Schools’ Day Success for students and teachers

Schools’ Day Success for students and teachers

The Babraham Institute has been opening the doors of its laboratories to students for the past 23 years. This year’s event, held on 1st March, welcomed 120 sixth-form and secondary school students from Cambridge, Essex and as far afield as Wales. The Schools’ Day programme for both students and their teachers involved over 100 scientists, running more than 20 hands-on projects from each of the Institute’s science programmes. Four of the projects were new this year and another two were run by scientists from Crescendo Biologics and Definigen, companies co-situated with the Institute on the Babraham Research Campus.

Projects ranged from learning about autophagy, the cell’s recycling mechanism, with Oliver Florey's group to the study of ageing in C. elegans with Olivia Casanueva's group, and proved popular with students keen to learn more about life in a lab. With epigenetics now featuring in the A-Level curriculum, the relevance of Schools’ Day to teachers as well as students interested in scientific careers is greater than ever. This year’s event saw teachers taking part in their own practical projects for the first time, following requests at CPD events such as our ‘Teacher Twilight’ series.
The enthusiasm of the scientists who contribute their time and expertise by showing the students their world-leading research and scientific techniques is central to the success of the event. The programme of lab-based projects was rounded off by talks from junior researchers, who explained how their choices at college and university have led them to the Institute, and why they find it such a stimulating place to work and learn.

George, a student from Framlingham College in Suffolk described his day: "I really enjoyed my project because the subject I was doing was very relevant to part of the AS course we have already covered. To be able to do very accurate and small experiments, using advanced equipment and while supervised by young post graduate scientists with a passion for molecular biology, was incredible. From my project, we got to keep a photo of our results as proof of our efforts – which was amazing. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in this."

Over its long history, it’s encouraging to see that Schools’ Day has made a difference to those who attend. Rowina Westermeier was inspired by her visit to the Institute over a decade ago: “I remember fairly vividly going to Babraham's school outreach day about eleven years ago. I found it tremendously exciting and the experience had an enormous impact on my career choice. I finished my PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge last year and am now working as a protein biologist. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity we were given and would like to express my heartfelt thanks”. (Dr Rowina Westermeier, Associate Biologist at Domainex).

It’s not just the visitors who have fond memories of the event. Hakim Yadi helped run a Schools’ Day project while he was a PhD student in the Colucci group. He says; “As a PhD student at the Babraham Institute it was always a delight to see so many students throughout the campus every year during Schools’ Day. It is a unique opportunity for scientists to demystify what it really means to be a research scientist and what it feels like to be in a laboratory. The students have the opportunity to get hands-on experience in a laboratory setting and the chance to hear from world-leading scientists on the greatest health and life science challenges of the 21st century. I hope the event continues to inspire the next generation of scientists”. (Hakim Yadi OBE, Chief Executive, Northern Health Science Alliance).