Work Experience 2018: A great opportunity for outreach
The programme was aimed at year groups 10 - 13 from 17 different schools across Sheffield and the surrounding area. Under the lead of Andrew Metcalfe, we (Adelina Acosta Martin and Lydia Kiesel) were involved in the programme and shared our passion for science, and in particular mass spectrometry, as well as our skills and knowledge with the pupils.
The goal of the programme was to paint a picture of life as a science student at our University so the pupils could make a more informed decision about whether university and science was the right choice for them or not. They were taught by and received presentations from different types of scientists, such as teaching and research technicians, undergraduates and postgraduates, hospital lab technicians and an industrial biologist. This enabled them to have a good idea of what the path of a scientist could look like, beginning with the requirements of how to get to university, to what experiences await a student at university and ending with what they can do once they have received their degrees.
The 5-day programme was run over the course of 3 weeks with a different group of about 30 pupils every week. Andrew Metcalfe had collated a well-rounded programme and had allotted several time slots to introduce mass spectrometry and the Mass Spectrometry Center to the pupils.
We used the time to talk about our careers, and about how we got to where we are now. Adelina also encouraged them to think about what they wanted to get out of their work experience, as that really set the tone of the week and their experience. We then dived into the world of biological mass spectrometry and gave them a little taste of our day-to-day work in the lab. We had chosen and organised a simple experiment, which facilitated the explanation of general principles and the purpose of sample preparation and subsequent analysis. After we had walked them through the experiment theoretically, they were given the opportunity to show off their knowledge in a little practical session we had arranged. We handed out printed copies of the protocol to make it easier for them and let them work in groups to complete the practical, during which we generally supervised and demonstrated certain steps when necessary. As part of our slot with the pupils, we also gave them a tour of our facility and showed them the instrument, which would analyse their samples at the end of their practical with us. To round everything up, we had interpreted each group’s data to show practically what mass spectrometry results looked like and what kind of information we can gain from it.
At the end of the programme Lydia explained: “It was a great challenge for us that taught us to grow both in patience and in the communication of science to young people. We appreciated the opportunity to have the chance of supporting our BMS Department in the outreach to schools and making science more accessible and fun for younger people.”
“It was a great challenge for us that taught us to grow both in patience and in the communication of science to young people. We appreciated the opportunity to have the chance of supporting our BMS Department in the outreach to schools and making science more accessible and fun for younger people.
Ms Lydia Kiesel
Research Technician at the biOMICS Biological Mass Spectrometry Facility
According to the feedback, around 80% of the pupils participating in the programme were considering science as a future career or further education. We hope our contribution has had a positive impact on all, and especially on the 22% of pupils who were not sure about science at the beginning of the programme. When asking pupils about what things they liked the most, they also mentioned the work with us: “I enjoyed learning about the equipment and the theory behind Mass Spectrometry as it was roughly covered at AS Level.” Knowing that our effort and time was useful and greatly appreciated is very rewarding and encourages us to get involved in more work experience programmes in the future.
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