Bioscientists from the University of Kent and staff and pupils from the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Canterbury celebrated the success of a pioneering joint project on 4 November with scientist and broadcaster Professor Sir Robert Winston.
They were attending the second annual Authentic Biology Research Symposium, which showcases a nationwide initiative – supported and hosted by the Wellcome Trust in London – which enables school pupils to take part in real research with guidance from university collaborators.
A pilot project at the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys, under the guidance of professors Martin Warren and Mick Tuite and researchers from the University’s School of Biosciences, provided the catalyst for Authentic Biology.
The pilot Myelin Basic Protein Project (MBP2) was initiated in 2008 by Dr Dave Colthurst at Simon Langton. The success of the pilot has resulted in the subsequent broadening of the scheme, with five other schools in the UK taking part this year, having been selected by their local universities.
The Simon Langton pupils have been looking at the human protein myelin basic protein and exploring the hypothesis that modifications to this protein can affect the central nervous system, leading to symptoms seen in conditions such as multiple sclerosis.
Professor Martin Warren, Head of Kent’s School of Biosciences, said: ‘Our project working with the Simon Langton school has given its pupils first-hand experience of genetic engineering as they have investigated the human gene for MBP.
‘I’m delighted that this pioneering project has proved the catalyst for an exciting nationwide project that now involves five other schools.’
Joining the University of Kent and Simon Langton teams at the symposium were pupils from the five other secondary schools, who presented the results of their research to Professor Sir Robert Winston and University of Oxford neuroscientist Professor Russell Foster.
Authentic Biology provides a grant, made under the Wellcome Trust Society Award scheme, to each school. This allows a senior teacher and senior technician to dedicate half a day per week to their research project, as well as enabling the schools to purchase the appropriate laboratory equipment.
Dr Colthurst said: ‘What started out as a small pilot with 50 students has expanded and grown, showing the keen appetite that school pupils have for real science. Now in our fifth year, we will continue to evaluate our success and see what potential this has for becoming a more national scheme.
‘This kind of work gives A-level students a real insight into university-level science, piquing their enthusiasm for it now and equipping them with the kind of academic tools and confidence that will be invaluable in their futures.’
For further information or interview requests contact Martin Herrema in the Press Office at the University of Kent
Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879