After a successful start to the project in 2015, the Microbiology Society has signed up more schools to join our venture into the world of drug discovery. Our schools are passionate about practical microbiology and are partnered with a university, research institute, hospital laboratory or similar. Groups of students do real research, hoping to find the next new antibiotic. The aim is to inspire young people, through experiencing real research, to have a career in science.
The selected students sample a soil of their choice and take part in a series of laboratory sessions looking for new antibacterial compounds. The programme is flexible and allows each partnership to develop the investigations to suit their own skills and requirements. The programme can replace existing practical sessions, form a separate module in some courses or be run as an additional science club. Each partnership can develop the programme to best suit their needs.
What we want from both the school and the partner organisation are enthusiasm for the subject and engaged members of staff and students. The Society provides the rest! This includes full training for teachers and technicians at a three-day course, protocols and all consumables that the school needs for each experiment, as well as an invitation to our Annual Conference to present results.
The partner organisation contact provides support in these sessions and invites the students and relevant staff into their department to do further, more detailed analysis on any compounds isolated. This experience is particularly important for students, giving them the opportunity to familiarise themselves with a university or professional environment and engage with researchers.
Participants are also encouraged to engage with the Small World Initiative global community, and are given access to further materials and reading as well as the chance to get more involved with the activities of the Small World Initiative, if they wish.
The application can come from either the school or the partner organisation; however, letters of support must be from both. We strongly encourage you to write a collaborative application with your partnered organisation.
Applications are now open. Information about the application process and the application pack can be found below.
Newton Abbot College tells us about their experience with the project, which they undertook in 2015.
“As a result of my past academic endeavors in the fields of both cell biology research and science education, I am always looking for opportunities to engage my students in authentic inquiry-based scientific research opportunities. The Microbiology Society’s Antibiotics Unearthed project (AUP) has provided Newton Abbot College A-Level Biology students a unique and rare opportunity to do just that, alongside researchers at the University of Exeter.
This project enabled students to engage in inquiry-based learning using state-of-the-art molecular biology research techniques in an attempt to discover novel antibiotic-producing soil bacteria to combat the worldwide issue of antibiotic resistance. Integrating the AUP within the context of an A-Level Biology class proved to be pedagogically beneficial on numerous levels such as complimenting and challenging the students' understanding of their curriculum content, strengthening scientific literacy skills and encouraging authentic inquiry-based science. The teacher in me was inspired by the educational value of the project and the impact it had on the students.” – Alicia Wideman (MSc, BEd), teacher
“(This project was) good for lab experience because you got to try loads of new techniques you have never done before. Particularly the ones that you learned about in class, but never had the chance to try them, so it backs up your knowledge.” – Rachel Spooner, Year 13 student
“We were able to capture a snapshot into the biological diversity of our home counties ,which was really quite awe-inspiring.” – Steven East, Year 13 student
“Going to Exeter University gave us all a real understanding of how real science works and how post graduate research works.” – Silas Fowler, Year 13 student
“We learned collectively that patience is a virtue, because not all of our experiments worked the first time.” – Caitlin Stalker, Year 13 student