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The Innovation Lab Experience at the UTC
We’re constantly being told by employers that school leavers and graduate students lack many of the skills required to succeed in science and technology careers. Our Innovation Labs have been established and developed over the last five years to address these concerns.
We introduce students between the ages of 14-19 to the skills required to carry out contemporary scientific research. Contemporary technology, combined with a programme of engaging and challenging experimental science is at the heart of the UTC experience.
The Year 12 Innovation Lab programme is the best way to capture what we are trying to achieve. Always a ‘work in progress’, it’s driven and informed by new discoveries, whilst being grounded in the fundamentals of classical maths and science.
We develop students’ confidence and skills in using a range of laboratory equipment including Gilson pipettes, spectrophotometers, centrifuges, balances and chromatography columns. Proficiency in these core skills is assessed and students are progressively given greater autonomy in planning and carrying out their research projects.
The Greenland group was set up to provide an outlet for students who wanted to take their interests in science a bit further. This group of students covers the whole age range, with their own laboratory space, led by Year 13 students.
This autonomous group performs a vital role in keeping the innovation labs running smoothly by providing technical support and acting as demonstrators during practical laboratory sessions. The students have developed a business structure with Year 13 students leading in key roles and managing younger students.
Current collaborations include a project with the University of Liverpool funded by a Biochemical Society grant to set up and culture neuroblastoma cells at the UTC…
What do we want to achieve?
We want students to develop a confident, articulate passion for experimental science and we reward this by asking those who want to go further in Year 13 with the opportunity to develop and pursue their own project ideas – with the ultimate aim of publishing their original research.
Students from all year groups have the opportunity to sign up to joint projects developed in collaboration with our academic and industry partners and led by year 13 students.
Current collaborations include a project with the University of Liverpool funded by a Biochemical Society grant to set up and culture neuroblastoma cells at the UTC, allowing students to investigate the effect of natural substances on the growth of human cells to develop new therapeutic compounds for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Recent Year 11 students were published in the Journal of Young Scientists for their work on investigating the proteome of the UTCs first model organism – the mealworm (Tenebrio molitor). Other students are involved in joint projects with the University of Liverpool to setup and develop our use of water fleas (Daphnia pulex) and zebrafish (Danio rubrio) as additional model organisms at the UTC.
Other exciting projects include industrial collaborations with our partners at MAST group, investigating the use of differential and selective growth media in culturing microorganisms and ProLab Diagnostics investigating lateral flow and molecular diagnostic techniques.
Additional transferable skills
There are several other key strands that run through the Innovation Lab programme, including the development of communication skills, from comprehensive lab note books, through to detailed experimental planning sheets, archiving and tracking materials, poster presentations, oral presentations, constructing abstracts, writing reports, creating appealing and informative infograms.
We take every opportunity to address the maths underpinning the science, from solid geometry to non-linear physical phenomena and use biological phenomena where possible to illuminate maths: exponential microbial growth and nucleic acid amplification by the polymerase chain reaction.
Several of our students have presented their research at national scientific conferences and have also had the opportunity to judge the scientific posters of post-doctoral researchers at a University of Liverpool Genomics faculty away day.