BIOLOGY: Students enjoy inspirational talks by world-famous scientists

A-level biology students came away inspired after hearing a series of fascinating lectures by world-famous scientists, including geneticist Prof Steve Jones and IVF pioneer Prof Robert Winston. OLIVIA CARDANI and LOTTIE MORRIS report

A-LEVEL biologists were thankful for the opportunity to attend the A-level Science Live: Biology event at Manchester’s Whitworth Hall, consisting of talks by several respected scientists, including Professors Steve Jones and Lord Robert Winston.

A particularly fascinating lecture was given by Dr Jenny Rohn who received her PhD at the University of Washington, where she researched the evolution of the feline leukaemia virus.

Her lecture, Revenge of the Microbes, emphasised the importance of bacteria within our bodies, aiding our ability to function and access energy from our food. In contrast, bacteria have the capacity to cause catastrophic devastation, killing between a third and a half of Europe's population during the second bubonic plague pandemic of the 14th century.

Her lecture culminated in a discussion of today’s crisis of antibiotic resistance and ways we can fight it. Teixobactin is a potential new class of antibiotic that bind to lipids rather than proteins in the cell walls of invading bacteria, which makes it harder for bacteria to evolve resistance.

Prof Winston (pictured) delivered another captivating lecture, titled Human Progress, which informed us about some of his ground-breaking work on a technique known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, which is used for screening out embryos that would otherwise go on to develop genetic diseases.

Throughout his lecture his focus on teamwork and collaboration were particularly gripping as well as his emphasis of the ethical impacts new research may have on society. His talk allowed us to envisage what it is really like working in scientific research and the huge potential effects science can have; good or bad.

Epigenetics and looking at the way's genes function will perhaps be a most important development in years to come.

The lectures were fascinating as they covered topics that have recently come up in the news and can also be applied to our biology course. The trip was of great academic value to us and was also a hugely enjoyable experience.