Since starting at IBioIC as Skills Manager, I’ve been fascinated by the potential impact industrial biotechnology (IB) could have on our world. Everyday objects we take for granted like our cosmetics, clothes and dyes, the plastic in our phones for example, are all routinely made from fossil fuel sources in traditional industries.

Consumers are becoming increasingly critical in relation to the environmental impact of producing these material goods we’ve come to rely on and their eventual decomposition once they’ve been used or replaced.  IB uses biology to offer alternative and more sustainable methods of producing the same products or versions with the same functional qualities, with less impact on the environment or exploiting our finite fossil fuels.

As a chemist in a previous life, I often find myself being absorbed by the technical details of products or manufacturing methods being discussed in meetings and I have to remind myself I need to concentrate on making sure the mechanisms for skilling the next generation are fit for purpose, as well as being illustrated by fascinating and accessible examples!

I’m delighted to announce some exciting developments taking place over the summer, which build on the vertically integrated training approach I referred to in my last blog.  Both initiatives involve our students learning and then teaching others, who hopefully go on to teach more people, whilst adding their own perspective…hence the inspiration for my blog title.  

The first opportunity is a Scottish pilot of the “Leaders in Science” (LiS) outreach programme for schools, designed to engage young people in science whilst developing leadership, communication and presentation skills.  Founded in 2015 by a PhD student in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline and in partnership with North Hertfordshire College, LiS has reached over 600 primary school students and 40 secondary school students since it began.  The scheme utilises PhD student “mentors” that work with high school pupils to teach them off-curriculum science topics and work with them to create accessible demonstrations for primary school pupils.  Teachers at all levels and guidance/careers staff are encouraged to engage with the programme and raise their knowledge of IB and the prospects this sector has for future employment.  This aligns with the National STEM Strategy and the recommendation that key influencers have sufficiently up-to-date industry and technical knowledge/experience.

IBioIC is pleased to support the programme in its pilot year in Scotland and is currently seeking a high school partner and PhD mentors to take things forward in August 2019. 

The second opportunity is a project with Glasgow Science Centre (GSC) where two of our current MSc students have secured a 10-week placement to start to integrate IB into Idea#59.  The new exhibit will showcase the types of skills required for future careers; inspire the next generation of innovators by developing critical skills and confidence and create a platform for industry to engage the wider community in a discussion about future innovations and the societal impact of these.  Our students will be tasked with teaching and inspiring those developing the exhibit with examples of how IB can be used to make all kinds of useful stuff that we want or rely on.  These stories will then reach an audience of over 300,000 visitors to GSC each year.

For more information or to find out how to take part in LiS contact the IBioIC Skills Team

By Rachel Clark, Skills Programme Manager