Year 7 students joined the Wellcome Genome Campus to explore the role of DNA
On 27th November, 24 students from Bassingbourn Village College, Cambridgeshire Home Educated Families, Linton Village College and Sawston Village College took part in a Cambridge LaunchPad project day with the Wellcome Genome Campus focused on DNA.
Ahead of the project day, students from each school were asked to apply for the day with a poster about what they would sequence and why. Teams of six 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, software engineers from the coding team tasked students to explore how computing is used in genomics. Each school group rotated through a number of activities using a BBC Micro:bit to code different skills that can be used in a lab. Some examples included, keeping equipment level to make sure samples are secure and using light sensors to send alerts if a fridge containing samples is left open. Teams then built on these coding skills to create their own website and were challenged to create pages about something they had seen at the science centre.
In the afternoon, students worked with the malaria team to learn more about gene editing with a practical activity – theatre of the cell. Each student was given a coloured hat that represented either a base or a protein and tasked to act out the process of gene editing using Cas9 and Crispr.
Dan Burgess, Assistant Principle at Sawston Village College, said: “The LaunchPad day has been an excellent opportunity for pupils to experience an inspiring location and to actively learn about the development in DNA manipulation and study over the past few years. The activities were very engaging and allowed pupils to build their knowledge of DNA transmission, as well as the important role of programming in the work at the campus.”
Working with ambassadors from a number of different teams across the campus allows students to see the huge variety of roles required to achieve the wider mission of the Wellcome Genome Campus. Engaging with professionals at different stages of their career, different backgrounds, ages and gender enables young people to meet relatable role models and realise their own potential for a future career in the STEM industry.
Mike Norman, Science Engagement and Outreach Officer at the Wellcome Genome Campus, said: “It was fantastic for all the staff involved in the LaunchPad day to get to meet the students who all showed such amazing enthusiasm for the activities they did. Everyone really appreciated the opportunity to show the students what is really done day-to-day at a genomics institute like ours. Not only was it great to involve the students with our work, it is also a brilliant experience for our team and reminds us how fantastic our jobs can be everyday!”
During the day, 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. Sawston Village College impressed the judges and were invited to attend the annual Cambridge LaunchPad award ceremony held at the end of the academic year.
Molly Askham, STEM Outreach Project Manager at Form the Future CIC, said: “It is so important that young people explore the variety of roles required in different teams that work together within a company. The ambassadors at the Wellcome Genome Campus have been fantastic in showcasing the skills used across the projects, proving that not all work in genomics is done in a lab!”