and welfare of their animals. I particularly enjoyed my first rat encounter – they were very social and loved being handled!

Overall, the trip was an intriguing and refreshing interlude to my second year studies. It was great to learn as part of a diverse group consisting of graduates, post-grads and post-docs from various disciplines – a chance or share and hear new ideas. Our trainer, Ian, delivered a fantastic course and his enthusiasm and curiosity for animals was infectious. Regardless of whether I engage in animal research further on in my career, I have gained invaluable knowledge about a complex and intriguing subject.

Some background information in a video from Understanding Animal Research:

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