Sixth formers get a taste of University life
Thirty sixth form students had an opportunity to see what studying Biochemistry at Oxford University is like when they recently spent a week in the department at a Sutton Trust Summer School.
Concentration and fun during one of lab-based sessions
This is the first time that the department has hosted one of these Summer Schools which the University has run since 1997 in a number of subjects. They are funded by the Sutton Trust which aims to improve the educational opportunities of young people from non-privileged background.
Biochemistry tutor Dr Mark Roberts, who organised the programme for the young people, said: 'The aim of this Summer School is to inspire students to apply to university, to study biochemistry and hopefully help debunk a number of myths that they may have about applying to Oxford.'
During the week, the students attended lectures and tutorials given by members of the department. These covered a range of topics including bacterial signalling, DNA repair ('How to look after your genes') and HIV.
'We got to look at worms under the microscope - they were really amazing, especially the way they moved'
The tutorials, where a small group of students led by a researcher discuss a topic in-depth, were particularly popular. 'I loved the tutorials,' one of the students said. 'We didn't completely stick to the tutorial sheet. If something else came up, we discussed it as we were all curious about certain issues.'
The students were also able to do some experiments for themselves. In one of the lab-based sessions, they used microscopes to look at the transparent nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, an organism which has helped our understanding of development and disease. 'They were really amazing, especially the way they moved,' one of the students commented.
'The aim is to inspire students to apply to university and to study biochemistry'
With the help of members of the Department's Structural Bioinformatics and Computational Biochemistry group, the students also tried their hand at computer programmes which model the docking of a drug to its target protein.
The week's programme included talks from scientists working in the pharmaceutical industry, biotechnology, and patent law, to show students what they could do after university.
On the final day, the group visited the University's solid state Nuclear Magnetic Resonance facility and Diamond Light Source, both nearby at Harwell. Diamond is the UK's synchrotron facility and generates brilliant beams of light which can be used in many applications. Scientists in the Biochemistry Department use it as a 'super microscope' to probe the structure of molecules at an atomic level.
The Biochemistry students stayed in colleges where they met up with other Sutton Trust students. They were kept busy with a varied programme of social activities including a formal college dinner and disco.