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Inspiring the next generation of scientists – youngsters hone their lab skills at the University of York

Posted on 16 July 2015

The University of York has been awarded a Royal Society grant to help fund a project aimed at stimulating young people’s interest and engagement in biology - inspiring the next generation of scientists.

The grant will see students from Fulford School in York use the University’s world-class facilities to participate in laboratory work, learning about DNA and how genetic engineering is carried out.

Led by scientists in the University’s Department of Biology, they will have the chance to insert a gene into a bacterium and grow it under containment in a glass jar bioreactor. These types of methods underpin production of many modern day medicines that we now rely on.

Partnership Grants are available to schools to enable students, aged 5 – 18, to carry out science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) projects.

Projects should be investigative and supported by teachers and STEM professionals (research or industry) working in partnership. The aim is to stimulate interest and engagement in science beyond school studies and inspire young people to continue studying it – perhaps to degree level and beyond.

The project will also give the youngsters an experience of scientific research and help them develop a range of technical skills which they might not otherwise get in the classroom.

Following their experiments, students will prepare a poster which summarises their findings and the procedures used. They will present these to over 600 members of the public at a school open evening in September.

In the same month, the year 11 students who were in the project initially, will also take part in a follow up scheme with feeder primary schools. They will help to teach pupils from a number of primary schools in the York area about cells, uses of microbes and other scientific techniques.

Dr Adrian Harrison, from the Department of Biology at York, said: “This project will allow students to experience what research at a university is like and hopefully be inspired by this to continue with future studies in the sciences. Not only will they develop new skills in the lab but hopefully experience some elements of the challenges associated with scientific research and how scientists present their findings to their peers and the public.

“One of the key ideas behind the project was to develop student’s skills in communicating their scientific ideas to a range of audiences and the different elements of this project allow them to do this in a variety of ways.”

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