Clever chap that Albert; if Jasmine, Ollie, Eliot, Tarn and Waleed knew exactly what they were doing it would not be “research”. However, some of Eliot’s plates (honey’s antimicrobial properties) do look promising and I’m sure he is as excited as I am about the looming proximity of t-tests. To paraphrase Mark Twain, in the face of annoyingly stubborn facts, rely on the pliability of statistics! Presumably Waleed will not be to far behind (garlic’s effectiveness as an antibiotic) once he orders his equipment on time. Ollie’s gleeful “I got one!” as he managed to trap a dangerously active water-flea (that would be “Daphnia” to you geeks) should mean that counting heart beats and then getting the poor wee things sozzled on ethanol and hyped on Red Bull is just a matter of time. Jasmine (lysozyme in tears) has now hit “the wall” familiar to all 2nd Year PhD students; the frustrations of inconclusive plates will prompt longings to quit science and become a lighthouse keeper (well, maybe that was just me). Tarn has blood (honestly, she does) and now has to figure out how to count it … I know, it’s dead exciting … ba dum tsshhh. Lost in the out void of procrastination are two other souls who we hope will feature soon.
More seriously, all five projects currently running are beginning to either generate useful data or, more importantly, iron out those teething problems that have to be addressed during experimental trials. It is no easy thing to figure out, de novo, concentrations, volumes, type of agar plate, best method of counting red blood cells and, the quickest way to trap Daphnia and count heart beats. All of the projects are aimed at gaining a Silver Award and will therefore reflect a minimum of 30 hours of research and discussion. Above all though, I hope that the projects undertaken allow these young biologists to experience something of the pleasure that comes from discovering something unexpected. As Isaac Asimov put it, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” but ‘That’s funny…”
Our deepest thanks to our very patient Biology technician and of course, Dr Chamberlain James for her support and invaluable advice in helping kick-start this initiative.
More information about the CREST Award scheme can be found at: http://www.britishscienceassociation.org/crest-awards