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High school students come face-to-face with Biochemistry

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

High school students from across New Zealand got to explore their own personal biochemistry last week, when they visited the Department and sampled life at Otago University.

Every year, hundreds of Year 12 and 13 students visit the University for a week, participating in projects offered by 30 departments and getting a taste of university life in Dunedin.

This year, the theme for the Biochemistry project was "Biochemistry - A way of life". Professional Practice Fellow Shar Snoeck and demonstrators John Skelly, Hamish McMillan and Ruth Platt introduced the students to the world of pipettes and laboratory experiments, and showed them how to measure the levels of important biochemicals in their own blood. Here's a snapshot of what they got up to:

  • Monday: 'Work up' your own lipid (cholesterol) profile.

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  • Tuesday: Run protein gels with serum samples from patients with different blood protein abnormalities, and DNA gels with plasmids cut with restriction enzymes.

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  • Wednesday: Measure glucose levels in commercial soft drinks and your own blood samples, and measure blood lactate levels. Design your own experiments based around blood glucose or lactate levels.

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  • Thursday: Carry out your own experiments: Eat different types of 'hi carb' food, or food combinations, and measure your glucose spike and recovery. Carry out different types of exercise and recovery techniques, measure blood lactate levels, look at the effects on lactate over time.​

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  • Tour of the Department - Listen to short talks on wasp, plant and cancer research happening in the Department, and about the crystallography suite.

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  • Friday: Tell the rest of the Hands-On @Otago group about what you did in Biochemistry.

High school students interested in future Hands-on at Otago summer programmes can find out more on the Hands-On at Otago website.