At The Grey Coat Hospital, not a hospital but a ‘comprehensive school for girls’ in inner London, students learn about Rosalind, Maurice and their work during a visit to King’s College London and Guy’s Hospital hosted annually by the Randall Centre for Cell and Molecular Biophysics.
Each year, the school awards a Rosalind Franklin Prize to the student who makes the most effort to improve their chance of entrance to the university of their choice to read a scientific, medical or medical-related subject. To encourage the students to make such efforts, a Year 12 cohort visits King’s College London to learn about Rosalind and how her work helped solve the riddle of DNA structure, transforming the world.
Students visit the Cancer Centre to learn how physics and chemistry are improving medicine today. In the Life Sciences Museum, they hear talks on Rosalind’s spectacular career, how X-ray diffraction generated Photo 51, why that photo allowed Watson and Crick to guess the DNA structure, and how Maurice Wilkins spent years proving their guess correct.
Then, the students visit the Randall Centre to learn about careers in science or medicine and how our current biophysics research uses the understanding of DNA and molecular genetics to illuminate phenomena like muscle contraction, muscle growth and human frailty. The aim is for students to see first-hand how research is transforming biology and will contribute to personalized medicine.
Rosalind was trained in chemistry, but she used methods from physics to help make the greatest discovery of twentieth century biology. Today, the effects resonate through medicine, ecology, biodiversity, nanotechnology, criminology, anthropology and even history.
Her story is too often couched in terms of sexism. But that is something she herself would not have recognised, preferring to focus on problems that are more difficult but also more rewarding to solve: the mysteries of the world. She regarded scientific research not as something separate from everyday life, but as the most thrilling part of it. That is a positive message for young women (and men) in any era.