Institute delivers taste of lab research for UTC Cambridge students
Students at UTC Cambridge have spent the last eight weeks getting a flavour of real-life academic research. The six week Protein Challenge project, designed by Simon Rudge, a senior research scientist at the Institute, allows the students to get to grips with research techniques used every day in the Institute labs. This exposes the 17-18 year old students to skills and techniques not usually encountered until university.
“Practicals are a fantastic way for students to reinforce what they have learnt by putting it all into practice. Quite simply, if students aren’t given the opportunity to test what they’ve learnt they will turn off.” Simon commented, “The sheer enjoyment of discovery, of just grasping something and finding those small victories can completely alter your learning experience. I don't think I experienced the excitement of science until my third year at university. I was always interested but never inspired!”
Rachel Fellows, a PhD student at the Institute who was helping guide students through the practical work, also appreciates the project’s goals of exposing aspiring would-be researchers to the laboratory and the reality of practical science: “It would have been really useful to experience practical work before I went to university. There is a huge difference between carrying out a scientific experiment and really researching and questioning the results.”
The Protein Challenge project combines an introduction to the theory behind the molecular biology techniques used in the project, practical lab-based sessions to assay protein activity and a visit to the Institute to learn more about the Institute’s research and tour the Institute’s facilities.
Simon and Rachel were delivering a practical session in the UTC Cambridge lab facilities with students on Wednesday when the college received an impromptu visit from Lord Baker, one of the founders of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust which was established in order to develop and promote the concept of university technical colleges. Lord Baker took the opportunity to have a discussion with Simon and Rachel about their work at the Institute and also their connection to UTC, and expressed how fantastic it was to have external organisations coming into the college and working with the students “to give them an even more enlightened view on how the world of science and technology really works”.
Simon, who has been working with the UTC Cambridge on the project for over a year, finished by commenting "I am delighted to be working with UTC Cambridge. It is an excellent endeavour and good for all parties. Students are enthusiastic about being given the chance to explore the practical side of science and the Institute, as an academic research organisation, benefits from helping develop our future employees.”
Dr Alistair Easterfield, Head of Science at UTC Cambridge, summarised by saying "It is a great pleasure to be able to work so closely with the Babraham Institute in developing science learning through such an innovative project. The Protein Challenge Project really brings science to life by allowing students to experience the excitement of cutting-edge science. It also underpins the students’ academic learning and gives them the practical skills they will need to make a success of university, apprenticeships or work."
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Three UTC Cambridge students undertake a practical exercise together as part of the Protein Challenge Project.