25 May Leading epigenetics researcher and author Nessa Carey visits NCS students (Video)
One of the new topics of the A Level Biology course focuses on is ‘Epigenetics’, which is the study of heritable changes to DNA which do not affect the DNA base sequence. Scientists are beginning to understand that the expression of genes is not as simple as once thought, but that epigenetic modifications to the DNA can affect the regulation of transcription. With this being such an exciting field of study, our students were excited to welcome Professor Nessa Carey to the The NCS to deliver a lecture.
Prof. Carey has a PhD in virology and a post-doc in Human Genetics. She has worked in the biotech and pharamaceutical industry for 13 years and is currently the International Director of the organization for technology transfer professionals, PraxisUnico. She is also a visiting professor at Imperial College London. Prof. Carey’s breadth of experience and knowledge led to her writing two important books, “The Epigenetics Revolution” and “Junk DNA: A Journey Through the Dark Matter of the Genome” both of which are on the reading list for NCS Biology students.
During her talk, Prof. Carey explained the principle ideas of epigenetics and demonstrated some core ideas using models she made with jelly-tot sweets! (You can watch the video below if you’d like to discover how that works!). She went on to discuss the importance of this area of biological research.
“I worked for a long time on developing new drugs to treat cancer and targeting abnormal epigenetic processes is a really good way of doing this. So it’s really influencing, for example, drug companies who are now spending billions of dollars trying to create new drugs. It may also underline some really fundamental issues of human health that we’ve never really been able to get a handle of.”
Speaking to a full hall of NCS biologists, the afternoon ended with a long Q&A session where our students asked many wonderful and impressive questions. All the staff and students at The NCS would like to thank Prof. Carey for her visit and for her informative and insightful talk that left a lasting impact.
The Student View
“Professor Carey is a personal inspiration of mine as an aspiring geneticist, so hearing her lecture was an amazing experience. From the lecture I learnt more about epigenetics, learning that the epigenetics of an organism can be passed from parent to offspring, meaning that the environmental experiences of the parents may be seen in the offspring. I found this very interesting as I had not been aware that an environmental factor could be passed through the genes but epigenetics allows this to occur. This lecture was eye opening and has encouraged me to pursue my career of genetics.” - Nadia
``Nessa Carey's talk on epigenetics opened my eyes to the deeper understanding of our DNA and how every moment of the day our DNA is changing. The understanding of epigenetics not only breaks through the biologically reductionist view that we are only what our genes code for but opens the door to explore the connection between genetics and psychology. It was truly enlightening and engaging, and really encouraged me to read further into the phenomenon.” - Bridget
“Nessa Carey’s epigenetics lecture was very insightful and I was amazed as to learn about the complexity of our DNA. Epigenetics is the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off which means that certain circumstances in life can actually cause your genes to be silenced or expressed over time. This has sparked an interest and I will definitely be doing research to gain a better understanding about epigenetics.” - Sarah