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TB project wins BITE title

St Mary's School has won a prestigious accolade for an after-school science project developed with Birkbeck academics

St Mary's students take part in the TB or Not TB event

A Buckinghamshire independent school for girls has won a prestigious accolade for an after-school science project developed collaboratively with Birkbeck academics.

St Mary’s School has been named Creative School of the Year 2015-16 by the British Institute of Technology and E-commerce (BITE) as a result of its ‘TB or not TB’ project which was created in collaboration with Dr Sanjib Bhakta and his team from Birkbeck’s Department of Biological Sciences.

The after-school project focused on the discovery of anti-tuberculosis (TB) activities in common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). As part of this, the students studied the effect of pain-killer medicines like ibuprofen on the growth of a mycobacterial strain with similar, but non-pathogenic, properties to the tuberculosis (TB) germ.

The project was designed with Dr Bhakta, director of the ISMB-Mycobacteria Research Laboratory at Birkbeck, and his team. It also explored a simple drug susceptibility testing (SPOTi) procedure developed at his research laboratory.

‘TB or not TB’ ran as part of St Mary’s ‘You Can’ initiative – a project carried out by a group of Year 11 students and which was funded by BITE in 2014.

As one of the many direct outcomes of the project, the participating students group - along with their science teachers Mrs Baggott and Mrs Kingston - organised a World TB Day public event in March this year at St Mary’s main assembly hall.

During the event, the students offered a group presentation on their laboratory findings jointly with Dr Bhakta in front of a packed audience including a panel of specialist researchers from the university labs and local press.

In addition, the students group created a short film capturing different steps involved in their project investigation.

Dr Bhakta said: “It was a delightful experience for me to work with the group of highly motivated girls. They have enormous potential in them to be future leaders of scientific research, and to improve global health and wellbeing from Britain.

“St Mary’s School has pioneered an excellent environment for this university-school co-operative project and has set a unique example for such after-school activities on STEM subjects aiming to encourage junior scientists.”

St Mary’s School this week received a letter from Lord Erroll, chancellor of BITE, confirming its selection as Creative School of the Year 2015-16. The students have been invited to receive the prestigious award from the House of Lords later this year.

Mrs Jean Ross, Headmistress of St Mary’s said: “As a school that places great emphasis on creativity in teaching and learning, this award is very special. The opportunity to work with Birkbeck College has been an object lesson to us all in the value of collaboration between schools and universities.

“As we work towards encouraging our young women to become more involved in STEM subjects, I hope that further opportunities will be sought. Our sincere thanks go to Dr Bhakta and his team who have truly inspired our girls.”

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