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King's researchers bring science to life in biophysics session for south London brownie unit

MRes Healthcare Technologies students make a difference to the lives of future ‘Women in Science’

South London Brownies learn about the science of DNA extraction

King's researchers from the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences visited a Girlguiding Brownie Unit in south London earlier this year to run a session on DNA, based on the work of Rosalind Franklin, a renowned biophysicist and alumna of King’s.

Choosing ‘Women in Science’ as the theme for the event, the group explained to the 7-10 year-olds that Rosalind Franklin helped discover the structure of DNA and that this was only made possible by the X-ray diffraction work that she did at King’s – a discovery that went largely uncredited during her lifetime.

At the session, the PhD students – Tia Gibson, Olga Tyurina, Basma Alabdullah, Jacob Wilson and Jack Oldroyd – used interactive activities to inspire and enthuse the group of Brownies, starting with a ‘draw a scientist’ activity.

It was uplifting to see the girls could see themselves as scientists before our lesson, showing that the drive to promote women in STEM has already had a positive impact on young kids.– Jack Oldroyd, CDT in Smart Medial Imaging student

‘We expected the Brownies to draw a stereotypical male scientist such as Einstein,’ Jack added. ‘We were so impressed to see the majority draw women!’

To help connect the science of DNA with their everyday lives, the King’s students demonstrated how to isolate DNA from bananas and strawberries to the Brownies, inspiring great surprise and excitement when they explained that 50% of our DNA is in fact the same as a banana!

The hands-on elements – such as getting the Brownies to build DNA models from household objects and extract real DNA from a strawberry by the end of the session – helped build their engagement and make their experience even more memorable.

My daughter found the session so inspiring that she now wants to study Chemistry and become a scientist. – Brownie parent

The project was supported by the Public Engagement Team within the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences at King’s, who provided advice throughout. The team are always looking for King's researchers interested in engaging and inspiring local communities with their research. 

This is just the start for Jack and his colleagues – a friend and primary school teacher in Oxford has requested the group perform an encore later this year in front of a new group of pupils, with ‘Women in Science” the central theme.

 

It was great to see the students translate complex research into fun, interactive activities to excite and inspire young minds and bring Rosalind Franklin’s ideas to a whole new generation of potential women in science.– Bella Spencer, Public & Patient Engagement Coordinator, Wellcome EPSRC Centre for Medical Engineering