Introduction to the Experimental Sciences.
This is a series of linked workshops suitable for Home-educated students who wish to develop the skills of laboratory-based investigations. The emphasis is on developing core skills and establishing confidence in the laboratory. The complexity of the experimental techniques increases from introductory level general science to some more challenging biochemistry; as the student acquires proficiency, so the demands of the experimental work increase. These workshops are only available to long-term students: the series spans several academic years, ideally from KS3 (modules 1 and 2) through early KS4 (modules 3 and 4) to the end of the GCSEs (module 5). The 'Growth and Reproduction of Saccharomyces spp.' workshop detailed elsewhere on this page could be considered as a post-GCSE module 6. The practical activities themselves are tailored to fit inside a two-hour window; on occasions, however, it may be desirable (or simply necessary) to run sessions back-to-back: machines can be turned off for a week, not so the shrimps! The experimental work covers the following broad topics in the five sequential modules.
Module 1: Scientic Method
The first module of the workshop series focusses on some of the fundamental scientific skills.
(i) Measurement of physical quantities
(ii) Simple chemical analysis
(iii) Biological drawing
(iv) Sampling and experimental design
(v) Basic statistics and data handling
(vi) Record keeping
Module 2: Laboratory Techniques
The second and third modules build on the first module by introducing some common techniques.
(i) Standard solutions
(ii) Acid and base titrations
(iii) Paper chromatography
(iv) Light microscopy
(v) Culturing stock organisms
(vi) Electrical circuits
Module 3: Further Laboratory Techniques
(i) Rates of reaction
(ii) Basic enzymology
(iii) Yeast culture
(iv) Simple and fractional distillation
(v) Specific heat capacity of water
(vi) Energy transfers and work done
Module 4: Experimental Design
The fourth module shifts the focus away from the acquisition of technical skills, placing them firmly within an experimental framework.
(i) Determination of spring constants
(ii) Measurement of transpiration
(iii) Pouplation doubling time in yeast
(iv) Enthalpy change of solution
(v) Starch hydrolysis by amylase
(vi) Cell fractionation
Module 5: Proficiency and research
This module is designed to supplement the process of GCSE revision. The emphasis is again shifted: this time from away from the development of methodology and technique, focussing instead on the underlying theoretical basis . In terms of the scientific method, from the previous focus on methods, materials and results to the development of conclusions, explanations and hypotheses. The emphasis is on consolidating the underlying GCSE theory. The student will perform three investigations in parallel, one each for biology, chemistry and physics; students can choose from the following projects.
(i) The temperature-dependent rate of trypsin hydrolysis of bovine caseins
(ii) The growth of Saccharomyces cerevisiae using different carbon sources
(iii) The rate of osmosis in natural and model systems
(i) The titration curves of strong and weak acids and bases
(ii) The concentration-dependent rate of the neutralization reaction between copper oxide and sulphuric acid
(iii) Redox reactions in electrolysis using a variety of electrodes and electrolytes
(i) The resistance of different paper and buffer systems used in electrophoresis
(ii) The energy transfers of falling bodies (estimations of g)
(iii) The heat capacity of different solutions
Additionally, as part of the final (GCSE) module the following workshops will form a regular part of the activities.
These are introductory tutorials, i.e. each tutorial can be adequately covered in a single 2hr session. Please see also the Biochemistry series of tutorials for a much more advanced coverage of this GCSE module.
DNA makes RNA makes Protein!
An introduction to the 'Central Dogma' of
How do Proteins Work?
An introduction to the world of protein
synthesis and degradation, cell cycling, enzymes, mutations and
How do Antibodies Work?
An introduction to immunology.
How do Antibiotics Work?
An introduction to infectious disease, the nature of bacterial cell walls and the problems of virulence and
How do Viruses Work?
An introduction to virology using HIV-1 as an (atypical)
How do Vaccines Work?
Influenza: vectors and pandemics, antigenic drift and shift, T
cell responses and immunolgical memory.
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Practical Biology for Home-ed GCSE...
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Basic Paper Chromatography
Day 1: 10.30 - 2.00
Introduction: Separation of simple inks.
Day 2: 10.30 - 2.00
Linear Separations of complex inks
Day 3a: 10.00 - 12.30
Day 3b: 13.30 - 16.00
Extraction and separation of chlorophylls
(This is a full day workshop: please bring lunch to share).
Events of Artemia
Four linked workshops (each two days apart) aimed at
ambitious biology students can be booked for the school holidays. Places are limited to groups of 3. This is a complex
investigation and so timetabling of this event will be arranged in accordance with the needs and commitments of interested parties. Please follow this link for more details.
The Growth and Reproduction of Saccharomyces spp.
Our most challenging workshop series.
Each of these modules requires a '3x' block of tuitions, i.e. 4 x 3 hours per block. Due to the demanding and complex nature of this workshop, it is recommended that they are undertaken as a fortnightly 3hr two-to-one. This is an ideal project for a pair of high-attainment students who wish to boost their scientific practice to compete effectively with those of international students.
(sessions 1-4 of 12).
Basic Microscopy and Biochemistry: Cell counts, Buffers, Liquid and Solid Media. Use of the balance and pH meter. Aseptic Technique and Plating.
Reproduction by binary fission.
Reproduction by budding.
(sessions 5-8 of 12).
Growth Curves: use of the incubator, cell counts using the haemocytometer, use of the centrifuge. Literature searches, spreadsheet techniques and research methodology.
Saccharomyces spp. Growth Curves I: Introduction.
Saccharomyces spp. Growth Curves II: The Early Phases.
Saccharomyces spp. Growth Curves III: The Late Phases.
(sessions 9-12 of 12).
Experimental Design: hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, f- and t-testing. Advanced spreadsheet techniques: primary and secondary axes, log vs.linear scales, error bars. Formulation of media and buffers. Viable cell counts and plating efficiencies. Innocula.
Saccharomyces spp. Growth Curves IV: The Exponential Phase.
Saccharomyces spp. Growth Curves V: Media composition and population doubling times.
Module 4 (Optional, sessions 13-17 of 17).
Basic molecular biology. Glycolysis, Fermentation, Respiration. Genes and Alleles. Enzymes: kinetics and isoforms. Transcrition factors, promotors. Protein kinase A. Diauxic growth in yeasts.
spp. Growth Curves VI: Catabolite repression.
Revision Tutorials for GCSE.
A structured series of 2-hour tutorials covering the most frequently encountered areas of the GCSE syllabuses. These tutorials are designed to span the 8 consecutive fortnights leading up to the examination period. The tutorials are batched in threes: the first tutorial in each grouping covers the subject topics in outline and is designed to highlight areas that need to be revised over the coming week. Revision progress is checked one week later in the second tutorial by tackling selected questions from past papers. The third tutorial takes the form of a 1hr practice exam, followed by the marking of it according to the official mark scheme. The use of a structured revision timetable in this way is very beneficial to the home-educated student: it is our confirmed experience that revision should be started as soon as possible after the Christmas break.
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Cell Structure: Compartments and Organelles
The internal structures of plant, animal and bacterial cells: the what, where, why and how of basic cellular function. We start our revision by recalling that yeast is more like a little cow than a big bacterium!
Photosynthesis, Respiration and Decomposition.
6CO2+ 6H2O -----> C6H12O6 + 6O2
C6H12O6 + 6O2 -----> 6CO2 + 6H2O
C + O2 -----> CO2
And don't forget it!
Atomic Structure and the Periodic Table
All atoms want to be Noble. We revise electron shells, ionic and covalent bonds, groups and periods, reactivity. Just why is there so much nitrogen in the atmosphere?
Metallic Bonding and conduction.
Metallic bonding, free electrons and the conduction of heat and electricity. Alloys, insulation and electrical resistance.
Making sense of all the meths, eths, props and buts, the anes, enes and ynes. Fractional distillation and cracking. Polymers.
Genes, Alleles and Proteins.
Cells were making polymers long before plastic was invented! DNA and protein as polymers. Enzymes and Antibodies. Natural Selection acts at the molecular level.
The Generation of Electricity.
The carbon cycle and global warming. Fossil fuels and cement. The alternatives of wind-, tidal-, hydroelectric-, geothermal-, solar- and nuclear- power. Radioctivity.
The Conversion of Energy.
The various types of energy and their interconversions, calculations and formulae, the conservation of momentum. The laws of motion.
Final Revision Tasks.
The last two tutorials are dedicated to the examination timetable itself. The timing and dates of papers will determine the final revision timetable; the well-prepared student will concentrate on exam performance, not last-minute revision!