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Cardiff school pupil helps pioneering University research

19 March 2008

A Cardiff High School pupil’s work with a university research team could help reduce the number of animals used in biological experiments.

David Hilbert, aged 18, has won two awards and made the final of a third for his electron microscopy work with Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences. He has also given a presentation at a major scientific conference in Cardiff.

The Lung & Particle Research Group, led by Dr Kelly BéruBé, School of Biosciences, has developed a test-tube method of growing human lung tissue donated by heart-lung transplant patients. They hope that the technique will eventually be used to replace animal testing for a wide variety of aerosolised consumer products (e.g. hairspray, perfume, deodorant, air fresheners) and for testing drugs for lung diseases (e.g. asthma, COPD and fibrosis).

David, who is studying for his A-levels, joined Dr BéruBé’s research team as a 17-year-old work experience student from Cardiff High School last summer. After one week of hands-on work in lung histology and scanning electron microscopy, David requested more research time. He also successfully applied for a ‘Nuffield Science Bursary’ for high school students to fund his research and a salary. David then trained in Scanning Electron Microscopy, particularly in the preparation of three-dimensional image generation of human lung tissue samples. His independent research project showed that the donated human tissue cells were growing in exactly the same manner in a test tube (in vitro), as they do in the human body (in vivo); making them a viable replacement model for animal scientific experiments.

As part of the Nuffield bursary scheme, David was required to present his research at a celebration event for all bursary recipients held at the Cardiff science centre Techniquest. He also won first prize for a poster presentation about his work for the ‘Microscopy for the New Millennium’ conference held at Cardiff University and sponsored by the Royal Microscopical Society. David then won a Crest Gold Award for a project involving more than 100 hours’ work from the British Association for the Advancement of Science and was selected to demonstrate his research at their annual ‘UK Young Scientists’ and Engineers’ Fair’. At the 2008 Fair, held at London’s Centre for the Cell, the judges praised the excellence of his research and his presentation display.

David takes A-levels in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Maths this summer, and is applying to read medicine at Cardiff University. He said: "I have had a fantastic experience with the Biosciences research team and learned an enormous amount. My ambition is some day to be a medical doctor and my work at Cardiff will hopefully stand me in good stead."

Dr BéruBé said: "David has made an outstanding contribution to the lung tissue project, which we hope will reduce the need for animals in a wide range of experimental tests. There’s no doubt David has a bright future ahead of him as a medical scientist."

David’s story demonstrates how young people interested in science can obtain hands-on research experience and training by working with Cardiff University researchers such as Dr BéruBé, who are trained in science communication and committed to the public engagement of the sciences. Dr BéruBé added: "The School of Biosciences has brilliant resources, both in staff and equipment, for bringing science innovation and engagement to schools, lay groups and professional learned societies."


Notes to Editors:

Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities. It is also ranked as one of the world’s top 100 universities by the Times Higher Education (THE). 2008 marks the 125th anniversary of Cardiff University having been founded by Royal Charter in 1883. Today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading research universities.

Visit the University website at:

Cardiff School of Biosciences

The Cardiff School of Biosciences addresses the major biological questions which face health and life scientists. The major research areas of the School are: biodiversity and ecology, connective tissue biology, environmental biochemistry and microbiology, mammalian genetics, molecular enzymology and entomology, and neuroscience cell biology. The School achieved a one hundred per cent success in the national, independent assessment of university teaching quality.

Further Information:

For further information or images, please contact:

Dr Kelly BéruBé,

School of Biosciences,

Cardiff University,

029 2087 6012



Stephen Rouse,

Public Relations Office,

Cardiff University.

029 2087 5596