Students discover more about DNA at the Babraham Institute

On 30thApril, 12 Year 8 students from The Stephen Perse Foundation and Swavesey Village College visited the Babraham Institute to learn more about laboratory science in a real-world context. First year PhD students from the Institute led students through activities that allowed them to explore how techniques introduced at school were used in a real-life application. The Cambridge LaunchPad programme, which is managed by Form the Future CIC, aims to educate and enthuse young people with STEM subjects.

During the day students had the opportunity to get hands-on experience in the labs and work with young professionals to learn more about DNA and routine procedures that are currently being used in life sciences.

Molly Askham, STEM Outreach Co-ordinator from Form the Future CIC, said:

“It was great to see the interactions between the Year 8 students and the PhD ambassadors. Introducing the younger students to early career professionals who were not much older than they are, really allowed them to see themselves in these roles in the future.”

Each team of three were tasked with carrying out an experiment relating to one of the Institute’s research programmes: Immunology, Epigenetics and Cell Signalling. The student’s projects were based on those carried out by sixth-form students at the Institute’s annual Schools Day and techniques included RNA and DNA isolation, Polymerise Chain reaction, gel electrophoresis and genetic engineering.

In the afternoon, Institute researchers gave a talk about their role in the organisation and the pathways that led them to where they are now. By introducing students to a diverse range of inspiring role models, Cambridge LaunchPad aims to inspire them to think about the possibilities available in the STEM industry and strive to reach their full potential.

Michael Hinton, Public Engagement Officer at the Babraham Institute, enjoyed seeing the students rise to the challenge :

“It was impressive to see the way in which the Launchpad students approached the complex science and the lab techniques involved. These are projects we usually run for much older students and it was clear that this year’s teams were up to the challenge.”

Throughout the day students were encouraged to think about the skills that were needed in the world of work including teamwork, communication and problem solving. PhD students also looked out for the students’ ability to follow procedure instructions, get stuck in to the tasks and ask lots of questions. At the end of the day, the 6 students who most impressed the judges were invited to attend the annual Cambridge LaunchPad awards ceremony to celebrate their success.

A Year 8 student from Stephen Perse Seniors, said:

“If you get the chance to go to the Babraham Institute you definitely should! If you have a passion for science, then this is a great day as the company displays how people of the same passion and dreams as you, work every day. Not only this but it gives you an opportunity to learn new things from the point of view of the scientists who work here.”

If you want to find out more about how you could get involved and encourage the next generation of STEM professionals, please contact us at cambridge-launchpad@formthefuture.org.uk.

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