There’s more to life… sciences

Thursday 15 June 2023

Pupils from across Fife visited the University of St Andrews last week (Thursday 8 June) for a hands-on life sciences discovery day like no other.

The unique Introduction to Life Sciences day saw a total of 40 S4 pupils from Bell Baxter, Auchmuty, Glenrothes, Glenwood and Madras High Schools take part in a packed schedule at the University, meeting with scientists and students, and visiting state-of-the-art research facilities across the campus.

The one-day programme, which was sponsored by the Glenrothes and St Andrews Rotary Clubs, began with a visit to the Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI) by the students for a tour of the world-leading facilities. The visit included talks with researchers, who spoke about what led them to choose life sciences and their current research focus at the SOI.

Pupils then visited the School of Psychology and Neuroscience in St Mary’s Quadrangle before heading to the Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History for a journey through the animal kingdom with fossils, skeletons, taxidermy, and spirit collections.

Following lunch, the pupils visited the recently re-opened, multimillion-pound Biomolecular Sciences (BMS) laboratories. After a packed schedule of Q&A sessions with scientists, the day concluded with the students reflecting on what they had learned during their time at St Andrews. Working in small groups, the students were also tasked with identifying a societal challenge that life sciences would play a crucial part in answering.

The original idea for the Introduction to Life Sciences day came from a Rotarian and retired Glenrothes GP, Bangarpet ‘Krishna’ Krishnaswamy, in response to the recent announcement by the UK Government of a £650m funding package to ‘fire up’ the life sciences as a key contributor to economic growth.

Hosted by Gareth Richardson-Peat and Freya Goble, from the University’s Admissions team, together with Dr Rafael Guimaraes da Silva, Lecturer in Biochemistry, the trio created a programme for the day for students to learn about the extraordinary reach of the life sciences.

Former High School Rector and current President of the Glenrothes Rotary Club, Lindsay Roy, said: “The Induction Day was carefully organised to give students a flavour of the different subjects which make up life sciences. The programme of activities clearly stimulated student interest and broadened their horizons – indeed three of the students were considering adjusting their timetables to include another science subject. This partnership between the University, schools, and St Andrews and Glenrothes Rotary Clubs may well prove to be a model for further collaborative ventures.”

Lauren King, a teacher from Auchmuty High School who joined pupils on the day, said: “It was a very valuable experience for pupils who not only got to see teaching spaces at the University and speak to people from all different career backgrounds, but to also get a feel for the variety of research and roles available within life sciences. The day was packed full of opportunities for pupils to engage with current students and staff and the University. It was a pleasure to be involved in the day.”

Dr Jane Parker from Bell Baxter High School added: “The teachers and students had a fabulous time being inspired and intrigued by real-world application of Biology. I felt I’d like to be studying life sciences at St Andrews and I know our students felt the same. Thank you so much to the Rotary Clubs of Glenrothes and St Andrews for organising the event.”

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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