On the 26th April, the Wellcome Genome Campus invited 36 Year 7 students to take part in a Cambridge LaunchPad project day. Teams from Cambridge Home Educated Families, Coleridge Community College, Comberton Village College, Linton Village College, North Cambridge Academy and Sawston Village College completed several activities to explore how DNA makes up every living thing.
Ahead of the project day, the task was presented to each participating school where students were asked to apply for the day with a poster about what they would sequence and why. Selected teams of 6 were then invited to visit the campus to learn more about the role of DNA and how sequencing plays an important part in the development of health and medicine.
Once at the campus researchers had set each team a number of questions to consider and asked them to look back through their applications and present their responses. Some of their considerations were based on ethics, logistics of portable vs stationary sequencing machines, cost and funding plans and the applications across species.
Mike Norman, Science Engagement and Outreach Officer from the Wellcome Genome Campus Public Engagement team, said:
“It was a brilliant day with so much enthusiasm from all the students! The creativity and thought the students showed was fantastic and it even made our researchers think more about the possible applications their work could lead to.”
His colleague, Ioanna Kalvari, Software Developer at EMBL-EBI, added:
“I often get the feeling that us scientists tend to take our jobs very seriously and forget how fun science can be. I truly enjoyed becoming a kid again and viewing my daily work from different angles”
Throughout the day researchers currently working at the Genome Campus led the students through activities to get them thinking about how the processes they were using, were applied in a real working setting. To give the students more understanding of basic DNA extraction, they were tasked to mix a simple solution to remove DNA from soft fruit. The Rfam team then introduced the difference between DNA and RNA and challenged teams to identify the RNA families in their species before identifying their corresponding components from a database.
Year 7 students from Linton Village College, said:
“We really enjoyed our day at the Wellcome Genome Campus, we felt we were really well looked after. We loved the interactive puzzles and especially as each team were given a mascot! The afternoon was really well organised, and we managed to extract DNA from our raspberry. We wish we could come back next year, thank you once again to Molly and the Wellcome Genome Campus team.”
Ambassadors were looking out for students who seized the opportunity to work with researchers and asked lots of questions about what it was like to work in genomics. The team from Linton Village College wowed the judges with their teamwork and were welcomed to the annual Cambridge LaunchPad award ceremony to celebrate their success.
Molly Askham, STEM Outreach Co-ordinator from Cambridge LaunchPad, said:
“Giving students the chance to not only meet inspiring role models, but also other young people their age with the same interests, really allows them to explore and learn in a fun environment. All of the teams really got stuck into the activities and left excited to show others what they had learnt during the day.”
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