30th anniversary for ̳ Schools’ Day!

30th anniversary for ̳ Schools’ Day!

30th anniversary for ̳ Schools’ Day!

Key points:

  • Today, 6th March 2024, marks the incredible achievement of the 30th year of our annual Schools Day at the ̳.
  • Over 200 students and teachers from 36 different schools from the east, and beyond, will undertake hands-on science projects in the Institute’s labs.
  • This year will see the most schools and students attending in the event’s history, and the highest proportion of students from schools from areas with historically lower access to similar opportunities.

Today the Institute celebrates its 30th Schools’ Day – an annual event where researchers guide secondary and sixth-form students through hands-on lab projects and showcase the variety of careers in science. As it was for the very first Schools’ Day in 1995, the day gives students an opportunity to explore the world-leading bioscience taking place at the Institute and use equipment not available within schools. Schools’ Day provides a taste of life as a researcher with the aim to enthuse, inspire and motivate students of sixth form age as they continue their scientific education.

Welcoming students and teachers from 36 different schools, this year’s Schools’ Day gives insights into the fundamental biology that lays the foundations for breakthroughs in healthy ageing research.

Today, students will undertake projects that:

  • identify cells that have been genetically modified to investigate cell signalling;
  • pinpoint the location of a gene in a cell nucleus using a fluorescent tag;
  • investigate immune cells’ biological weaponry against infectious attackers such as bacteria and viruses;
  • look at their own cells to learn more about how cells communicate;
  • visualise the intriguing process of cell cannibalism;
  • reveal the hidden nanoworld with the latest imaging techniques;
  • learn how to tell the difference between dividing, dormant and aged cells.

Over the years, Schools’ Day has reached over 3,000 students – most from the local area, although the event has been attended by students from as far away as Finland! The day’s programme and projects have developed to meet the changing curriculum, to support teacher development, and reflect the evolving science of the Institute.

“Schools’ Day is all about giving students a glimpse of life at the bench. As our longest running public engagement initiative, it has evolved over the years with an increasing emphasis on providing opportunities to students who would not otherwise have had this kind of hands-on experience.” said Dr Mike Norman, Public Engagement Manager.

Dr Peter Rugg-Gunn, Head of Public Engagement and group leader in the Epigenetics programme said: “I am always amazed by the enthusiasm of the students and the fantastic questions they ask, we hope that they leave the Institute feeling inspired and excited about studying and supporting science.”

In recent years, the attendance has shifted to prioritise students from schools in the local area that fall into areas of lower socio-economic status as defined by measures of deprivation. The Institute has also introduced a travel bursary for qualifying schools, to reduce any financial barriers that might prevent participation. In 2024, almost one third of students attending will come from these schools.

The Institute sits on the Babraham Research Campus, a co-location of the Institute’s fundamental research with approximately 65 commercial companies. Since 2015, Schools’ Day has also been a showcase for campus based companies who also host projects for pupils and bring a new perspective in the careers talks that accompany the day. This year, Cancer Research Horizons and Sanofi will be running projects for school groups, while Dr Zahra Jawad, founder and CEO of Creasallis, and Caitriona Topping from InsMed will give talks about their careers to students.

The Institute regularly hears about the impact Schools’ Day has had. Students who attended in 2023 said:

“I really enjoyed the fluorescent microscopy and using learning about how worms are used in research for neurodegenerative and age related diseases.”

“I loved getting involved in the practical which not only gave me important skills but also helped deepen my understanding of biology.”

As well as enriching the students learning, some have gone on to study biology at university, citing their experience of Schools’ Day as a factor in their decision.

Reflecting on the impact of Schools’ Day over its 30-year history, ̳ Director, Dr Simon Cook, commented, “Taking part in Schools’ Day is now an enthusiastically anticipated event, and its success over the last 30 years is down to the dedication of the Public Engagement team, and the scientists who design and lead projects for students. The Institute has a long history of showcasing the importance of fundamental research, and hopefully Schools’ Day will continue to inspire young people to follow careers in research for many years to come.”


Press contact

Honor Pollard, Communications Officer, honor.pollard@babraham.ac.uk

Image description: Researchers Teresa Rayon and Shota Nakanoh explaining their project to students as part of the 2023 Schools' Day

About the ̳

The ̳ undertakes world-class life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Our research focuses on cellular signalling, gene regulation and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing. The Institute is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, through an Institute Core Capability Grant and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.