Young Scientists get Inspired by Institute Project
9 June 2015
Institute Research Associate Dr Karen Reed returned to her old school, Pencoed Comprehensive, to inspire and educate the next generation of scientists, during an on-going engagement project entitled Cells, Genes, Mutations and Cancer. Funding from the Royal Society in 2010 kick-started the project and it has continued thanks to a variety of funding sources including from the Biochemical Society. It has already resulted in the idea of loaning a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) box and supporting materials to schools being introduced by the University's School of Biosciences.
The latest engagement event saw 20 Year 12 pupils visiting Cardiff University, with Dr Reed highlighting the work of the Institute during the day. The pupils extracted DNA from strawberries, explored the cellular processes of transcription and translation using DNA models and gained an appreciation of why mutations in the DNA can result in tumour formation. They also undertook microscopic analysis of samples to categorise them according to various phenotypic parameters and sorted paper cells based on cell surfaces markers, an important technique that researchers carry out in the lab using sophisticated equipment such as FACS cell sorter machines.
One pupil's reaction to the day was:- "the microscope work was interesting and the microscopes were better than the ones in school and we could see the cells better", whilst another one commented:- "the day provided good insight into what researchers do".
Dr Reed also showed the animation that was recently developed by Institute supporter Alan Dimery, which helped the students to be able to visualise how and why cancer stem cells are responsible for the development and spread of cancerous tumours.