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Sixth formers present summer science projects at Babraham Institute

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26 October 2009

Twenty sixth formers who spent part of their summer holidays working alongside scientists in leading labs have presented the results of their projects to scientists, teachers, parents and industry representatives at a session at the Babraham Institute.

The students gained first hand experience of life in a research lab this summer, each spending four to six weeks in a Cambridge area lab under the national Nuffield Foundation bursary scheme, and had the opportunity to work alongside some of the UK’s best scientists.

Around 1000 such bursaries are provided each year, enabling sixth formers across the country to get first-hand experience of research and insights into scientific careers by spending time working with inspirational scientists.

The Babraham Institute, an institute of BBSRC, hosted four students. They worked on projects investigating how cells communicate and relay intricate biochemical signals within cells; Babraham’s world-leading research in cell signalling has provided insights into medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart failure, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. All four students were awarded Gold CREST awards for their projects, an accreditation from the British Science Association.

Nicholas Evans, one of the students who spent time at Babraham, said, “I found this experience at the Babraham Institute very valuable in giving me an insight into the world of scientific research. It has definitely inspired me to narrow my future career path to either Research Science or Medicine.”

The John Innes Centre, another institute of BBSRC, also supported two students, whose projects investigated the growth characteristics of different varieties of wheat. The University of Cambridge, MRC, Cambridge Institute for Medical Research and ARM Ltd also provided an exciting range of projects.

Hannah Stuart, 18, a Nuffield Bursary student at Babraham in 2008, was also invited back as a guest speaker for the session, having been awarded national prizes for her research project. As a finalist at the Big Bang – the UK Young Science and Engineers Fair in 2009 – Hannah was invited to present her research at an EU competition for young scientists in Paris in March. Her second award is an opportunity of a life-time - a research project in Borneo next summer with the Royal Society.

She said, “My Nuffield placement allowed me to gain invaluable hands-on experience in lab work and develop a deeper insight into an exciting scientific field. Returning to Babraham again this summer has cemented my desire to pursue a research career.”

Dr Simon Rudge, Hannah’s supervisor at Babraham explained, “This scheme is very useful, not only because it ensures that new ideas and experiments are explored in our lab, but I personally enjoy mentoring young scientists and providing them with an opportunity to develop their enthusiasm for research science.”

Dr Claire Cockcroft, who runs Babraham’s public engagement programme commented, “The Babraham Institute places great emphasis on engaging with young scientists, providing unique opportunities to experience leading-edge research and work with inspirational scientific role models. It is through these schemes that pupils get first-hand insight into the world of research, and a greater understanding of its relevance to society. We hope this will inspire them to consider research or science-based careers, contributing to the UK’s future need for STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills.“

Sarah Saunders at The Nuffield Foundation said, “Our aim is to give students from all backgrounds a real insight into what a scientific career would be like. We are extremely grateful to the Babraham Institute for hosting students again this year - without project supervisors like those from Babraham, we would not be able to offer students such unique opportunities."

The Babraham Institute also provided research placements for 8 undergraduates supported by the BBSRC Vacation Bursary scheme, The Nuffield Foundation and the Biochemical Society.

ENDS

Notes to editors

Photographs are available on request.

About Babraham Institute

The Institute is a charitable organisation devoted to biomedical research and is an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), underpinning government’s national responsibilities for healthcare research and training. With a strategic focus on ‘healthy ageing’, studying diseases at the molecular and cellular levels is delivering novel approaches for tackling chronic diseases and public health concerns like obesity. Research has provided insight into conditions like hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia and heart failure, autoimmunity, birth defects, bipolar disorders, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Babraham is an international leader in epigenetics, using state-of-the-art equipment to unravel the complexity of our genomes and understand how gene–environment interactions may have consequences later in life or on future generations. The Institute’s innovative research is commercialised through Babraham Bioscience Technologies Ltd, which also manages Babraham’s vibrant Bioincubator. For more information visit: www.babraham.ac.uk

About The Nuffield Foundation

The Nuffield Science Bursary Programme for Schools and Colleges is one of two programmes funded by the Nuffield Foundation to offer support at key stages in a scientific career. The other scheme is for undergraduates. The aim of the Nuffield Foundation is to fund research, development and practical experiment in education, science, social science and social policy and the Foundation has a long standing interest in science through curriculum development and schemes promoting access to science and scientific careers. The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust, founded in 1943 by William Morris (Lord Nuffield), the founder of Morris Motors. For more information visit  www.nuffieldfoundation.org

About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.

The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.

External contact

Dr Claire Cockcroft, Head, External Relations

tel: 01223 496260
fax: 01223 496002
mob: 07786 335978

Contact

Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299