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My Week at TEDS

Jemma in the Brain Lab

Reflecting on life as a twin

I’m Jemma, a non-identical TEDS twin, and I’ve just finished my first year at The University of Essex studying psychology. From studying psychology (and of course being a twin myself), I have developed an interest in twin studies and how they allow us to look at the contribution of genetics and the environment to behaviour. Completing the studies at a young age and seeing a copy of the 7 year old interview booklet in the office brings back great memories of taking part in the TEDS studies with my parents and my twin, Rebecca. Looking back, I love being a TEDS twin and still enjoy taking part in their studies today. I have just completed a fantastic week’s work experience in the TEDS office and would like to share with you what I got up to and my experiences when I was there.

Firstly I began the week by being introduced to the TEDS team and learning about what goes on in the office. This helped me gain perspective into how many TEDS twins there currently are from around the world! I also helped with a mail-out where I saw what items are posted to twins and how much postage there is! Seeing this process and how many items are posted to the 10,000 families was definitely an eye opener! As well as helping with mailing, I also had the opportunity to take part in newer studies before they are piloted; including a visual spatial study and a study looking at speed reading comprehension. This was great fun and has shown me how much effort and time it takes to initiate a new study before it is ready to be sent to the TEDS twins.

Next, I listened to talks by PHD students sharing their projects on genetics and statistics. This was followed by a TEDS team meeting where they discussed current and future TEDS studies. Again, this demonstrated the scale of TEDS as an organisation and how many different parts of TEDS there are. As a TEDS twin, the team were eager to get my thoughts on updates to the TEDS website, so I viewed the current content and put forward my suggestions for improvements such as a ‘what’s new’ section to keep the TEDS twins updated on future events. Another fun experience was uploading statuses on the TEDS twitter and Facebook page to show everyone what I have been doing this the week.

On my second day I was taken on a tour of the DNA labs where the process of DNA extraction was explained to me. This was very interesting because it allowed me to see what happens to my DNA after I have posted it off. I was shown the different equipment in the labs and was told the function of each machine and when they were used. Also, I saw salmon DNA in both a liquid and solid form. One of the most interesting things when I saw the DNA in a solid form is that it looks just like white string! Being shown around the DNA labs and speaking to the professors has given me a greater insight on how important DNA is for research. Having access to DNA allows researchers to identify genes and make predictions on how these may influence different behaviours. It is amazing to think that TEDS twins’ DNA are providing experts with a greater understanding of the role of genetics in areas such as health, wellbeing and education.

Additionally, I visited one of the brain labs next to the TEDS building and had the opportunity to view and touch a human brain! This included holding an Alzheimer’s brain and a control brain. One of the fascinating things which I noticed was how much smaller the Alzheimer’s brain was in comparison to the control. I was also shown the anatomy of the brains when they were donated for research. This was a great experience and I have learnt a lot!

Finally, I would like to say a big thank you to the TEDS team for allowing me to spend the week with you and showing me all of the amazing work you do