The Thomas Hardye School

Research Symposium in celebration of Royal Society Partnership project
on Lyme Disease and Ticks in Dorset.

Presentation

 

Sixth form students presented posters about their work on tick-borne diseases ‘Investigating the epidemiology of Borrelia spirochaetes in Dorset’ at a scientific conference in the school theatre on 8 May. The event celebrated two years’ research carried out at the school in conjunction with Dr Nicky King and her biosciences team at the University of Exeter under the Royal Society Partnership Grants scheme. Following a keynote talk from Dr Tim Brooks and Dr Amanda Semper from the Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory at Public Health England on ‘Lyme Disease in the UK’, Stella Huyshe-Shires, Chair of Lyme Disease Action (the charity which strives for the prevention and treatment of Lyme disease and associated tick-borne diseases) responded with her reflections of the students’ progress ‘Celebrating the connection with Thomas Hardye School’.

The conference was attended by members of the community with an interest in the prevalence of Lyme disease in Dorset, many of whom had helped the school collect ticks from animals over the past two years; some of the audience had a professional interest such as farmers, vets, doctors and representatives of environmental organisations. Distinguished guests travelled from the four corners of the country to join the celebration including Professor James Hough FRS, Chair of the Royal Society Partnership Grants Committee, Dr David Studholme from the University of Exeter, Professor Becky Parker, Steve Greenwood and Mike Grocott from the Institute for Research in Schools.  

Thomas Hardye sixth form students had genetically profiled ticks collected by volunteers from across Dorset to discover whether they contained the bacteria which causes Lyme disease, and also other pathogens carried by ticks.  Over the course of the two year project involving more than fifty students attending a weekly after-school club, students learned techniques normally only carried out in a university laboratory, then individually processed more than 200 ticks and managed to find the DNA from the bacteria which causes Lyme disease present in one tick from Weymouth.

Presentation

Students had presented their work previously at the Dorset County Show, a Family Festival of Science at Thomas Hardye, the Big Bang South West at the University of Exeter, Lyme Disease Action’s conference at Cambridge University and at The Royal Society. Their research aims to raise awareness of the signs of Lyme disease infection following a tick bite. Eleanor Wilberforce, one of the students who gave a presentation at the Lyme Disease Action conference said “Learning and researching about Lyme disease was one thing, but actually being present at a conference where, to a lot of the audience, they had real connections to it, was an experience unlike any other. Everything we had been reading about on a computer screen or in a book was actually put into context and that was something really valuable”. Posters produced by the students can be viewed here.(link to pdfs)
The project, largely funded by the Royal Society, with extra support provided by The Ernest Cook Trust (a local charity) and the University of Exeter, aimed to engage students in their own real science research with direct relevance to the community of Dorset. Half of the £180 donated by visitors to the celebration event has been given to Lyme Disease Action and the residue will finance consumables to enable incoming Year 12 biologists to develop their skills and to analyse remaining tick samples next year.

Simon Lewis, the lead teacher for the project commented “This project has opened students eyes to laboratory research; they have taken ownership of the results, but also viewed it as a fun engaging environment, something very different from a typical Science lesson. We know this encourages them to view Science as an area they might work in in the future”.
Many of the Year 13 students involved in the project have received offers from top universities to pursue courses in genetics, biological sciences, biomedical science, medicine, veterinary science, environmental science and biomedical engineering next year. They follow in the footsteps of the first batch of pioneering ‘tick project’ students who left in 2016 and are now well established on similar pathways.

Dr Jeremy Rowe, Head of Biology, who has also been supporting the students in their research observed “In addition to the scientific skills and understanding that students have developed, they have been able to work with a wide variety of people – scientists, medical professionals, patients, members of the public and fellow students. Through their work, they have raised awareness about Lyme disease and its effects. I know they have found the human side of the Lyme disease story as compelling as the scientific detail”.

Presentation

The school has been very fortunate to benefit from the encouragement and guidance given by so many individuals and organisations.  Stella Huyshe-Shires from Lyme Disease Action has supported the project from its inception, when she came to deliver a Café Sci presentation in 2014 on ‘Lyme disease - delving into dependent relationships’ and kindly expressed her appreciation at the celebration event“So to The Thomas Hardye School - thank you. For inspiring everyone here and above all for being truly engaged in real science that extends our collective knowledge.” “The presentations from those who spoke were pitched just right and really did give an insight into what the project had done for them. I do hope that it all manages to continue.”

Tick Project

Processing in the Laboratory

Tick Project

Processing

Tick project

Processing

Tick

Tick collected in Weymouth 2016

Tick

When processed yielded a positive result

 Students produced Posters as part of the Project

Click on a thumbnail to load a PDF of the full poster

Poster 1 Poster 2 Rach
Holly et al Bea Alice LDA Conf Poster
Maddy Ben Michael Thomas
     

 

 

May 2017