Sunday, 5 January 2014

The coming term...

Penicillium mold
Now that you are all familiar with the general layout of the Innovation labs and have got used to the use of the lab note book system, I have been working with the teaching staff to produce a system that will allow you to build on the skills developed in the first term and take on some more challenging Science projects.  The three labs will be overseen by a member of the Science staff who will begin the formal monitoring of your  lab note books: we are aiming to move from your induction term to a fully professional research lab environment. I am delighted to say that this is a result of the responsible and committed way that you all conducted yourselves in Term 1, as well as the speed with which you mastered some rather complex methods and ideas. You have made spectacular progress, so I am going to challenge you even more!

This term, Y12 students will extract and fractionate a range of compounds from natural sources and investigate their anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activities compared with commercial compounds. This will be followed by an ambitious project in which we shall adopt the concepts of "Synthetic Biology" to engineer novel, recombinant peptide synthesising enzymes from cyanobacteria. For this project we will need to draw on your Bioinformatics skills from Term 1, together with the methods of recombinant protein production from the Eden project. We will also be firing up the PCR machines in order to generate the appropriate coding sequences from cyanobacterial genomic DNA. Now that Dr. Moore, has recovered from the shock, our new lab layout should help us meet the challenges of this exciting new project. 

The Y12 projects form part of our relationship with our regional partners: 

Unilever: novel therapeutics from natural products.

Unilever produce more than 400 brands focused on health and well-being: their portfolio ranges from nutritionally balanced foods to ice creams, soaps, shampoos and everyday household care products. Some of teh brands you may know are: Lipton, Knorr, Dove, Hellmann's and Omo.

Croda:  Synthetic Biology.

Croda International is a global leader in speciality chemicals, sold to a wide range of markets- from Personal Care to Health Care; from Crop Care to Coatings and Polymers.

The Y10 students will build on the introductory microbiology work from last term by investigating the way in which microbes can be controlled using general agents such as bleach and the more sophisticated control used for therapeutic purposes: antibiotics such as penicillin, kanamycin, tetracycline and chloramphenicol.  We will be supported in this work by ProLabs who were so generous in supporting and resourcing our microbiology lab classes last year.

Using broth and plate culture techniques, we will investigate the tolerance of bacteria to mainstream antibiotics and look at the properties of commercial cleaning agents with respect to different classes of organisms. We shall use a combination of laboratory strains and we shall also repeat the Fleming experiment, by isolating Penicillium mold and using the organism and extracts from it, to reproduce Fleming's early experiments on antibiotics.

We shall begin with an investigation of the concept of dosage. How much anti-bacterial agent does it take to kill a culture of live bacteria? Is it sufficient to kill 99.9% of germs, and what are the pros and cons of administering antibiotics? These issues will be explored alongside the basic chemistry underlying the active ingredient(s) and mode of action of commonly used antibacterial agents.

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