Scientific Enlightenment

A small group of biology students travelled to The Diamond Light Centre, the UK's national synchrotron science facility in Oxford which is used by over 3000 academic and industrial researchers across a wide range of scientific disciplines. The students undertook a series of workshops, including hands-on lab experiments, a tour of the facilities and a classroom session on drugs and disease.

As well as providing the students with the opportunity to see the facility and experience working in a real lab setting, there were a series of other educational objectives for the visit including increasing understanding of proteins, what they are, how they fold and their role in biological systems; demonstrating some of the outcomes for structural biology in drug design and disease understanding and learning about viruses, how they differ from cellular pathogens and how they infect cells. The students also learned about the techniques used to reveal protein structures and other key techniques in the life sciences, understanding all of which forms part of A level Biology.

When asked about how useful the visit was, Mark Magpantay, previously at Amery Hill School, said ‘The trip was very useful as it gave me an insight into the diversity of biological research currently being done, from the effects of viruses on mammalian and insect cells to the crystallisation of membrane proteins to try and help find new and better drugs. Learning about the different types of pathogens and their structures and the complications when trying to find treatments for them was also helpful for the Biology A Level course. The best part was the tour of the Diamond Light Source as being given a tour around one of the most advanced scientific facilities in the world is not an experience you get every day.’

College Science scholar, Tom Rodd, previously at Bohunt explained ‘The best part of the trip was the tour around the ring/into the beam lines and the session in the labs. It really helped to link the theory learnt in class to real-world biology and how it is used in trying to solve problems. The other good thing was how the trip emphasised how closely linked the three separate sciences are in industry.’

Alton College students also recently competed in the British Biology Olympiad. A total of 7200 students took part from across the UK with several Alton students achieving Gold, Silver and Bronze, all of whom will be invited to attend the 2016 awards ceremony at the Royal Institution in July. Six students achieved bronze, one silver, and three received gold. Second year student Laura Denton, previously at Amery Hill School has scored highly enough to go through to the next round of the competition and has been invited to take part in team selection for the International Biology Olympiad.

Find out more about studying Biology at Alton College here