Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

Protein Challenge

University Technical College (UTC)

The Babraham Institute is one of the sponsors of the University Technical College (UTC) Cambridge and Dr Simon Rudge, a senior research scientist at the Babraham Institute has developed a six-week Protein Challenge Project for their A Level and BTec students.

The project allows students to become immersed in hands-on science and benefit from the life science expertise of the Institute. The project includes a visit to the Institute to tour the world-leading scientific facilities and meet the scientists carrying out pioneering research. Institute PhD students assist in the laboratory sessions of the project, advising on good laboratory practice and techniques such as pipetting and the use of centrifuges. 
In the project, students are taught essential lab skills as they produce and assay 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. The project will take the students through the steps of replicating DNA, bulking up DNA to the amounts needed for analysis, and protein identification and activity assays – providing essential training in techniques used by researchers as standard investigative methods.

The practical element of the Challenge will be complemented by seminars delivered by Babraham Institute staff and representatives from associated research industries. These will ensure that students understand the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the research techniques used as well as widening their background knowledge. It will also give them valuable insight into the vast number of career choices open to students in this field.

As part of the Challenge Project in 2015 and 2016, Dr Nicolas Le Novere, a Group Leader in the Institute's Signalling Programme, visited the UTC to explain the principles of computational biology and network modelling, and Dr Trevor Smith, the Institute's Health and Safety Manager, has explained the importance of risk assessments in scientific research.