The School of Life Sciences and Education recently welcomed seven work experience students to Staffordshire University to give them a taste of working within the scientific field. All students were Year 12 students from local schools and colleges; Stoke-on-Trent College, The Cheadle Academy and St John Fisher Catholic College, and are studying Biology or Psychology.
The combined departments of Psychology and Biology developed an interactive programme showing the effects of stress on the human body through the hormone, cortisol. The activities started with a presentation, led by Biology Technician Sue Avery, which gave the students information about cortisol, how it can be altered and tested for, as well as an introduction to the laboratory testing facilities. Next, Justin Rich (Sport Technician) led the students in a workshop looking at the importance of Health and Safety and Risk Assessments. Students enjoyed the practical session, identifying hazards from a health and safety ‘crime scene’ – a nightmare for most technicians! This laid the foundations for the importance of health and safety in the laboratory and is something that students can take forward into their scientific careers.
Once health and safety matters had been observed, Paul Gallimore and Alice Taylor (Psychology Technicians) introduced the students to the Virtual Reality kit, which caused much excitement amongst the teenagers. Students took part in immersive experiences that were designed to induce relaxed or stressful states; this influenced cortisol levels and students were able to see their physiological responses using the Biopac which shows Heart Rate and Galvanic Skin Response. The visitors particularly enjoyed the stress-inducing experience of ‘walking the plank’ where they were placed at the top of a virtual 30-storey building and attempted to walk out across a wooden beam!
The second day comprised of students testing for cortisol with Rob Manning and Alison Davidson (Biology Technicians). Students watched demonstrations and took part in various activities to learn about the chemical extraction and transformation of cortisol from saliva samples. This included pipette measuring, calibration exercises, microfuge activities, and the use of spectrophotometers which aimed to teach students the importance of accurate measurements and give them the experience of using laboratory equipment. The students learned lots about the chemical processes involved in cortisol detection and analysis and will be able to take these important skills away and reflect upon them in their studies.
This is a great example of technicians collaborating and working together to deliver a successful event. We received fantastic feedback with some of the students commenting that it had helped them to realise which strand of science they wanted to continue to focus their studies at university. We are glad that our efforts could help the students in this way and we wish them the best of luck for their future.
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