When cells go rogue

February 13th, 2013 | Categories: Science, walking randomly | Tags:

One of the benefits of working at a university is that you are surrounded by a lot of smart people doing very interesting things and it usually doesn’t take much effort to get them to talk about their research.  I work in the faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences which means that I’m pretty well covered in subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, engineering, computer science, materials and earth sciences but I have to go all the way to the other side of campus if I want to learn a little about the life sciences.

Last week, I attended a free event called The Rogue Cell which was arranged by The Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Research and hosted by  The Manchester Museum as part of World Cancer Day.  I had no idea what to expect out of the evening but if you were to press me I would have guessed that there was going to be a lot of power point slides and row upon row of gently dozing delegates.  I could not have been more wrong.

The event was arranged in a workshop format where all of the attendees were split into five groups of six or so.  Each group was then assigned a Wellcome Trust Researcher who’s job it was to explain to us one of five defining characteristics of a cancer cell which were

  • Evading the immune system
  • Angiogenesis (formation of blood vessels)
  • Migration/invasion
  • Proliferation
  • Lack of apoptosis (programmed cell death).

Each group kept their researcher for 20 minutes or so before they got assigned a new one who discussed a different topic from the five.  So, by the end of the evening we had covered the lot.  The presentations were intimate, informal and highly interactive and it felt to me like I was having a good chat down my local pub with a group of people who just happened to be world-class cancer researchers.  If only all learning experiences were like this one!

There was a great cross section of attendees from PhD biology students through to clinicians, undergraduates, random people off the street and, of course, the occasional math software geek.  One of the great things about this event was the fact that everyone seemed to get a lot out of it, no matter what their background.  I asked a lot of questions, many of which would have been blindingly obvious to a student of the life sciences but not once was I made to feel stupid or out of place.  It must have been exhausting for the presenters but I can honestly say that it was one of the most enjoyable learning experiences I’ve had for quite some time.

I sincerely hope that The Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Research and The Manchester Museum will be arranging more events like this in the future.


The following links were sent to us following the event.  I include them here for anyone who’s interested.

Evasion of Immune System:




  1. February 19th, 2013 at 10:39
    Reply | Quote | #1

    That sounds like a great way of presenting material if you have multiple experts available. Food for thought for future presentations…