14 December, 2022
On Thursday 1st December, the Institute opened its doors to local students and their parents, carers and teachers, for our Babraham Institute Sixth Form Conference (BISFC 2022). The conference was an opportunity for young people with an interest in life sciences to step into the role of a scientist and experience a taste of an academic conference. This year, the theme of the conference was Healthy Ageing, to reflect a key focus of the Institute’s research. With around 100 people attending from a geographical range spanning Peterborough to London, this was clearly an event not to be missed.
BISFC 2022 was opened by Director Simon Cook, who gave an overview of the Institute’s research priorities and his own career background. Attendees were then treated to four research talks: from Group Leader Della David; postdoctoral researchers Emily Coode and Hanane Hadj-Moussa; and Ruchi Sharma, CEO and Founder of Stemnovate. The break gave students a chance to network, ask our speakers more questions, and sample the tempting catering on offer.
A careers session followed, in which a panel of scientists from academia and industry in a variety of roles introduced themselves, before being quizzed by attendees on their career pathways and advice. Questions included:
Q: "What does a typical day look like for the head of a biotechnology start-up?"
A: “There isn’t one, but often lots of emails!”
Q:“Is a degree in a specific sub-discipline of biology more useful than a general biology degree?”
A: “No, a broader degree can help you find what you are most interested in, which is the most important thing, and researchers frequently find themselves moving into different fields over their career.”
Students also had the chance to get creative and contribute to the conference by entering a competition to design either a scientific poster or science art piece. Over 25 students entered, demonstrating their inventiveness and independent research skills. Entries were judged by an expert panel of Institute staff, with prizes for the winning pieces awarded at the end of the conference. You can view many of the entries in our design competition booklet.
Dr Peter Rugg-Gunn reflected on the evening: “This event was an opportunity for young people to take on the role of scientists at a Healthy Ageing conference. It allowed them to present their own independent research as scientific posters, and a chance to question Babraham’s researchers about their work. I was really impressed by the engagement and high level of the discussion and the questions asked, some of which I’m pleased to say managed to stump the presenters! Congratulations to everyone who took part, and especially to Amelie, Emma, Eliza and Charlise, who were the winners of the design competition.”
The event was very well received, with 95% of survey respondents* rating it four or five stars out of five. 95% of respondents also said they had a better understanding of scientific research happening at the Babraham Institute after taking part, and 79% stated they had a better understanding of scientific career pathways. One student commented that it had been an “amazing opportunity to showcase our skills and to also learn more about scientific research and the careers associated with it.”, while another described the event as "fulfilling and rewarding".
As our first major onsite public engagement event since 2020, it was fantastic to see a room full of engaged people. The excitement and enthusiasm for science was clear to see, and this was a great opportunity to help inspire the next generation of scientists. As Caroline Benn, CSO and Co-founder of LoQus23 Therapeutics, remarked during the careers panel: “I would have loved an event like this when I was at school”. I wholeheartedly agree, and am already looking forward to (and planning) next year’s conference.
If you are a teacher who would like to hear about our future school engagement opportunities, please sign up to our Teacher Mailing List.
We would like to thank Babraham Research Campus for their support of this event.
*no. of respondents = 19
14 December 2022
By Fergus Powell