School pupils learn about life as a top-class researcher

What’s it like to be a real-life, world-class scientist?

Year 9 school students from in and around Plymouth had a taste of finding out at a visit to the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PUPSMD). 

The pupils took part in experiments at the campus in Plymouth Science Park, extracting DNA, learning about how to grow cells, and exploring how the fruit fly can be used to model and understand human disease.

Organised by Professor David Parkinson and his colleagues at PUPSMD, the tour also included a visit to the University’s Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence. 

In all, more than 150 pupils took part from Heles School; Coombe Dean; St Boniface’s Catholic College; Devonport High School for Girls; Plymouth High School for Girls; Ivybridge Community College; Plymouth School of Creative Arts; Mount Tamar; All Saint’s Academy, Plymouth; Tavistock College; Pool Academy, Redruth; and Launceston College. 

Some of the research the students saw will soon be based in the University’s Derriford Research Facility – which is due to be opened by HRH The Princess Royal in May.

Professor Parkinson said: 

“The research being done here at the University of Plymouth is varied and remarkable, and we wanted to show both the scientific principles underpinning it, as well as how the work translates into real-life. We’ve made the sessions fun as well as educational and hope that the hands-on experience the pupils had today might help them consider a career in research in the future. The chance for the students to speak to young scientists at all stages of their training is invaluable, to find out what they are doing and why, and to think ‘this is something I could do in the future’.”

Dr Dave Parry from Devonport High School for Girls said: 

“Visiting PUPSMD gives our students an interactive experience of research labs and the interesting roles that are available in the biomedical sciences. The chance to speak to active researchers about their work to improve the diagnosis and treatment of diseases inspires students and supports opportunities available to women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) careers.”

Laura Taylor from Launceston College said: 

“Our students really enjoyed the hands-on activities, especially the cell cultures and fruit fly identification. They liked the practical nature of the day, and have been inspired to research some careers in science they hadn't previously thought of.”