Students hear from leading Oxford researcher on cell regeneration

By Liz Stacy, Head of Chemistry

Giving students the opportunity to see science in action is not easy during these strange times, but the University of Oxford did a brilliant job this week by holding a virtual chemistry conference.

Sixth Form chemists and biologists were treated to an excellent talk by Professor Angela Russell, on the subject of ‘Cures from within: can we use chemistry to teach the body to heal itself?’ Her research is looking into creating a molecule that can stimulate the body’s own ability to regenerate cells. Her target disease is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which primarily affects boys; those with the condition are unlikely to live beyond their early twenties due to the muscle degeneration that affects organs, including the heart and diaphragm.

Angela took us through the breakthroughs and setbacks she has experienced, as well as the direction in which the research is currently heading, which looks very positive. It is a hugely significant area of research as it opens up the door to being able to use the same kind of treatment for diseases like Alzheimer’s. 

Angela talked about setting up a private company, highlighting the importance of the link between academia and the private sector in being able to bring this kind of research to life.  Most importantly, when asked about which degree is best to study, she said that in her opinion Chemistry was much more useful than Biochemistry or Medicine for this particular area of research. Please make a note of that all Sixth Form chemists!

Block 3 get creative for Atomic Models Project

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By Olly Hoult, Teacher of Chemistry

This week the Chemistry Department instructed Block 3 to construct models an atom and an ion as part of the Atomic Structure and the Periodic Table topic. What makes Chemistry such a challenging subject is that it involves studying a broad range of abstract concepts. Learning about atoms and ions is an example of this.

The building blocks of the universe are so small they are almost impossible to visualise. Therefore scientists use models to help conceptualise the mysterious quantum world. The model of the atom is ever evolving as scientists produce new experiments which question previously accepted theory. We believe model building is a necessary tool in science teaching as it gives students a more authentic experience of the scientific process while as teachers it gives a more detailed insight into what students have learned from this topic. In these challenging times of remote learning we also felt the task was useful as an exercise to get students off their screens and really let their creativity take over.

Joel Edgeworth has this to say about his model: “For my atomic model project I made a neutral neon atom and a positively charge Sodium ion. For my project I used pizza boxes and the stands which the pizzas are held on. I made two models for each particle, the nucleus and the electronic configuration, and I used a tea grain to show the relative size of a nucleus in proportion to the rest of the atom / ion.”

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