Guest post by Dr Meriel Jones, Director of Postgraduate Research at the Institute of Integrative Biology (IIB)
King Edward VI College in Stourbridge (near Birmingham) is a sixth form college with around 2000 students aged 16 – 18 from the West Midlands. It teaches almost exclusively AS and A levels and encourages students with ambitions for further study. The college holds a Higher Education Conference each March for Year 12 students who will be applying to universities in the autumn. This starts the students thinking about what and where to study. The conference has presentations by over 30 university academics and this year I talked about studying the biomedical sciences at university.
Around 350 students take A-level Biology at the college so there are many with ambitions within the biological and medical sciences. My aims were to illustrate how Biology A-level can lead to many worthwhile careers apart from medicine as well as explaining the diversity of biomedical science degrees that are available. I ended up speaking to two groups of around 50 students. They were very attentive and some made notes. When I put up a ‘typical’ timetable at university, there were a few exchanged expressions of surprise at the amount of contact time. The questions afterwards showed great enthusiasm for biomedical research. The college clearly has ambitious students who plan rewarding and socially valuable lives.
The Victoria Gallery and Museum
(VGM) started in 2008 as the University’s contribution to Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture celebrations. As well as paintings, sculpture and ceramics it displays objects of historic, cultural or aesthetic value from the University’s science and engineering departments. It receives around 4000 visitors per month.
A few years ago, my search for insects for a school visit led me to the Heritage Curator, Leonie Sedman
. I visited the VGM stores with her and saw shelves of objects once used in the University’s zoology teaching and research.
From this chance meeting came a plan to bring some of them back to public display through collaboration between the VGM and B. Sc. Life Sciences degree students. Four students have worked on their final year projects using this material with Leonie, Lu Vieira de Mello
The team: Luciane V Mello, Nicole Coombs, Sophie Banks, Leonie Sedman, Meriel G jones
The result is thought-provoking exhibits at the VGM about egg collecting, critically endangered pangolins and rhinos – and a witchitty grub embedded in resin for visitors to handle.
From the first two student projects with VGM; Witchetty grubs in acrylic. The students were Lewis Wade and Harriet Passey, both graduated B Sc Biological Sciences in summer 2014.
The museum materials are at the centre, but other objects like a 3D print of a rhino horn (thanks to the School of Architecture/Creative Workshop
), molecular image of keratin and video of live pangolins
put them into a twenty-first century context.
What do the students get from this? Project results that communicate science to visitors, an insider’s introduction to museum curation and the challenge of bringing objects, research and imagination together.