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Child extracting DNA in a test tube

British Science Week - 2018

Researchers from the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (MRC WIMM) at the University of Oxford engaged students with science as part of British Science Week. The annual event features entertaining and engaging activities across the UK for people of all ages.

Understanding evolution

Researchers from the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit (MRC MHU) at the University of Oxford visited New Marston School to talk to Year 6 students about evolution and inheritance. The students mimicked Darwin’s famous finches, using metal clips to pick different sized seeds, and extracted DNA from strawberries, which they took home as a keepsake. No scientist is complete without safety equipment and a highlight of the day was the chance to wear, and personalise, their own lab coat!

Who wants to play detective?

To highlight the science of blood, a team from the MRC WIMM facilities and MRC Human Immunology Unit at the University of Oxford took their hands-on activities to two local primary schools. Using a giant blood vessel full of cuddly toys, the children learnt about the different cells that make the blood. Their knowledge was then put to the test as they had to work as a team to make their own blood out of colour­ful beads. If this wasn’t enough fun, the importance of the immune system came to life through role play; the students volunteered to be either detective or ninja cells!

Following the cell

DPhil student Martin Larke from the MRC MHU reconnected with an old school friend, now a teacher at St Gregory the Great School in Cowley, who visited the MRC WIMM with his A-levels students. During the visit, they saw how cells are cultured and manipulated in the lab, how cells can be identified and selected using advanced sorting methods and how their DNA is sequenced. For many, the highlight of the day was their visit to the MRC WIMM Centre for Computational Biology. One of the students commented: “I hadn’t realised that virtual reality is so closely linked to biology!”