Biology in action

Written by: Sabina Pogoson (Year 13)

On Monday 26 November, a group of A-Level Biology students attended a series of lectures at a Biology in Action event at Warwick University. The opportunity exposed us to topics not usually found within the Biology curriculum and all of them were fascinating. They explored a wide spectrum of ideas such as using high-tech microscopy, treating oesophageal cancer, and the nature of primate behaviour.

The day began with a talk about Microscopy by the natural scientist, Marty Jopson, whose experience involved several television appearances. His cheerful personality captured our interest as he explained methods involved in his work in the lab, such as the 3D reconstruction of snapdragon buds, and the use of phase-shifts of foreground and background waves to uncover invisible objects. It was exciting to see how many possibilities a multiscientific approach could have, including understanding the contribution it is currently making to our society.

We had another talk by a well-known journalist, Mark Lynas. He drew our attention to the influences of scientific denial. As an environmental activist and author, Lynas explored the dangers of denying factual evidence for the interest of opinion. It became clear to us that as young adults, we should not be basing our actions purely on impulse but we should rather value the use of rationale. Showing us the devastating effects of what improper reasoning could have, he left us with the advice to think more critically as biologists.

Later in the day, we listened to a talk from a surgeon named Tim Underwood. He is a specialist in treating oesophageal cancer, and his research attempts to combat this disease. In his experience of seeing patients undergo surgery and radiotherapy, he explained the weaknesses of these methods. He urged us to consider gene therapy treatment, and he highlighted the steps involved in creating a possible cancer vaccine. It amazed us, and we had plenty of questions to ask him. At the end of the talk, we were motivated to read wider upon this topic. Now, we understand the potential that genetic research has to improve cancer treatment in medicine today.

The entire event left us with a captivating set of ideas to think about. We were grateful for the ability to apply what we had learned from our A Level studies to the talks. The inspiration taken from them helped us to think long and hard about what we might be able to contribute to society ourselves as potential future leaders of the scientific field. And as part of this group of Biologists, I can confidently say that I have taken home a great lesson with me.

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