Topics include 'Evolution and Extinction', ‘Climate Change', ‘Infectious Disease’ and ‘Spectroscopy in a Suitcase’ and involve a number of laboratory workshops, talks, demonstrations and even the famous exploding jelly baby firework!
Our work with schools and colleges
In Biosciences, we are heavily involved with the University's programme of activities for schools, running a variety of successful and exciting workshops for GCSE and A level students. This section is for science teachers and their students. Here you can find information about the workshops that we run at our Streatham campus in Exeter, and how to get involved. For information on outreach events at our Penryn campus, please visit their webpages.
Highlights include our flagship ‘Britain Needs Scientists’ events held in March for year 10, and July for year 12. Our ‘Hands on Science’ workshop for year 4 which we run annually in early June, and our partnership work with local schools.
If you have any questions about the activities we run, or about how your school can get involved please contact me.
Dr Nicky King
email: Dr Nicky King
We have a number of workshops which we are able to run for school groups visiting the University, and on occasion we can take the workshop to your school. If you are interested in any of these workshops please contact Dr Nicky King.
Year 12/13 – DNA and Gene Technology
Spend a day in the Biosciences teaching lab where you will extract a sample of your own DNA from a buccal swab; isolate, purify and replicate the sample via PCR before analysing your DNA via gel electrophoresis. Students will get the chance to use state of the art equipment and undertake an undergraduate level investigation. This will be supported by a talk on the use of gene technologies in the latest Bioscience research.
Workshop length – 5 hours
Year 12/13 – Evolution and Extinction
This workshop gives students the opportunity to investigate the predator-prey relationship and competition between species through a simulation and subsequent analysis. Students will explore themes within evolution and the adaptation of species to environment.
Workshop length – 2 hours
Year 12/13 – Organic Synthesis and Characterisation
This workshop supports the A-level chemistry syllabus to enable the students to synthesise a range of simple organic molecules and use techniques such as NMR, IR and UV/visible spectroscopies to characterise the products. We will also talk to students about the development of novel drugs and therapies through synthetic chemistry.
Workshop length – 4 hours
Year 10/11 – Spectroscopy in a Suitcase
This Royal Society of Chemistry designed workshop introduces the students to the key principles of spectroscopy and how spectroscopic techniques can be used in forensic science. The students undertake an experiment to determine the levels of aspirin from a suspicious death and learn about the importance of accuracy in analytical chemistry.
Workshop length – 1.5 hours
Year 10/11 – Climate Change
This joint event between Biosciences and Geography will look at our understanding of climate change and ways in which climate change has an impact on the world around us. The day will be split into four separate workshops: Evidence for climate change; how can human societies tackle climate change? Threats to our oceans; and How species adapt to their changing environment.
Workshop length – 4 hours
Year 10/11 – Green Plastics
This Royal Society of Chemistry designed workshop introduces students to green chemistry, the need to change to a more sustainable society and the issue of fossil fuels versus bio-plastics. Students will undertake the synthesis of a bio-plastic and the analysis of a number of commercially produced green plastics.
Workshop length – 3 hours
Year 9 – Infectious Diseases
Students will be given a comprehensive introduction to microbiological risks and safety and then will spend time in the laboratory undertaking an enzyme screen to identify pathogenic bacteria for diagnosis of disease, followed by an investigation into the effect of bleach as an antimicrobial agent. This can be followed by a talk about emerging disease resistant microbes and alternative therapies.
Workshop length – 4 hours
Year 9 – Dragons Den: the Bird Flu Pandemic
This workshop looks at how biological research can be used to solve real world problems and make money. Students will be asked to prepare a Dragons Den-style pitch to demonstrate how their innovation is the answer to the panic surrounding an outbreak of bird flu.
Workshop length – 2.5 hours
For Primary Schools – Hands-on Science
This day of practical science for year 4 will give children the opportunity to do experiments they would not be able to do in school.
Session 1: Chemistry is fun!
The children will be making slime and silly putty and finding out about the properties that make polymers useful. Lots of fun and mess guaranteed! They will also investigate the differences between solids, liquids and gases with a series of exciting demonstrations.
Session 2: Explore Biology
The children will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with crabs and other marine organisms, observe and pick them up, watch their behaviour and examine closely their movement and how they are adapted to their environment. They will also look at zebra fish embryos to see the changes taking place as they develop.
Workshop length – 4 hours
Partnerships with schools
We are always interested to hear from schools who want to develop closer partnerships with Biosciences at the University of Exeter.
We have experience of successfully securing funding to work with local schools from organizations such as the Sutton Trust, the Royal Society and the Microbiology Society (formerly the Society for General Microbiology, SGM). Examples of previous projects are provided below.
Please contact Dr Nicky King for more details.
Small World Initiative (2015)
SGM and Newton Abbot College
With Newton Abbot College, we won a grant from the Society for General Microbiology to engage students with the problems surrounding drug resistance and drug discovery. The 'Small World Initiative' supported teachers in providing practical lessons with links to the wider curriculum, whilst giving school students the opportunity to take part in ‘hands-on’ research.
Antibiotic resistance is an issue of global importance, and the Small World Initiative provided an excellent and unique opportunity for young people to learn about the processes involved in scientific research, while taking part in a global initiative to discover new antibiotics from soil bacteria. We were one of seven school partnerships chosen to join this exciting venture into the world of drug discovery.
Students sampled soil of their choice and took part in a series of laboratory sessions looking for new antibacterial compounds. The initiative inspired students to consider a career in science and to study at top research-led universities such as Exeter, whilst increasing the scientific literacy of all students involved.
Tracking Lyme Disease in Dorset (2015)
The Royal Society and Thomas Hardye School
In a project funded by a Royal Society Partnership Grant, staff and undergraduates from Biosciences worked with pupils from Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester to explore the distribution of Lyme disease in the region.
Blood-sucking ticks have resulted in a recent rise in Lyme disease in humans, and ticks carrying Borrelia - the bacteria that cause Lyme disease - are thought to be widely distributed in Dorset. Lyme disease can often be treated effectively if it is detected early, but if treatment is delayed there is a risk of long-lasting neurological problems and chronic pain.
Local vets and wildlife trusts collected animal ticks for the school pupils, who then used the latest laboratory techniques to reveal the ticks’ genetic fingerprints and investigate their role in the spread of Lyme disease.
Life in the Vines (2011)
The Royal Society and Colyton Grammar School
In 2011, we won a Royal Society Partnership Grant with Colyton Grammar School. 'Life in the Vines' was a collaboration between us, Colyton Grammar and Silverton Vineyard, where students researched the biodiversity of local vineyards, making an important contribution to the preservation of species in the local countryside.
Axe Valley BioDiesel (2008)
The Royal Society and Axe Valley Community College
In 2008, Biosciences and Axe Valley Community College won a Royal Society Partnership Grant to set up a student-run business producing biodiesel from waste vegetable oil, along with partners from a number of other local businesses. This hugely successful collaboration featured at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, and similar projects have since been started at other local schools.
An article on the project by Dr Nicky King was published in the RSC journal ‘Education in Chemistry’.
Excited About Science (2007-2010)
The Sutton Trust
In conjunction with the Sutton Trust, we worked with secondary schools in Exeter to encourage gifted and talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds to continue to study science and learn more about higher education.