British Science Week, run by the British Science Association is an annual celebration of science, featuring entertaining and engaging events and activities across the UK for people of all ages. Our researchers marked the occasion by engaging school students with research on DNA, blood and the immune system and sharing their enthusiasm for all things science!
Researchers from the Higgs, Buckle and Hughes labs (MRC Molecular Haematology Unit) returned to New Marston School again to chat to year 6 students about evolution and inheritance. The students mimicked Darwin’s famous finches, using metal clips to pick different sized seeds, and extracted DNA from strawberries, which they took home as a keepsake. No scientist is complete without safety equipment, and a highlight of the day was the chance to wear (and personalise!) their own labcoat!
Who wants to play the detective?
Meanwhile researchers from our Genome Engineering and Flow Cytometry Facilities, as well as from the Ogg and Dong labs (MRC Human Immunology Unit) took the science of blood to St Nicholas’ Primary School (Old Marston) and Freeland Primary School (Freeland). Using a giant blood vessel full of cuddly toys, the children learnt about the different cells that make the blood, and tested their knowledge by working as a team to make their own blood out of colourful beads! The importance of the immune system and the functions of its different cells came to life via a role play game. There was no shortage of volunteers, especially to be the detective (dendritic) cells and the ninja (T) cells! There was also time for the researchers to answer some pretty difficult questions from the students, from the feasibility of brain transplants to the possible colour of alien blood!
Following the cell
Meanwhile DPhil student Martin Larke from the Hughes lab (MRC MHU) had the opportunity to reconnect with an old school friend, now a teacher at St Gregory the Great School in Cowley, who visited the MRC WIMM with his A-levels students. During their visit they followed the path of a cell as it is studied by our researchers. They saw how the cells are cultured and manipulated in the lab, how specific cells can be identified and selected using the advanced sorting methods of our Flow Cytometry Facility, and how their DNA is sequenced. For many the highlight of the day was their visit to our Centre for Computational Biology, where our computational biologists are collaborating with lab scientists to visualise biomedical problems in new and exciting ways. As one of the students commented ‘I hadn’t realised that virtual reality is so closely linked to Biology!’
Max Jamilly, a DPhil student in the Fulga lab, also used technology to connect with students. Max participated in ‘I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here’, where school students have the chance to chat online with different scientists and ask them questions about their research and life as a scientist. Max had to answer a variety of questions, from ‘what is the most important part of the immune system’ to ‘do you think it is possible to bring back to life extinct animals’? Max was clearly not deterred by the difficult questions, and was voted by the students as the winner of the ‘Immune System’ zone. His prize was £500 towards further public engagement projects. Congratulations Max!