Passing on the fascination for research
During the summer holidays, the two centers for biological signalling studies BIOSS und CIBSS welcomed some young and highly motivated visitors: Twenty students from grade 6 to 8 spent a day at the research laboratories of the Signalhaus in Freiburg, experimenting with cells, DNA and enzymes.
The visit was part of the Kulturakademie of the Stiftung Kinderland Baden-Württemberg, whose STEM division (STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is coordinated by the Science & Technologie e.V. With this program interested and talented students get the chance to take a look behind the scenes of various research institutions. And – like at BIOSS and CIBSS – they can even put on lab coats and immerse into the scientific research.
When preparing the experiments for this day, the scientists from BIOSS and CIBSS focused on addressing current questions in biological signaling research and synthetic biology. Accordingly, the topics and techniques that were covered went far beyond what can be implemented in the classroom or in student laboratories. Divided into four small teams the students even had the opportunity to work with living cells and complex laboratory equipment.
For example, they determined the kinetic parameters of a phosphatase, characterized the distribution of T and B cells, isolated their own DNA, or used a synthetic biological genetic switch to detect drugs. While doing that they were anything but deterred by the many new concepts and technical terms: They were not shy to ask any questions they had and made connections to their previous knowledge and current topics. At the end of the day, during the short presentations of the students, they were able to explain terms like "fluorescence" and "flow cytometer" to their peers.
The Kulturakademie, which has been taking place annually since 2010, has visited the Signalhaus several times already. And every time the exchange between current and future researchers offers a very special opportunity. "This is particularly important," states Joachim Lerch, 1st Chairman of the Science & Technologie e.V., "that the children get to meet the scientists and ask questions, for example about how they chose that career path. This allows completely different insights into the professional field."
The researchers at CIBSS and BIOSS were very impressed by the curiosity and interest of the students, and hope to have passed on some of their own fascination for biological signalling research and synthetic biology.