Hands-on experience for Biology students

Year 13 biologists gained some invaluable hands-on experience of genetically modifying bacteria under the guidance of a visiting guest lecturer from Kings College London.

Dr Elizabeth Glennon, from the KCL Department of Neuroscience, spent the day at QE. Sixth-Formers used their lesson times in the morning and early afternoon to carry out a number of different tasks, before Dr Glennon pulled together some overall conclusions at the end of the day.

The boys used a technique known as ‘Mutagenesis PCR’ to transform bacteria. They learned how to mutate circular pieces of DNA, known as plasmids, before heat-shocking live bacteria into accepting the modified genetic material into their cells. They then used ‘aseptic technique’ (a procedure used by medical staff to prevent the spread of infection) to spread colonies on to plates containing an antibiotic. The boys therefore knew that if any bacteria had grown, those plates had to contain the mutated plasmids which confer antibiotic resistance.

""Dr Glennon went on to explain how proteins associated with dementia could be studied using such techniques and said she was impressed by the questions she received afterwards.

“All the boys were scheduled to have Biology lessons on the day,” said Biology teacher Martin Bassett-Jones. “It enabled all of them to have the opportunity to participate in the experiments. It was a rewarding experience, which the boys thoroughly enjoyed. We are grateful to Dr Glennon for visiting us again to share cutting-edge DNA research techniques with our Sixth-Formers.”