UNSW Science Work Experience

Every year, the Faculty of Science organises a work experience program to promote science career options to high school students. The program runs for a week, usually in November, and is available to Year 10 students across New South Wales. It involves a full day session with one of the nine Science Schools at UNSW, allowing the students to gain insight and experience into our scientists’ research and explorations, which are opening new frontiers.  

On Tuesday 26 November, the students had the opportunity to visit the School of BABS, where they performed exciting experiments to get a taste of the kind of work we do at BABS. Kicking off the day was an icebreaker activity for students to get to know their peers as well as their supervising student ambassadors.

We introduced the topic of Genetics with a virtual scenario, identifying the criminal from a range of suspects using their fingerprints. The students learned about the different types of fingerprint patterns, such as loops, whorls, and arches. Using this new knowledge, they examined the “evidence” left behind by the culprit of the crime and compared it with five suspects to determine the real criminal.

Finger print analysis at UNSW Science Work Experience
Finger print analysis at UNSW Science Work Experience

Students then got to extract their own DNA using common household items – an energy drink, detergent, and meat tenderiser. They were amazed that they could observe their own DNA strands just by using items they could find at home.

We explained how Molecular Biology is applied into the real-world with the example of our virtual scenario. Students learned about how different genes in the body could be amplified and how this could be used to identify further characteristics of the culprit.

Students also performed a Microbiology practical by Gram staining different bacteria to distinguish them. They stained their bacteria with different dye to and observed them under microscopes and determined whether they were Gram positive or negative based on their colours.

Learning about DNA at UNSW Science Work Experience
Learning about DNA at UNSW Science Work Experience

To wrap up the session, the students were given jellybeans in a tube, which they had to match the sequence on the board.

We hope the students enjoyed their session at the School of BABS and we look forward to seeing them some time in the future!

Words by Justine Salazar - BABS Student Ambassador