A-level students from across the UK were challenged to understand new scientific concepts and techniques, assess raw data from real experiments and formulate hypotheses during a visit to the Sainsbury Laboratory at Cambridge University (SLCU).
‘This workshop really opened my eyes to the opportunities in plant sciences!’
The workshop took the visitors through a two stage process: looking at some ways in which plant growth and temperature appear to be interrelated, and then generating hypotheses as to what was happening in the plants they had studied.
The pupils used raw data from ongoing SLCU research programmes to formulate their ideas. There are several hypotheses currently being tested to try to understand the relationship between plant growth and temperature, and it is entirely possible that some of these A-level students could return to SLCU as post graduates to continue this research- this topic is so complex that there is plenty to be discovered.
The workshop was run by Anna Brestovitsky and Sandra Cortijo, with help from Patrick Dickinson and Alba Rodriguez Diez. The pupils were taking part in a biological sciences Sutton Trust Summer School programme run by the Cambridge Admissions Office. The programme is designed to support and encourage academically able pupils from under-represented groups to aim for research intensive universities to study science.
The organisers hope that a session of grappling with the complexities of raw data, multiple genes, varying hypotheses and confounding factors has given them some insight into the scientific process at University level. Feedback from the students indicated that many of them had come to terms with new scientific concepts, were willing to assess and reassess data and hypotheses, and were eager to do more. One participant commented that, ‘I would love to know more about where the research is going.’ Students are encouraged to return to SLCU in due course to find out more!
The Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (SLCU) is a new research institute funded by the Gatsby Foundation. The aim of the Laboratory is to elucidate the regulatory systems underlying plant growth and development.