Not all scientists are the stereotypical Frankensteinian, Emmett “Doc” Brown lookalikes of this world, supposedly out-of-touch with reality. We can all admit that this is sci-fi nonsense. And that’s exactly the white-coated myth that Dr. John Chilton and Dr. Lorna Harries set out to debunk at the Exeter Medical School in 2005 (then the Peninsula Medical School). Their ‘Men In White’ campaign aims to give young people, from a range of backgrounds, the opportunity to contribute to science in a way that’s “exciting and relevant to society”. The event, as part of National Science and Engineering Week 2019, invited pupils from across the South West and took place in the RILD building of the RD & E hospital. Year 9 pupils used scientific techniques featured in TV detective and crime dramas to unravel the mystery of who “sabotaged” the ‘Great Bideford Bake Off’.
the opportunity to contribute to science
The students were tasked with solving a fictional scenario; unexpected soggy bottoms and sugary bread from the West Country’s crème da le crème of bakers bring up allegations of exposure to mutant strain of yeast from a baking saboteur.
Now in its 13th consecutive year, the Exeter Medical School’s event showcases cutting edge DNA analysis and microbiology techniques. Previous years have involved teaching students about staining yeast DNA on slides to observe them under the microscope as well as trying out blood sugar sampling and blood pressure testing to explore their knowledge about their very complicated bodies.
showcases cutting edge techniques
With 226 pupils spanning 17 schools in attendance, the event uniting young science enthusiasts was the largest so far, bringing eager minds to come together and get creative with how they approach science. .
A pupil from St Peter’s School, Josh Moore, was pleasantly surprised about the intricacy of the science involved and felt “lucky to have access to a resource like this”. A fellow teacher, Gina Archer, agreed stating that “it’s really engaging when they can put it into practise with state of art equipment”.
Students get to “gain a real understanding of some complex scientific concepts” whilst working alongside ‘real scientists’ states organiser Prof Lorna Harries, people who aren’t foreboding men in white coats but genuinely curious people who use science to answer the intriguing questions we all have about life.
Dr John Chilton stressed that “It’s very important that we motivate the next generation of scientists”; especially in today’s age, letting young people have a chance to experience the vigour of the scientific method will help improve accessibility and diversity and increase creativity within the field in the future.
This is the third event that took place in Exeter Medical School’s Research, Innovation, Learning and Development (RILD) building on the local Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital site and this has meant the programme is open to “more pupils than ever before’. The inspirational prospect that some of these pupils could potentially “join [the] world-leading research team here at Exeter” really showcases why these sort of events are so important in the current school curriculum and potentially be opened up to the rest of the country..