Secondary school students showcase their DNA designs with leading scientists at the University of Leeds

Teenage scientists recently had the opportunity to present to leading academics at the Bragg Centre for Materials Research at the University of Leeds.  

Sixth form students from Liverpool Life Sciences UTC joined their peers from St John Fisher Catholic Voluntary Academy in Dewsbury, Sir Robert Woodard Academy in Sussex and Tapton School in Sheffield who have been investigating the possibilities of DNA as a design material as part of the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) DNA Origami project.  

The research project has been a chance for students to step away from their textbooks to learn more about materials science and DNA nanotechnology, an emerging field of science. 

In addition to showcasing their designs, students have had the chance to meet researchers that regularly use DNA origami within their work, opening their eyes to new careers as well as touring the cutting-edge facilities at the Bragg Centre. 

Dr Andrew Lee, materials scientist who manages the Bragg Centre and the lead partner on the DNA Origami project said: “These students are quite possibly the youngest people to construct artificial structures using DNA, which is incredibly exciting. I’m looking forward to introducing them to leading researchers who will be equally impressed with the work they’ve done.”  

Dr Jo Foster, IRIS director, said: “We hope students enjoy the day – they have definitely earned the opportunity – and that the experience encourages them further in their research both in school and beyond. Even more, we really want these students to see that a career path in science is possible and open to them.”  

Students from Liverpool Life Sciences UTC, were enthusiastic in their responses, Lewis a Year 12 student, said: “It has been really good to learn something completely new that I wouldn’t have otherwise found out about. I want to be an engineer and it was great to learn how to use the CAD software to design DNA nanostructures.” 

Whilst Alex, Year 12 student at Liverpool Life Sciences UTC said: “I really enjoyed using CAD software to design structures made of DNA. I thought DNA was only really relevant to biologists and had no idea it could be used to build tiny structures with a range of uses. It has been great to learn about this cutting-edge area of research.” 

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