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Bioscience students get chance to volunteer in laboratories with cancer charity Anthony Nolan

UEL lecturer Dr Stefano Casalotti keen to strengthen links with charity after his daughter received life-saving stem cell transplant

By Lee Pinkerton 

One year after a running high-profile campaign to find a life-saving bone marrow match for the daughter of a University of East London (UEL) lecturer, cancer charity Anthony Nolan and UEL have teamed up again to offer students volunteering opportunities in the charity’s laboratories.

Last year, UEL’s student Marrow Society played a key part in Anthony Nolan’s global ‘Match4Lara’ appeal after Lara Casalotti, the daughter of UEL bioscience lecturer Dr Stefano Casalotti (pictured left), was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia.

More than 300 UEL staff and students registered as bone marrow donors, while thousands more registered worldwide. A compatible donor was eventually found and Lara is now making a good recovery from the life-threatening condition. 

Following the success of Match4Lara, Dr Casalotti was determined to build on the momentum gained by the campaign and to strengthen the ties between UEL and Anthony Nolan.

He said, “Anthony Nolan now offers our students a very exiting volunteering programme. Students that can satisfy their requirements have the opportunity to rotate through the different departments of the Anthony Nolan labs where the samples of those that have joined the register for cell stem donation are processed.

“Not only will the students experience the importance of stringent laboratory procedures, accurate samples processing and precise data recording, but they will also be interacting with scientists at the forefront of scientific research using advanced technologies such as Next Generation Sequencing.

“I am very grateful to Anthony Nolan for offering our students this possibility, and I am sure our students will do UEL proud and contribute to the important work Anthony Nolan is doing in saving the lives of patients with blood cancers and other disorders.”

Caroline Fallon, Anthony Nolan’s volunteer engagement manager, said, “We are delighted to be able to provide this opportunity to UEL students. At Anthony Nolan laboratories our scientists process hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of saliva samples per week to test the tissue type of potential new donors.

“Collaborating with the volunteering team at UEL means that we can enlist the help of talented and enthusiastic students to support this life-saving work, while also providing the students with the chance to experience daily routines within our labs, meet new people and develop scientific skills.”

Student Hayad Mohamud is one of the five students who passed their rigorous selection process.

She said, “Volunteering with Anthony Nolan has definitely been very inspiring for me, because having the ability to make a difference to someone else's life strikes me as rewarding and gratifying.”

Another of the selected students, Sheeza Imran Hafiz, said, “I would definitely recommend volunteering to other students. It will benefit those who are interested or want to improve on their knowledge of immunology and those who are enthusiastic in different areas of biomedical science in general.”