On Friday 5 February, students in the Real World Science and Nanotechnology AOB group came together to examine multi-coloured colonies of bacteria which had been grown on agar plates. These samples had been collected a fortnight earlier, on a Saturday morning in January, when many of these students had been treated to a tour of the John Radcliffe Microbiology Labs. Hands and surfaces were swabbed and the resulting samples spread across the medium which was contained in the plates. Visiting a real laboratory gave this group a chance to make informed course choices and to be inspired by the work of medical scientists.
Back at Cokethorpe, the students were trained in how to identify the difference between gram positive and gram negative bacteria. This basic technique offers scientists a valuable diagnostic tool in research and clinical labs, and is often the first method used when attempting to identify a species of bacteria. After gram staining, students examined the bacteria under a microscope, which would help them to narrow down the possible species in each sample. They were also told about the importance of keeping a lab book, to make note of everything they did, in order to keep track of their research.
Students in the AOB group were eager to convey how valuable they found this type of real world research technique. Harriet Goddard (Lower Sixth, Feilden) explained that, as she already studies A Level Biology and Chemistry, she finds this additional experience very useful; it could also provide an edge when applying to university. Edoardo Benali (Lower Sixth, Gascoigne) attends the AOB because of his personal interest in science, and is particularly interested in the nanotechnology aspect of the course.