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On Wednesday 3rd February 2016, we welcomed a group of Sixth Form Applied Science students from St Birinus School and Didcot Girls’ School.

The visit started with a tour of the Mary Lyon Centre. After putting on a sterile suit and going through our air showers, the students were shown the mouse facility, including the high-tech specially designed cages complete with their own ventilation system where the mice are housed in small groups to keep each other company. They also had the chance to see our animal technicians in action, ensuring that each and every mouse in the facility is checked every day of the year, including Christmas and Boxing Day. After re-emerging from the Mary Lyon Centre, the students came over to the Mammalian Genetics Unit to see some of our labs putting the other side of our research into practice. In particular, the students spent some time in histology and microscopy, where tissues are examined at a cellular level to identify small changes which might not be noticed without magnification.

The students then moved into our special teaching lab to do some work of their own! As usual, our DNA extraction from strawberries activity went down very well. As Nanda Rodrigues said, “making DNA from strawberries always grabs their attention…it’s always satisfying to be able to explain what we do and to see their faces light up with enthusiasm and wonder”. Finally, after having witnessed many aspects of working at MRC Harwell, the students sat down with some of our researchers to discuss careers in the biomedical sciences.

The students seemed to thoroughly enjoy their day at MRC Harwell, and their teacher Mrs Wall said “I have mentioned it in about 4 lessons now as different aspects of the visit were relevant to them!”. Several of the students are now very keen to return to MRC Harwell for work experience. A successful day all around!