This week we visited Rockefeller University, home to 24 Nobel Prize winning scientist, to participate in their outreach program.
The students started the day by taking a saliva sample ready to extract their own DNA from it. We then learnt how to use micropipettes, centrifuges and various other pieces of lab equipment. Throughout the morning the demonstrators interspersed theoretical teaching with hands on science to keep our students constantly engaged.
We then took a lunch break and learnt about life as a PhD student at Rockefeller, the group leaders shared their experiences and research including work on the "Zombie Bacteria" and genetic variance in reactions to heroin! Our students were very surprised to hear that a PhD from Rockefeller actually came with a stipend rather than extortionate fees! It was great to hear about an alternative path that an interest in science can lead to and one all of our students had never even considered.
After lunch we returned to our DNA samples which had now been amplified using the Polymerase Chain Reaction. More pipetting followed, this time into agarose gel to complete an electrophoresis, a few minutes later we were "viewing" our DNA separated by molecular size.
A quote from a junior summed up our day best: "today really has made me reconsider what I want to do". Whilst many of our students know they have an interest in science it is rare that they are aware of all the options this opens for them. Experiences such as these continue to both academically challenge our students whilst also "broadening their horizons" and we are extremely grateful to Rockefeller University for hosting the day and look forward to returning soon.