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Post-16 projects

This page features a case study from a post-16 college. If you have any questions about the project, please get in touch

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Can you investigate the effects of changing climatological conditions on pond microflora using flow cytometry?
How precise a ruler can we make with light?
The Scottish daffodil collaborative project
Can Drosophila melanogaster learn visual and olfactory cues?
Using thermography to investigate the effect of drought on two crop plants

Can you investigate the effects of changing climatological conditions on pond microflora using flow cytometry?

“Through this project the school will set up a laboratory that can be used to identify microfauna, and microflora such as bacteria or yeast that are living in a pond on site. Students will monitor the conditions of the pond and count the microflora present at different points over the year using flow cytometry [a process that uses lasers to rapidly analyse particles in a moving solution]. Students will then process and analyse the data collected with the aim to write a scientific publication in collaboration with our STEM partner and present their findings to the school via video diary and poster presentation. Once students are familiar with the technology and methodology there may be an opportunity for them to go to Cambridge to carry out further research in collaboration with the STEM partner.”

Find out more about the project (PDF). You can also read a short article on the university press pages.

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How precise a ruler can we make with light?

“Interferometry [measurement using the interference of light waves from lasers] plays a crucial part in some of the world’s most cutting-edge science but only the basic principles are introduced in A-level Physics. From determining the wavelength of light to detecting the merging of black holes in outer space, interferometers can be used to perform measurements with incredible precision. In this project we intend to extend students' practical skills and knowledge of the applications of interferometry in research science by designing their own investigations to explore a range of measurements from the thickness of a glass slide to the refractive index of a gas. Successful projects will be developed into a standard resource for delivery of A-level Physics extension workshops in the future, both at participating schools and more widely.”

Find out more about this project by reading a blog article written by two of the students involved.

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The Scottish daffodil collaborative project

This collaborative project sees 7 schools from Scotland, and a lead school from Jersey who undertook the original project in 2019, exploring the diversity/phylogeny of a select set of Daffodil cultivars supplied by the James Hutton Institute and Brodie Collection. The students will work with STEM professionals to sample various daffodils, extracting DNA from their leaves and using high throughput DNA sequencing in the classroom before assembling the chloroplast’s genome.  Angus region is a large area of commercial daffodil production and the project is therefore very relevant to the local the economy.

Find out more about some of these projects by reading the scientific posters produced for the Royal Society student conference. Beaulieu Convent School, St Peter the Apostle High School and St Thomas of Aquin’s R.C. High School.

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Can Drosophila melanogaster learn visual and olfactory cues?

“Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) is a well-established model organism for many research areas including behaviour and learning. Fruit flies are attracted to light but display a robust avoidance of blue light. Our investigation aims to confirm that fruit flies display a preference for green over blue light and then to determine if they can be conditioned to overcome the blue light avoidance. To do this, two groups of fruit flies will be subjected to one of two reciprocal training regimes: blue light in the presence of a positive reinforcement (fructose) or green light in the presence of a negative reinforcement (sodium chloride). Each group of flies will be subsequently tested for their preference for blue or green light using a choice chamber. Fruit flies treated with blue light/fructose are expected to show stronger blue light preference than those treated with green light/sodium chloride as gustatory learning is more effective than aversive learning.”

Find out more about this project by reading the scientific poster they produced for the Royal Society student conference (PDF).

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Using thermography to investigate the effect of drought on two crop plants

“The purpose of our project was to evaluate the ability of two important crop plants to withstand drought stress. As human populations continue to grow, demand for food increases, and climate change causes unpredictable environmental fluctuations, it is becoming increasingly important to find suitable crop cultivars to overcome these challenges. Our project utilised thermography to measure the leaf temperatures of maize and French bean plants grown under either well-watered or drought conditions. Our results suggest that drought has limited impact on maize plants, whereas the leaf temperature of droughted French beans increased by 4.5°C compared to well-watered plants. We attributed this to stomatal closure, which limits uptake of CO2 with potentially severe impacts on photosynthetic rates and yield. We concluded that maize would be a more suitable crop to grow as climates become dryer and that this may be due to its different photosynthetic mechanism.”

Find out more about this project by reading the scientific poster they produced for the Royal Society student conference (PDF).

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