Exploring Biotechnology at The Harry Perkins Institute

The best learning experiences come from the hands on application of concepts studied in classes. This is why we facilitate excursions, such as the recent BrainSTEM trip to the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. These excursions provide our girls with fantastic opportunities to refine and enhance their knowledge, beyond the classroom walls. 

In class, our Year 10 BrainSTEM students have been studying current advances in the field of biotechnology and investigating how these advances are being used to assist with the diagnosis and treatment of genetic conditions. They have studied the history behind this field of science including the discovery of restriction enzymes in bacteria, the production of insulin and the use of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) as a current diagnostic tool, such as was used to test for COVID 19.  

The excursion to the Harry Perkins Institute for Medical Research was a fantastic opportunity to further consolidate the students’ understanding of these biotechnologies, including developing a deeper understanding of processes such as PCR and gel electrophoresis.

The students spent the day being guided through workshops in the laboratory by PhD students who were able to share their career pathways and current research stories with the students. The case study they worked on in the laboratory was the diagnosis of a melanoma mutation in a genome sequence, which highlighted the integral role of biotechnology in modern medicine.

The students excelled in the laboratory workshops, pipetting multiple samples of mixtures between epi-tubes and into the electrophoresis gels to investigate the scientific question that had been posed to them by the researchers. There was a lot of laughter, great satisfaction at producing viable results and an overall increased sense of understanding about where these technologies are being used to help people with a range of different types of conditions.

We asked some students to reflect on their trip to the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. Here’s what they had to say:

“The excursion at Harry Perkins really helped to deepen my understanding of gel electrophoresis and how it is used in conjunction with PCR testing and DNA sequencing. It was fascinating to understand how the techniques we had learned about in class were being used in the real world.” Mary Scott

“I really enjoyed the excursion to Harry Perkins; we got to explore all the facilities and perform practical tasks like PCR testing and gel electrophoresis and hear from workers at the institution.” Amelia Taranto



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