Science is a growing industry in Scotland

Life Sciences is a hugely diverse and exciting global industry, employing around 32,000 people across 600+ organisations in Scotland, with a turnover in excess of £3.1bn per year.

This industry has been identified as a key sector by the Scottish Government, with the potential to become a significant contributor to Scotland’s sustainable economic growth.

As a result, there is now a very real need to develop skilled young people with the technical knowledge and practical experience required to join this highly specialised workforce.

To meet industry requirements, and to help address the identified skills shortages within the Life Sciences sector, Fife College and NHS Lothian have come together to create the Sciences Training School, delivering training and education programmes in laboratory science in a unique, purpose-built training facility within St John’s Hospital, Livingston.

DNA workshop provides professional development for staff and sector

The College recently welcomed high school science teachers from across Fife, along with College lecturers and lab technicians, to a CPD workshop designed to give them an insight into the latest in DNA molecular technology.

The workshop was delivered at Stenton Campus and was run by Lucienne McCallum, Regional Sales Manager from Timstar, who produce specialist DNA kits which are used in schools and colleges throughout the UK.

The College already uses the DNA kits in our industry-standard labs and recognises the importance of teaching molecular biological techniques and the dramatic impact they have in a range of fields, from the development of vaccines and diagnosis of disease to gene therapy and criminal forensics.

Molecular biology is an important part of the curriculum in Higher: Biology, Higher: Human Biology, HNC: Applied Sciences, and HND: Applied Biological Sciences, even more of a reason to ensure that both teachers and lecturers benefit from the latest knowledge and technology available in the field.

Over the course of the workshop, the participants were taught the versatility of the kits and were set practical tests to ensure that they would be able to pass on their knowledge to their students in a fun, practical, and interesting way.

Science Lecturer Susan Davidson found the workshop extremely useful. Susan said: “The workshop was great for our own CPD and ensures that we are up-to-date with the latest technology and teaching methods that we can pass on to our students. DNA testing is becoming the gold standard technique in the majority of scientific disciplines and so it is fantastic that we are at the forefront of learning this remarkable science.”

Dr. Yvonne Bayne, Curriculum Manager: Science, organised the workshop and commented: “We are extremely pleased to be able to facilitate new learning with our colleagues in high schools while also enhancing the skills of our own staff. Together, this ensures we maximise opportunities for pupils and students in Fife as they progress on to future study and science careers.

“Workshops such as this also help us to showcase the excellent laboratory facilities here at the College, and to build closer links with schools. All of this plays an important part in responding to the Government Skills Agenda for employment in the science industry.”

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Working with schools to help grow the next generation of scientists

Our Science team has recently worked with 20 primary schools from across Fife to grow beautiful crystals and, hopefully, encourage future careers in Science.

Over 350 pupils from Fife took part in this year’s crystal growing competition project, which is part of our commitment to encourage more young people to choose STEM related careers.

The aim of the competition is to grow the best looking crystal from potash alum in approximately five weeks. Potash alum is safe to use and approved by the Royal Society of Chemistry. Schools receive an information pack in advance of the competition with full information and safety advice on how to grow amazing crystals.

The sparkling crystals were certainly a hit with the primary 6 and 7 pupils and offer a very memorable practical experience. Some schools also visited the College as part of the project, where they presented their crystals to College staff and also watched some fun visual experiments in our labs, including ‘big bang’ and ‘elephant toothpaste’.

Yvonne is excited about the project and the benefits it offers, not just for the pupils involved but also for our own staff. She said: “We are all well aware of the STEM agenda, and the importance of encouraging pupils as young as possible to become interested in subjects such as science. The crystal growing competition is a great example of this. Staff go out to help the schools who are having difficulty getting started, view their crystals, and listen to their presentations.

“Some schools came into the College to set up displays of their crystals, give talks, and observe the interactive demonstrations. Staff took part in the display day and interacted with the pupils, and also helped judge the competition.

“This was a great experience for our staff, who really enjoy taking part every year. The pupils this year have created some amazing crystals, and each one is unique.

“We have been working with schools to understand how the crystal growing project can further benefit them in gathering evidence of learning for young people in the Curriculum for Excellence framework. The project also contributes to identifying how we can meet the College’s STEM and creative learning objectives.”

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