Sanger Institute join Cambridge LaunchPad to introduce sixth form students to medical research

Selected Year 12 students from Long Road Sixth Form College, Hills Road Sixth Form College and Comberton Sixth Form were invited to attend a unique project day at the Sanger Institute, following the successful submission of a team application video.

The students were challenged to produce a short video to document how they would spend £20 million on malaria programmes across the world, as a fictional charity. These will be available to watch on the Wellcome Genome Campus website soon.

The project day was themed around three major research areas: malaria diagnosis, cancer bioinformatics and the ethics of genetic testing. In addition to meeting scientists focusing on these areas and undertaking a site tour, the students had the opportunity to get hands-on with activities that enhanced their learning and allowed them to place technical concepts in a real-world setting.

Mike Norman, at Sanger Institute, said

“Cambridge LaunchPad is a fantastic programme that has given us the chance to show science isn’t just done by people wearing white coats in a lab. Highlighting not only the advancements in genomic research, but also the ethical considerations of the technology is so important.”

The team of five students that most impressed the volunteers with their teamwork, communication and problem-solving skills were selected to attend a prize trip that will take place in July, alongside Sixth Form students from other schools and colleges that are taking part in Cambridge LaunchPad.

They said, “It’s been such a great experience – from having the opportunity to visit a workplace and meeting inspiring people, to being able to discuss what we’re learning and voicing our opinions and personal experiences, rather than just sitting and listening. It has also been eye-opening to find that there’s much more out there in terms of careers and useful skills than you would have considered when you were younger.”

Dr Sally Harding, Chemistry teacher from Comberton Sixth Form, said “I think this is a fantastic opportunity for students to get an idea about what working in this type of industry is all about. Many of our students are driven by long-term aspirations, such as getting a good job in an inspiring company, so giving them an insight at this stage, helps them to develop and sustain motivation.“

The Form the Future-managed Cambridge Launchpad event at the Sanger Centre was a huge success. The eleven Long Road students thoroughly enjoyed the day, and I would love to bring another group next year. It was fabulous that so many scientists were on hand to work with the students and answer their questions. The three main activities were expertly delivered, and the interactive sections required the students to step outside of their comfort zones, which they dealt with incredibly well. I believe this event gave the students a real insight into working as a scientist, and is likely to influence their academic and career choices in the future. The input on careers from ARU was also very informative, whilst the tour of the site was a real eye-opener in so many ways. Please thank all of the staff who worked so hard to make this day the amazing success that it was.

Anna Aldred, STEM Outreach and Cambridge LaunchPad Project Manager from Form the Future CIC, said

“The Scholars today tackled some big topics: malaria treatment and diagnosis, cancer cell mutations and the ethics of genome sequencing. This experience has not only enriched these students as individuals, but has provided them with something to talk about when, in just a matter of months, these students will be able to talk about in their applications to higher education and jobs, to give them something unique to set themselves apart from other candidates.”

Cambridge LaunchPad is one of our STEM outreach programmes and aims to educate, excite and encourage more young people to consider STEM careers, particularly girls and young women. This academic year, we will reach over 1100 students aged 8-18 years old and work with 24 leading STEM organisations from across the Cambridge region.

If you would like to find out more, please contact Anna at aaldred@formthefuture.org.uk.

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