Imperial's iKnife inspires future doctors


A student using the iKnife

Aspiring medical students from schools across London were given a unique insight into one of the latest medical innovations at Imperial last week.

The school students, taking part in an outreach programme for young people interested in medical careers, attended a special demonstration of the iKnife - an instrument that can tell surgeons immediately whether the tissue they are cutting is cancerous or not.

"I’ve learned so much about what being a doctor is like, which has really changed my perspective.

– Nabeeha Toufiq

Year 12, Copthall School

The iKnife is an adapted electrosurgical knife, which heats tissue as it cuts to make a clean incision. Smoke from the tissue is ionised using Rapid Evaporative Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (REIMS) and analysed to provide information about chemical composition of the cells, to determine whether they are cancerous.

The students are participants on Pathways to Medicine - a three year programme run in partnership with the Sutton Trust.  The programme aims to improve opportunities in Medicine for state-school students from low and middle-income homes.

Ria Luchun

Ria Luchun

Ria Luchun, from St Gregory's Roman Catholic Science College, said: “Attending events like this one where we get to see cutting-edge medicine is fascinating. I’ve learnt that medicine is evolving every day, so it’s really important to keep up to date with the latest developments.”

Pathways to Medicine consists of a programme of initiatives that run throughout Year 11 and Sixth Form to help students make strong and informed applications to study medicine at university, including talks by admissions tutors and medical students, e-mentoring, a summer-school at the College, as well as guaranteed access to work experience in a healthcare setting.

Making a difference

Sowmiya Gunabalasingam

Sowmiya Gunabalasingam

Sowmiya Gunabalasingam, a Year 12 student from Barking Abbey School said: “I really enjoy the opportunity to experience what life might be like at university. University-style lectures, lab work, and being around other students is really helping to prepare me for what’s to come.”

“When I was younger, my mum had really bad arthritis and I had to help her with a lot of things around the home. That experience really made me want to learn how to help people like my mum properly, to make a difference to their lives – that’s why I want to study medicine.”

Nabeeha Toufia

Nabeeha Toufiq

Nabeeha Toufiq, also in Year 12 from Copthall School, said: “I come from an area where not many people go on to the top universities, so it has been great to get this extra support."

"I’ve learned so much about what being a doctor is like, which has really changed my perspective. Before I started I thought it would be like Grey’s Anatomy, where one doctor runs around diagnosing everyone, but now I know medicine is more about teamwork.”


Deborah Evanson

Deborah Evanson
Communications Division

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