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Researcher in Residence switches schoolgirls onto science

As part of an exciting new collaboration with Birkbeck, University of London, sixth formers and children...

Students from St Mary’s School

Researcher in Residence switches schoolgirls onto science

Sixth formers and children on the Gifted and Talented Programme at St Mary’s School, Gerrards Cross, have been learning about the bacteria that cause tuberculosis as part of an exciting new collaboration with Birkbeck, University of London.

The Researchers in Residence (RiR) programme benefits researchers, young people and teachers via UK-wide school placements across social, physical, life and earth sciences and the humanities subjects. It is aimed at engaging young learners with contemporary research and enriching the curriculum, and is funded by Research Councils UK.

Dr Sanjib Bhakta, Head of the Mycobacteria Research Laboratory in the Department of Biological Sciences at Birkbeck, University of London, has begun his placement as 'Researcher in Residence' at St. Mary’s. He has been discussing his research on the killer disease tuberculosis, and looking at how the disease is transmitted and spread, the rise of antibiotic resistance and the need to develop new drugs to combat the disease.

The girls have been participating in a science club, combining scientific lectures with practical experience, for example on how to observe bacteria under a microscope, carry out observations, submit practical reports and feed back on their findings. Dr Bhakta has been demonstrating the techniques he uses for determining whether any novel chemicals have medicine-like properties, using equipment from his laboratory, and Mrs Iona Burn, who is the school’s biology teacher, has visited Birkbeck to study the specific techniques used there.

The RiR programme has proved hugely popular with parents, teachers and pupils and the aim is to establish a longer term relationship between the school and the College, so that future generations of girls can be switched onto science. On 23 March next year, a group of girls will be visiting Birkbeck’s Bloomsbury campus as part of World Tuberculosis Day.

Dr Bhakta comments: 'We live with trillions of microbes in our everyday life; most of them are friendly, but a few, such as TB, continue to take millions of human lives worldwide. My aim in this project was to bring the enjoyment of laboratory science to the young learners in the school, engage them with great scientific discoveries past and present and demonstrate how to ask simple questions in the search for solutions.

'All the pupils who took part in this project are truly gifted and talented. They asked intelligent questions and expressed thoughtful comments, and many of them have could have extremely successful scientific careers ahead of them if they choose to go down that route.'

Find out more

Dr Sanjib Bhakta and Mrs Jo Kingston, Head of Science at St Mary’s School, are both available for interview. If you would like to set up an interview, please contact:

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