Students will analyse soil samples in the laboratory to look for new antibacterial compounds. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Local schools join the fight against bacterial resistance

Researchers from Biosciences will be working closely with school pupils from Newton Abbot College as part of the Small World Initiative which aims to discover new antibiotics from soil bacteria.

Teachers and researchers at the University of Exeter, and Alicia Wideman at Newton Abbot College, have successfully won a grant from the Society for General Microbiology which aims to engage students with the problems surrounding drug resistance and drug discovery. The Small World Initiative will support teachers in providing practical lessons with links to the wider curriculum whilst giving school students the opportunity to take part in ‘hands-on’ research, working with leading scientists and researchers at the University of Exeter.

Antibiotic resistance is an issue of global importance, and the Small World Initiative provides 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. After a competitive application and review process, Newton Abbot College and the University of Exeter are one of seven school partnerships chosen to join this exciting new venture into the world of drug discovery.

Paul Cornish, Principal at Newton Abbot College, said “This is an unbelievable opportunity for our students. All subjects, but especially science, are learned best when grounded in real-life application. This opportunity to work with top scientists in their field, and a Russell group University such as Exeter, will excite and inspire the young people involved. At the college we are committed to increasing opportunities, maximising outcomes and improving life chances – this project does all three!”

Students from each successful school will sample a soil of their choice and take part in a series of laboratory sessions looking for new antibacterial compounds. The initiative aims to inspire students to consider a career in science, to study at top research led universities, such as Exeter, and to increase the scientific literacy of all students involved.

Dr Steve Michell, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology at the University of Exeter said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for the pupils at Newton Abbott College to get involved with and have hands on experience of microbiology. In addition it will enable the students to understand experimental methods and hopefully we in the South West can discover something new and interesting in the world of antimicrobials”.

By giving pupils from Newton Abbot College access to the University’s world-class scientists and facilities, the University hopes to inspire them to consider science based careers. On completion of the studies, the school will be invited to the Society for General Microbiology’s annual conference to present their results.

Date: 16 June 2015

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