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Genetic science in the classroom

04 April 2011

Dr Karen Reed (centre) works on an experiment with Rebecca Morgan, Emily Phillips, Catrin Lyeldon and Ben Kirstein of Pencoed School.Dr Karen Reed (centre) works on an experiment with Rebecca Morgan, Emily Phillips, Catrin Lyeldon and Ben Kirstein of Pencoed School.

Pupils at Bridgend’s Pencoed Comprehensive School have been getting to grips with the genetics of cancer, as part of a project to build links between schools and scientific researchers.

A team from Cardiff University has been working with pupils on the hands-on project, funded by the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science.

The project, titled "Cells, Genes, Mutations and Cancer" gives pupils the chance to explore practical biological science for themselves. The focus is on the interaction between the environment and our genes in the development of cancer. Pupils from Years 11 to 13 have planned, conducted and analysed experiments looking at cell growth and gene mutation, using the same techniques as cutting-edge cancer researchers.

Dr Karen Reed, Research Associate at Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, is working in partnership with Pencoed Comprehensive School on the research. Dr Reed said: "Our project will bring to life what pupils learn about in the classroom and help them to understand the impact of science and engineering upon their day-to-day activities. Making these subjects relevant is how we demonstrate how vital they are to our lives."

The project culminate in a showcase event at the School this weekend, Saturday April 2 (10am till12.30pm). Pupils will explain their findings to the public, including their parents and other schools in the Bridgend area.

The Royal Society project offers young people the chance to meet and work with local scientists and to build their scientific understanding in a way that is exciting and relevant to their lives.

Professor John Pethica FRS, Vice-President of the Royal Society, said: "We’re pleased to be supporting this Cells, Genes, Mutations and Cancer project at Pencoed Comprehensive School and are looking forward to seeing this imaginative project come to life.

"Science and engineering are exhilarating and dynamic subjects and we hope that by giving teachers the opportunity to introduce innovative science that we can help show young people how much fun in real-life these subjects can be, and inspire them to become the inventors, explorers and innovators of the future."

This Royal Society-funded project is one of a portfolio of activities that the School of Biosciences runs as part of its commitment to widen access to Higher Education amongst under-represented groups. The School has been working since 2008 with the University's Widening Access team to deliver a program of hands-on and research-focussed full day events to pupils enrolled on the Cardiff University Step-up-to-Health Scheme. The pupils all come from schools which do not have a strong tradition in Higher Education. Two-day workshops have also been run for pre-GCSE pupils participating in a summer school organised by Hands-on Science - an all Wales HEFCW funded project, which is part of the Reaching Wider Welsh Assembly Government initiative.