A taste of the life scientific for A-Level Biologists and Psychologists

Mrs SarahJane Newland and Dr Anne Jancis, write about two exciting trips our A-Level Biologists have participated in recently:

Visit to Bristol University’​​s Life Sciences building

“In celebration of British Science Week, last Wednesday 11 Upper Sixth Form Biology students spent a busy and interesting day at the Bristol University School of Biological Science​​s’ new, state-of-the-art, Life Sciences building. Taught by Dr Rose Murray and Dr Emily Bell, who are both Teaching Fellows at the UoB, the students took part in a Molecular Biology workshop with fellow sixth formers from King’s Bruton and St Mary’s Schools. 

“They started off with a ‘taste-test’ to see if they could discern an unpleasant bitter taste from a sample. This allowed them to predict whether or not they had a particular gene mutation – a prediction which they then had to investigate and prove, by extracting and analysing their own DNA. 

“Then followed five hours of demanding laboratory work, following undergraduate-level protocols, using unfamiliar equipment like micro-pipettes, centrifuges, thermo-cyclers and UV film readers and becoming familiar with complex processes such as the Polymerase Chain Reaction, Restriction Digests and Gel Electrophoresis. Their final product was a take-home ‘genetic finger-print’ picture of their own DNA.

“A demanding, but incredibly worthwhile, day.”

Biology and Psychology Symposium

“A few weeks earlier 16 of our Sixth Formers studying Biology A-Level participated in the Biology and Psychology Symposium at Millfield School. The pupils really enjoyed the experiences of attending subject specific lectures on topics relevant to, but going beyond, the A-Level specifications, the opportunity to have dissections of the feet of horses explained as they were taking place, and listening to some great advice during a very useful session on exam skills by Andrew Powell, ex Head of Biology from Canford School.

“Pupils studying Psychology A-Level attended two interesting lectures in the morning. During Eve Hamilton’s interactive talk about ‘Key4life’ they heard inspiring stories demonstrating why the charity has gained a reputation for delivering effective rehabilitation programmes for young men in prison and those at risk of going to prison. In Lucy Smith’s presentation the students were challenged to move out of their comfort zone, suggesting they should ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ if they wanted to overcome their irrational fears.

“Those pupils attending the two excellent Biology lectures during the morning heard Professor Nicholas Roberts describe his fascinating investigations into the sensory systems of animals, and Dr Gavin Walsh explain the significance of his amazing research on kidney disease in the context of developing personalised medicine for individuals to receive the most appropriate treatment for their specific medical conditions.

“This stimulating day ended with a tremendous talk by Dr Nick Scott-Samuel entitled ‘Deceiving your eyes’, where he showed us wonderful examples of different types of camouflage and illusions and then explained how they work.”