School pupils see life in the lab

08 Dec 2010 13:12:15.863

PA 347/10

Most A-level students have to rely on textbooks and theory to learn about sophisticated molecular biology laboratory techniques.

But one group of enthusiastic students will be given the chance to put their knowledge into practice by trying their hand at tricky experiments including gel electrophoresis and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) when they visit The University of Nottingham later this month.

Around 30 second-year A-level students from Arnold Hill School in Nottinghamshire will spend their school day at the University on Friday December 10 with scientists and researchers to see what life in a lab is really like.

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They will hear how the techniques are being used in world-leading research at the University before working alongside experts in the genetics of muscular dystrophy and brain tumours in a two and a half hour practical lab session in the School of Biology.

In the afternoon, the students will move to the University’s Medical School at the Queen’s Medical Centre to take a tour of specialist laboratory facilities and hear a talk by lecturer Dr Matt Loose.

The day has been planned as part of the University’s Science Outreach Project, which aims to promote science as a potential higher education and career choice to young people, while helping  young researchers to develop a new set of transferable skills.

Sarah Pierce, Science Outreach Project coordinator in the School of Biology, said: “Polymerase chain reaction and gel electrophoresis are genetic molecular biology techniques that are on the second-year A-level biology curriculum. However, because of the specialist equipment that is required, students are usually limited to reading about them.

“This workshop from the Science Outreach Project gives them a chance to come to a real lab at the University, see these techniques in action, have a go themselves and learn about why they are so critical in much of the cutting-edge research that we do here.

“During their time here, they also have time to chat with real scientists who can give them an honest and realistic view of what it means to be a researcher. We want to show them that if they choose to pursue a science subject at university, it can lead to a varied and rewarding career.”

The practical sessions for the event and the lab tour have been organised by PhD students Christopher Tan and Andreas Leidenroth, with help from Senior Research Fellow Dr Jess Tyson.  They have received training from the Science Outreach Project and have created this workshop to share their love of research with the next generation.

Christopher said: “Students have a great opportunity to experience a brief insight into both university life and world-class research. This project has challenged us to independently develop a day which we hope will be both interesting and motivating to A-level students.”

Andreas added: “The pupils will learn about some of the most fundamental techniques used in virtually every molecular biology laboratory in the world. I hope that this glimpse into a real lab will spark enthusiasm and convey the excitement that can only be found in science.”

Alison Birch, a teacher at Arnold Hill School said that the experience would be incredibly beneficial to the students.

She added: “For many, they will be the first in their family to enter higher education and so to get a taste of university research and the kind of technologies used by professional scientists is very important. The cutting edge techniques that they will be learning about can only really be appreciated during these kinds of visits as we do not have the facilities or funds in school to perform them. We are extremely grateful to The University of Nottingham for giving our pupils this opportunity.”

More information about the University’s Science Outreach Programme is available at (


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Notes to editors:  The University of Nottingham, described by The Times as “the nearest Britain has to a truly global university”, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 39,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power.

The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

More news from the University at:

University facts and figures at:

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Sarah Pierce on +44 (0)115 951 3415,

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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