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UK and Japanese sixth formers connect at Babraham’s bioscience bootcamp

Visit Babraham Institute website

9 August 2010

The Babraham Institute, an institute of BBSRC, last week opened its doors to local sixth formers and an international delegation of young scientists for a 'Bioscience Bootcamp'. This innovative one-week programme provided insights into biomedical research through short research placements, ethics and careers discussions and a conference on 5 August, which was also attended by students from the 2010 London International Youth Sciences Forum.

Babraham's Bootcamp had an additional, international dimension this year, integration with a UK-Japan Young Scientist Workshop. This initiative of the Clifton Scientific Trust brings together 50 students from state schools in the UK and Japan to live and work alongside each other for a week and undertake free-thinking projects in small teams with professional scientists. 25 eager students enlisted for Babraham's Bootcamp, which brought together Hills Road Sixth Form College, Netherhall Sixth Form, schools in Bury St Edmunds, Colchester, Watford and Dartford with six science high schools in Japan for a unique learning experience.

Dr Claire Cockcroft, Head of External Relations at the Babraham Institute, who created the Bootcamp concept in 2007 explained, "This is a pioneering initiative in science outreach, bringing together sixth formers from different cultures to work on scientific projects and solve problems. 25 students have been immersed in molecular biology, biochemistry, neuroscience and computational biology projects, gaining valuable skills in experimental design as well as teamwork and communication. We hope that this experience will provide a greater understanding of the way research is carried out, the collaborative nature of science and may inspire them to pursue careers in science and technology".

The Babraham Institute works closely with Ian Harvey, Head of Biology at Hills Road Sixth Form College to provide students with access to hands-on lab experience and role models in science-based professions. He said, "The opportunities offered by the Babraham Bootcamp are invaluable to sixth formers contemplating a biological career. To work on projects with 'real life scientists' is an inspiration. A' levels today are formulaic and allow little latitude for indulging in biological pursuit for intrinsic interest and this is what the bootcamp offers. Working alongside students from different backgrounds, indeed different cultures adds a new dimension and brings young people together with a shared enthusiasm for their subject. My students have enjoyed and gained much from the experience and will enter their A2 year with added impetus and the conviction that they want to be biologists!"

Lucy Sneezum a student at Hills Road 6th form college who took part in the Bootcamp said, "I had a really fantastic week! I learnt a lot of interesting things, which are all very relevant to science today and got to experience working in a lab among scientists which has helped me plan my future career! I also particularly enjoyed the ethics debate and doing the presentation on the last day. Thank you!!!!"

Dr Remy Poland, research scientist at the Department of Genetics in Cambridge also provided some exciting ecological projects for the UK-Japan Young Scientist Workshop. 18 students have been engrossed in projects surveying various insects, such as ladybirds, butterflies and the horse chestnut leaf miner as part of a study into infections affecting horse chestnut trees in Madingley.

"At the Evolutionary Genetics Laboratory in Madingley we are hosting 18 Japanese and British students, working on three projects in insect ecology. Initially the students were quite squeamish about the insects and spiders we collected, but by the end of it, I think I had at least some of them convinced that entomology is cool! Students are gaining useful experience of ecological research: conducting fieldwork, developing sampling techniques, using the microscope and analysing data. But, perhaps most importantly, they are learning skills in teamwork and communication, vital attributes for any scientist."

This is a unique opportunity for these students to experience real life science and its challenges at first hand, as well as learning about each other and forming lasting friendships.

Dr Eric Albone of the Clifton Scientific Trust, who established the UK-Japan Young Scientist Workshop in 2004 said, "Britain and Japan face a common challenge. In both countries, too many young people remain uninspired by their encounter with science in school and both countries are working to address serious concerns that too few talented young people are attracted to science-related careers, particularly in the physical sciences and engineering. The challenge we face is to prepare them to be the confident, motivated, science-literate, globally-aware, questioning young people the 21st century demands."


About The UK-Japan Young Scientist Workshops

The UK-Japan Young Scientist Workshops bring together post-16 school students from both countries to live and work for a week in small UK-Japanese teams with professional scientists and engineers on open ended projects where they think for themselves. The programme aims to promote scientific achievement and at the same time develop global awareness and international understanding for young people through science. 50 students from 12 schools across England and Japan will participate in the science workshop and at the end of the week will give team presentations of their achievements. The UK students are from state schools, and in Japan from Super Science High Schools. This is the first time the University of Cambridge and Babraham Institute will host this Clifton Scientific Trust initiative.

The Workshop will be hosted at Murray Edwards College in association with the Kaetsu Educational and Cultural Centre and projects will be led by academics at the Babraham Institute and in the Departments of Chemistry and of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, and at the Hitachi Cambridge Laboratory at the Cavendish, who have generously volunteered to participate in the programme, working hand in hand with the students during the week.

The 2010 Workshop has been made possible through the support of the Department of Education, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, Mitsubishi Electric Europe, Toshiba Research Europe and Hitachi Europe, as well as the Japan Science and Technology Agency, the Babraham Institute, BBSRC and the University of Cambridge. See:

About Babraham Institute

The Babraham Institute is an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) located near Cambridge, undertaking international quality research to support the biomedical aspects of the BBSRC's mission. The Institute's research is focused on understanding the biological events that underlie the normal functions of cells and the implication of failure or abnormalities in these processes. The latest technologies are being used to study the basis of conditions such as neurodegenerative disorders, birth defects, cancer and diseases of the immune and cardiovascular systems. With a strategic focus on 'healthy ageing', novel approaches for tackling chronic diseases and public health concerns like obesity and inflammatory disorders are being discovered.


BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £470M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:

  • The Babraham Institute
  • Institute for Animal Health
  • Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Aberystwyth University)
  • Institute of Food Research
  • John Innes Centre
  • The Genome Analysis Centre
  • The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh)
  • Rothamsted Research

The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.

External contact

Dr Claire Cockcroft, Head, External Relations, Babraham Institute

tel: 01223 496260
mob: 07786 335978