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Inspiring tomorrow's scientists: Students explore the world of stem cells on UniStem Day 2023

UniStem Day 2023 participants and workshop leaders in action during workshop 7.
Highschool students learn how the extraordinary regenerative powers of salamanders can help us discover new ways to fight diseases in humans in a UniStem Day 2023 workshop led by researchers in the Leigh Group.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to grow a brain in a petri dish or how scientists use viruses to fight genetic diseases? These are just some of the fascinating topics explored on UniStem Day 2023 at Lund Stem Cell Center in Sweden.

On 10 March 2023, more than 220 high school students from across Sweden's southern Skåne region arrived at Lund Stem Cell Center at Lund University for a day of learning, discovery, and discussion about stem cell science.

UniStem Day, held annually in Lund, aims to inspire young students in southern Sweden to pursue careers in biomedical research and showcase the potential of stem cells in improving human health. Part of a European initiative, this year’s event, hosted by Lund Stem Cell Center, focused on the never-ending journey of stem cell research, promoting a more mature and aware vision of the importance of knowledge and innovation for oneself and others.

"UniStem Day is all about sparking young students' interest in stem cell research and helping them envision themselves as future scientists," said Daniella Ottosson, Assistant Professor at Lund University and UniStem Coordinator at Lund Stem Cell Center.

Delving into the world of stem cells

The students who traveled from Malmö, Ängelholm, Kristianstad, Helsingborg, and around Lund had the unique opportunity to interact with researchers from the center, explore the latest techniques and technologies used in stem cell research, and delve into the ethical and societal implications of the field over the course of the day.

UniStem Day 2023 participants in a workshop.
Students see how a brain is cut and how it is then labeled with special antibodies in order to visualize transplanted stem cells.

But it wasn't all lectures and discussions. The students also had the chance to get hands-on experience in the lab through a variety of workshops. There they learned about the basics of stem cell biology and everything from the extraordinary regenerative powers of organisms like salamanders to the latest breakthroughs in gene therapy using the revolutionary tool, CRISPR-Cas9.

"This year's event was especially appreciated after a two-year pause due to the pandemic. The practical part of the day was particularly appreciated among students and teachers,” noted Daniella Ottosson.

For Nemo Kobayashi, a student from Pauliskolan in Malmö, the event was an exciting learning experience. "I have learned about stem cells in school how they are pluripotent and multipotent, but today gave me new insights about things I never really thought about before," they stated.

"I have learned about a bunch of new things that I am really interested in; workshop number 7 was probably the coolest so far," continued Nemo Kobayashi. "Getting new firsthand knowledge about how salamanders regenerate their limbs and tails and how they are immune to cancer was definitely welcome."

Inspiring the Scientists of Tomorrow

Students also gained a glimpse into potential career paths that could await them following graduation. "It's important for everyone to learn about potential careers in medicine and research and have an example of what life as a researcher can kind of look like going forward. It’s given me a lot to think about," highlighted Nemo Kobayashi.

The day, designed to inspire and educate the scientists of tomorrow, came to a close with a group quiz on several topics covered throughout the day, where a class from Österänggymnasiet in Kristianstad emerged victorious.

UniStem Day 2023 Ask Me volunteers
UniStem Day 2023 'Ask Me' Volunteers celebrate the exciting day.

Overall, UniStem Day 2023 was a resounding success, and Lund Stem Cell Center looks forward to welcoming a new group of future scientists to next year’s event.

“I sensed it was great fun for everyone involved, including our doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers. I am truly impressed by the great teamwork from our students around this day and the whole organizing committee that made it happen,” reflected Daniella Ottosson.


About UniStem Day at Lund Stem Cell Center

The event, first held in 2009, is coordinated by the University of Milan in Italy. This year 86 universities and research centers across 13 European countries and Australia participated with an audience that reached a record number of 30,000 high school students.

Since 2015, when Professor Malin Parmar first initiated the event at Lund University, Lund Stem Cell Center has proudly participated in UniStem Day. As part of the Center's long-standing commitment to inspiring and educating the scientists of tomorrow, and to advancing the frontiers of science and medicine, the event continues to be held annually in Lund.

Organizers at Lund University are Daniella Ottosson, Shayini, Malin Parmar, Mattias Magnusson, Henrik Ahlenius, Alexis Luis, Oskar Zetterdahl, Marageta Mittendorfer, and Raquel Martinez Curiel.

UniStem Day 2023 Lectures:

Introduction to stem cell biology, by Mattias Magnusson

Stem cells and cancer, by Emma Hammarlund

Stems cells from the lab to the clinic, by Malin Parmar

The life journey of a researcher, by Daniella Ottosson