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Students join Sanger Scientists to learn more about genomics

Year 12 students from Comberton Sixth Form and Hills Road Sixth Form College joined together with the Wellcome Genome Campus to learn more about how genomics is being used the health sector to better understand the challenges faced with disease and the human genome. The Cambridge LaunchPad programme aims to inspire young people to think about the possibilities available to them in the STEM sector by providing them with inspiring role models and giving the chance to gain hands-on experience in industry.

Ahead of the project day students were tasked to team up as an advisory board for a UK malaria charity and submit an outline as to how their project would spend funding to reduce the malaria disease burden and mortality around the world.  This gave students a better understanding of how scientific research is applied to human health treatments and the practical and social considerations when implementing science and technology. Successful students were then invited to attend the project day at the Wellcome Genome Campus.

Upon arrival students were given an introduction to the human genome and how the Sanger Institute is using genomic technology to progress work in medicine and lifestyle. The group was then split across two activities, each session being led by professionals currently working in industry. Students were given several patient files and asked to diagnose the disease using information on the patient’s symptoms, travel history and treatment. Blood samples were also provided for each case for students to analyse under microscope.

During the second activity students were tasked to explore the top three genes commonly involved in Lung Cancer using the online database COSMIC. Once each gene had been identified, teams used histograms to classify genes into either tumour suppressor or oncogenes before presenting their findings to the rest of the group.

Mike Norman, Science Engagement and Outreach Officer at the Wellcome Genome Campus, said:

“It’s been such a great day working with the students to showcase our research into malaria and cancer genomics. Opportunities, like these provided by Cambridge Launchpad, are so invaluable to us. Both in terms of inspiring the next generation of genomic researchers but also in giving us the chance to work with the leaders of the future to help shape the direction of our work.”

Throughout the day, students were judged on how well they developed skills that they will need in the world of work such as communication, teamwork and presentation skills. Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute then chose a team who best displayed these skills to attend the annual Cambridge LaunchPad award ceremony at the end of the academic year.

Molly Askham, STEM Outreach Co-ordinator from Form the Future CIC, said

“Cambridge LaunchPad provides a great platform for professionals to be able to share their experiences in industry and help young people think about the wide variety of pathways into a career in STEM. It’s clear to see that the ambassadors from the Sanger instate are passionate about what their work and I can’t think of a better way to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals!”

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