For the last three years, the Centre for Proteome Research (CPR) has been involved with multiple outreach workshops, lab tours, and STEM days with Winstanley College. We’ve helped them win grants from the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry to establish new methods at the College and to continue to collaborate with us, and this relationship has continued this academic year.
On the 5th May, Winstanley College A-level students visited CPR labs for a workshop in mass spectrometry. The students had been learning about proteins and in College, had run their own SDS-PAGE gels and performed in-gel digests. They brought these digests to CPR to analyze on our MALDI-MS instrument.
The visit started with a tour of the CPR labs, an opportunity for the students to learn about the kind of projects we work on and the instruments we have in the lab. Next, the students gained hands-on experience spotting out their samples onto MALDI plates. Whilst the samples dried they learned about sample ionization and m/z measurement by MALDI-TOF. Finally, the students loaded their plate into the instrument and acquired their own data. The samples were all food-related and the best spectra and sample identifications came from milk.
This visit was organized and run by Victoria Harman, Jos Harris, Rob Beynon and Claire Eyers.
Students spotting in-gel digest samples onto MALDI target plate.
Claire chatting to the students about peptide ionization with MALDI.
Jos demonstrating loading the MALDI plate into the instrument.
Results from one of the in-gel digests showing the presence of Alpha-S1-casein.
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…
The A level Biology students of South Sefton College, Litherland visited the Institute of Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool last month. This is a guest post from their teacher, Matthew Roberts:
We were shown the cutting edge facilities at the Centre for Cell Imaging. These included laser confocal and light-sheet microscopes that were being used to view a live fish egg, which was fascinating for the students as they have only experienced microscopy with dead specimens. The fact that the visiting group was small allowed experts in their field to talk to the students. The academics were really good at linking these imaging techniques to the A level microscopy to help the students understand.
The final microscope that we were shown was a laser microscope with a tremendously high resolution, the highest resolution available at this current moment in science. The students were very impressed to hear that there are probably only about two microscopes like this in the world and one is here in Liverpool!
We also went into the Centre for Genomics Research that was really relevant to what the students are going to be doing at A2 when they study genetic engineering and DNA sequencing. It really was inspiring for the students to see real equipment and hear about projects using it.
This visit gave the students a real insight into what studying Biological Sciences is like at the University of Liverpool and where it could take them. The staff could not have been more helpful. I would definitely recommend this to other A level Biology teachers who would like to inspire their students to take their subject beyond A level. I will definitely be booking this again for my students next year.