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Silver anniversary for Babraham Institute Schools' Day!

The Babraham Institute is celebrating 25 years of schools engagement. Copyright: Babraham Institute

News from: The Babraham Institute

Today, (06 March 2019) the Babraham Institute celebrates its 25th Schools’ Day – an annual event where the Institute’s researchers guide secondary and sixth-form students through hands-on lab projects. As it was for the first Schools’ Day in 1995, the day gives students an opportunity to explore the world-leading bioscience taking place at the Institute. Often using equipment not available within schools, Schools’ Day aims to enthuse, inspire and motivate students and provide a taste of what life is really like in the lab.

Welcoming 180 students and teachers from the region and from schools as far afield as Cardiff and Jersey, this year’s Schools’ Day celebrates curiosity, discovery and connection between the worlds of education and research. Today, students will undertake projects that:

  • pinpoint the location of a gene in a cell nucleus using a fluorescent tag;
  • investigate immune cells’ biological weaponry against infectious attackers such as bacteria and viruses;
  • look at their own cells to learn more about how cells communicate;
  • visualise the intriguing process of cell cannibalism;
  • reveal the hidden nanoworld with the latest imaging techniques.

Over the years, Schools’ Day has reached nearly 3,000 students – most from the local area, although the event has been attended by students from as far away as Finland! The day’s programme and projects have developed to meet the changing curriculum and also to support teacher development. Since 2017, the teachers accompanying the students have undertaken their own lab projects.

“Schools’ Day is as much about the people as it is about the projects,” commented Schools’ Day coordinator Michael Hinton. “Our talented and enthusiastic researchers bring the science to life. They share how their careers have developed and what they love about research. The students also learn about the collaborative and international nature of science and about our multi-faceted research into healthy ageing.”

The Institute sits on the Babraham Research Campus, a co-location of the Institute’s fundamental research with approximately 65 commercial companies. Since 2012, Schools’ Day has been a collaborative campus event, with the campus development company, Babraham Bioscience Technologies Ltd. providing conference facilities and the Schools’ Day programme has involved projects led by campus companies since 2015. This year’s programme involves projects delivered by seven campus companies; providing a valuable insight into the career possibilities existing in commercial as well as academic research.

The Institute regularly hears about the impact Schools’ Day has had. Megan, a sixth-form student from Colchester County High School for Girls who attended Schools’ Day in 2016, said "The day opened my eyes to the myriad of potential careers in science. I was lucky enough to participate in a gel electrophoresis demonstration, and it was this experience that made me realise my passion for the practical element of biology and consider a career beyond medicine. I am now applying for a biological science degree.”

In 2017 a student who took part in the 2015 Schools' Day returned to the labs for a placement in the summer between the second and third year of their Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry at the University of Oxford. Isby, a student from St Mary’s School, Cambridge who attended Schools’ Day in 2018, wrote a blog post as she started her degree in Biochemistry at the University of Durham describing how the experience of Schools’ Day ignited an interest in immunology and confirmed her desire to take a degree in science.

Reflecting on the impact of Schools’ Day’s over its 25-year history, Babraham Institute Director, Professor Michael Wakelam, commented, “This anniversary is a chance to celebrate Schools’ Day for everything it has achieved and everything it stands for. This anniversary is a demonstration of our long-standing commitment to sharing what we do, discussing why fundamental life sciences research is so important and inspiring the next generation of researchers who will advance science in the years to come. I congratulate everyone who has contributed to Schools’ Day and made it the outstanding experience it is.” 

BBSRC Executive Chair, Professor Melanie Welham, added: “I congratulate The Babraham Institute for continuing to encourage young people to take an interest in the science and research that Babraham delivers. It’s important to nurture and encourage young people considering a career in science as they bring with them a wealth of fresh ideas and enthusiasm, they are the future of science. The fact that this year marks 25 years of the Babraham Schools Day, encouraging young people through their doors, is something all the team at Babraham can be extremely proud of.” 

To coincide with the 25th anniversary of Schools’ Day, the Institute has drawn together its educational resources and developed these into comprehensive teaching resources for primary, secondary and sixth-form teachers, with protocols, classroom worksheets and teacher guidance.

These resources can be viewed and downloaded from: Babraham Institute: Resources


About the Babraham Institute

The Babraham Institute undertakes world-class life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Our research focuses on cellular signalling, gene regulation and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing. The Institute is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, through an Institute Core Capability Grant and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.

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