Cambridge Academy for Science & Technology students find inspiration for their investigations
Over the course of three months, students at the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology (CAST) who take part in the Protein Challenge project compare the activity of two forms of a protein (a normal and a mutated form) called PTEN. The PTEN gene, which encodes the PTEN protein, is mutated in many types of cancer and the challenge is based on one of the research areas of the Institute’s Signalling Programme.
The project was devised by Babraham Institute researchers, who visit the college to explain the background to the project, to help with some of the practical sessions and to advise the students on how to design a good scientific poster for their results. A key part of the project is a visit to the Babraham Institute where the students can get a closer look at life in the lab. This year they were asked to wrtie about their visit.
“When we arrived at the Institute, we were impressed by the size of the campus and the scale of the laboratories – they were very impressive and really showed all of us what a career in research could lead to.”
“Simon Rudge, who runs our protein challenge project, showed us around the lab and answered our questions whilst explaining the different pieces of equipment. We performed gel electrophoresis on three samples of DNA. One sample was a control, one also had the PTEN gene and third had mutated PTEN. Electrophoresis uses an electrical current to separate the DNA into different bands according to the different weights of components. When it had finished we put the gel under UV light to visualise the separation as fluorescent bands.”
The second part of the visit was organised by the Institute’s technical services team. It included a tour of different areas of the laboratory building and explained the team’s responsibilities, which include reviewing health and safety procedures as well as answering alarms and emergency calls at all hours of the day if a piece of equipment malfunctions.
“It was very interesting to meet the members of technical services as well as those conducting experiments on a daily basis. It was a valuable experience for us as our college specialises in science and it gave us a chance to work in a lab-based environment with equipment that we hadn’t used before.”
“We performed a safety inspection which allowed us to learn how real labs are assessed and what precautions must be taken by researchers, e.g. eye-wash systems must be checked, different lab coats must be worn in different areas, and all chemicals must be clearly labelled.”
“The scientists and technicians who showed us around were very friendly. The Babraham Institute is a bit overwhelming at first, but our hosts made us feel very welcome. We all enjoyed our visit to the institute. Thank you very much!”
Daniel, Joel, Benjamin, Ella, Katrina, Lauren, Roisin, Tawanda, James, Liam, Freya, Natasha, Morgan, Arya, Emily
You can find out more about the Protein Challenge and Technical Services here:
Proteins and Plasmids - my two years with the UTC Protein Challenge
Institute delivers taste of lab research for UTC Cambridge students
A Technical Services perspective on Public Engagement
Simon Rudge is part of Michael Wakelam’s group in our Signalling programme
More information about the Cambridge Academy for Science Technology canbe found on their web site