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NZIBO biology stars of tomorrow visit Otago Biochemistry

Wednesday 12 May 2021 2:41pm

Two smiling female students dressed in blue lab coats standing in a teaching lab, one holding an agarose gel, the other holding a photo of the DNA bands from the gel.

A select group of New Zealand’s top high school biology students visited Otago Biochemistry recently as part of the New Zealand International Biology Olympiad (NZIBO) training camp.

The camp is a residential, 10-day programme of practical laboratory sessions, field work, and seminars with some of New Zealand’s top scientists, this year held at the University of Otago in Dunedin.

Included in the busy schedule was an intensive biochemistry practical day. Biochemistry teaching guru Shar Snoeck led the students through hands-on experiments and a computer session, all centred on the molecular basis of Cystic Fibrosis disease.

A biochemistry teaching fellow with red hair and a purple lab coat on talks to students sitting down at a work bench in a teaching lab
Biochemistry teacher Shar talks with NZIBO camp students.

Activities included a restriction digest of plasmid DNA and a PCR reaction, assessing the experiments with gel electrophoresis, carrying out a 'blast' search with a gene sequence to find similar sequences in a database, and looking at a 3D protein structure online.

The students were also treated to a compelling talk by Otago Biochemist Professor Peter Dearden about some of the research carried out in his lab: honey bee epigenetics and breeding, wasp genetics, and various conservation genetics projects.

A biochemistry lecturer in a black lab coat stands behind a lectern and speaks to a group of students sitting at work benches in a teaching laboratory.
Professor Peter Dearden speaks to the NZIBO camp students about his research.

NZIBO helps to select and prepare the country’s top biology students for the prestigious International Biology Olympiad competition. To enter, year 12 high school students compete in a series of two exams and a tutorial programme. The best 20-25 students are offered places in the training camp. On the basis of their academic performance throughout the camp, a team of four students is then selected to represent New Zealand at the International Biology Olympiad.

Find out more about Professor Peter Dearden’s research here.
And find out more about NZIBO here.

A male student wearing a blue lab coat leans over electrophoresis equipment, pouring a gel and holding a pipette at the same time.  A female student in a pale yellow lab coat loads a blue DNA sample into an agarose gell using a pipette.

A group of students in blue or yellow lab coats look away from the camera towards a screen showing a photo of a DNA gel.

Two smiling students, one dressed in a blue lab coat, the other in a yellow lab coat, sit at a bench in a teaching lab and hold pipettes.

Two female students with glasses and yellow lab coats sit at a bench in a teaching lab, one with a pipette, the other watching.

Two smiling students with blue lab coats on put microtubes into a PCR machine.