by Meriel Jones
Over the years I’ve given many presentations at schools and colleges about what the biological sciences are like at University. So far this year I’ve been to Xaverian College (http://www.xaverian.ac.uk/) in Manchester and King Edward VI College (https://www.kedst.ac.uk/) in Stourbridge near Birmingham.
Xaverian College is in central Manchester and has high expectations of its students. Many continue to higher education and each January the College holds an event with speakers from many universities and subjects areas. This begins support for the students to decide on their career paths post A-level. I go along to talk about the biological sciences. I feel that talking about the subject content is better left to perusal of the websites and prospectuses, and that I should rather include my personal insight from my own experience. My focus is always on the ways that university differs from school, and what sorts of careers are open to those with biological science degrees.
King Edward VI College is on a (large) traffic island in the centre of Stourbridge near Birmingham. The college also has great ambitions for its students. My talk there is at a similar careers event in March that starts the path to UCAS applications and university. This time my topic is the biomedical sciences, and I explain about the important choice between accredited degrees that are a direct pathway to roles within the NHS and non-vocational degrees that can leave additional career paths more open. I also talk about the difference between medical and biomedical degrees and careers.
Both colleges have a large and diverse group of students who take these career events very seriously and ask perceptive questions. Every year, it is a pleasure to see their enthusiasm. It is also great to answer questions from their teachers, who act as hosts during the events.
Earlier this year sixth formers from Shrewsbury School visited the IIB, hosted by Professor Alan McCarthy.
After listening to lectures around the IIB’s key research themes, the students were given a guided tour.
They gave this report in their newsletter:
“The research facilities at Liverpool are, without exception, world class. We saw their next generation DNA sequencers, capable of reading an entire genome in just a few days; their ‘GeneMill’ for making synthetic DNA; and a ‘laser capture microscope’ that can cut out a single cell from a thin section and capture it for genetic analysis.
“We visited a humming lab filled with mass spectrometers able to detect in real time the chemical fingerprints that differentiate healthy from diseased tissues. We saw the x-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging suites that are the workhorses in the ongoing effort to model the actual 3D structures of proteins, and in one case we were shown a novel drug being tested against an intricate virtual model of a mutant enzyme.”
X-ray crystallography imaging suite
This is a guest blog written by Caisey Pulford, a PhD student studying at the Institute for Integrative Biology
On Wednesday 25th January I visited Upton Hall School FCJ to speak with and inspire the next generation of female scientists. I was warmly welcomed to the school with a beautiful, informative and delicious lunch held by the head girls team. I was interested to chat with them informally about their career aspirations and informed them of the many opportunities that University has to offer them.
I then spent an hour presenting a talk to the year 12 students about current topical scientific research being conducted at the University and the impact of scientific research on a global scale. I spent time discussing the invasive Non-Typhoidal Salmonella epidemic in Africa and explained how genome sequencing has revolutionised scientific research. They were fascinated to learn more about “real life research” and about the many different options a career in science could offer them! An informal question time followed were the girls asked many questions about the courses at Liverpool and were keen to find out more about research at the Institute. I was delighted to hear that some students had already taken their first step on the research career ladder by focussing their Extended Project Qualifications (EPQs) on epidemics, viruses and bacteria. I have a feeling we will be seeing quite a few of them leading their own research soon!!!
I would like to extend a huge thank you to the staff and girls at Upton for welcoming me to the school so warmly, for listening so intently and for asking lots of questions! As the Upton Hall School Motto goes “Age quad agis” Whatever you do, do it well! (also have fun, learn lots and make a difference!)
I look forward to returning to Upton over the next few months to speak to the year 10 science students.
You can read more about Caisey’s visit and see the pictures on the Upton Hall School website:
On Wednesday 18th January chemistry A-Level students from Range High School visited the Institute for a workshop in the NMR Centre for Structural Biology organised by Dr Jill Madine. This visit has become an annual event which the students enjoy and say enhance their understanding of how NMR can be applied in a research environment. The students learnt about the advantages and disadvantages of mass spec and NMR from Dr Mark Wilkinson and Dr Marie Phelan, carried out chromatography and learnt to prepare and run NMR samples and how to interpret the data. Prior to their visit, as part of a school practical, they have made salicylic acid – a precursor for aspirin. We obtained these samples and collected NMR spectra of their products ready for analysis on the day. This enabled them to establish how successful their synthesis had been and compare their results across the class, with previous years’ students (and to the teacher!).
A range of University of Liverpool postgraduate students and postdocs helped with the day providing practical and theoretical advice, including Dr Hannah Davies, Rudi Grossman, James Torpey and Kieran Hand (pictured above).
Each year we are welcoming students from various secondary schools to our Christmas lectures. This year was once again a success:
Thanks to Jay Hinton (“It’s amazing you’re not dead yet”), Dada Pisconti (“The secret life of stem cells”) and James Hartwell (“Plants to save the world”) for their inspiring talks and thanks to our young visitors for coming.
Earlier version of Jay’s talk:
This past summer, the Institute of Integrative Biology has once welcomed Nuffield students, just, many more than last year. Thank you to Jane Hurst, Michael Gerth, Philipp Antczak, Violaine See, Luning Liu, Dave Mason and Raphael Levy for providing these placements.
Guest post by Hannah Davies
The Neuroblastology project run with UTC Life Sciences School and funded by the Biochemical society has finished! Billions of cells grown, 25+ students participated, tens of compounds tested, 9.5/10 scored – overall, we all had a (neuro)blast!!
Here is Dr John Dyer, teacher at LLS-UTC:
This has been an incredibly successful project that has proved to be very popular with students from across the year groups. The students have gained valuable skills in cell culture and aseptic technique as well as a range of transferrable skills such as leadership, time management (in order to care for the cells), experimental design and evaluating and improving upon techniques and procedures. The level of enthusiasm and engagement that students have shown has been incredible and many students have happily given up time at lunchtime breaks and after school in order to tend to the cells or collect data. This enthusiasm and engagement has certainly been increased by the fact that Hannah spent time training the students at the start as well as coming in on a number of occasions to provide technical expertise and support with experimental design. Students regularly commented that they have enjoyed these sessions and found it useful to have direct contact with active researchers. Perhaps the most striking thing for me was how disappointed the students were when some of their cells got infected. However, they responded brilliantly by developing their procedures in order to minimise the risk of further contamination. This sort of resilience, coupled with the level of care, accuracy and precision required during this project will prove invaluable to students at the start of their scientific careers.
Although the project has come to and end for this year, we are delighted to report that it will continue next year as part of UTC’s enrichment curriculum! We are also in the process of moving aspects of the project online so more schools will be able to interact and participate so watch this space!!
If you would like to read more about the project, please see the following link for the Biochemical Society final report…