Match4Lara: Anthony Nolan teams up with Belsize Park student’s university in work experience scheme

Lara Casalotti

Lara Casalotti - Credit: Archant

A year ago, Belsize Park student Lara Casalotti was in desperate need of a life-saving bone marrow transplant.

Dr Stefano Casalotti, UEL students Baiba Nimane, Olivia Hillson, Sheeza Imran Hafiz, Tolushike Popoo

Dr Stefano Casalotti, UEL students Baiba Nimane, Olivia Hillson, Sheeza Imran Hafiz, Tolushike Popoola and Hayad Mohamud and Caroline Fallon from Anthony Nolan - Credit: UEL

The 25-year-old University of East London (UEL) student was ultimately saved when hundreds of students and staff signed up as part of the #Match4Lara campaign, aimed at overcoming the slim chances of finding a match because of her mixed race provenance.

Now her alma mater – which is based in Newham – has teamed up with Hampstead blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan to offer UEL students work experience at their laboratories near the Royal Free.

Her father, Dr Stefana Casalotti, who is a bioscience lecturer at the university, said: “When my daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia, I got to know people at Anthony Nolan quite well.

“It just came about through a conversation.

Dr Stefano Casalotti at the UEL donor drive last year

Dr Stefano Casalotti at the UEL donor drive last year - Credit: Archant

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“It’s good for the students to get experience in a real work environment.”

Caroline Fallon, Anthony Nolan’s volunteer engagement manager, said the charity was “delighted” to be providing the opportunity.

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She added: “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.”

Lara Casalotti needs a lifesaving bone marrow transplant

Lara Casalotti needs a lifesaving bone marrow transplant - Credit: Archant

Five students are initially taking part in the work experience scheme, rotating every two months to experience a variety of departments at Anthony Nolan’s laboratories.

They took part in a rigorous selection process, including interview rounds and training, before starting their placement earlier this month.

“We wanted to make sure the students were properly prepared,” Dr Casalotti said.

“Hopefully we can expand this in the future.

“I am very grateful to Anthony Nolan for offering our students this possibility, and I am sure our students will do UEL proud.”

Among those selected was Hayad Mohamud, who 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.”

Fellow student 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.”

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