SCHOOL COLUMN: James Calvert Spence College, Amble

The JCSC students during their science trip.
The JCSC students during their science trip.


Earlier this month, A-Level biology and BTEC science students took a trip to the Centre for Life in Newcastle.

In the morning all the students took part in a workshop on gel electrophoresis which is a process used to separate DNA fragments.

Gel electrophoresis is used in paternity testing and in the analysis of DNA found at a crime scene.

The fragments on DNA, cut by restriction enzymes, move through the agar due to an electrical current attracting the negatively charged DNA to the positively charged end of the machinery. The shorter fragments move further down the agar and a DNA fingerprint is produced which can be compared with others. Gel electrophoresis is extremely relevant to our course and therefore the trip has consolidated our knowledge on the process.

We were able to use apparatus unavailable to us at school and therefore develop our lab skills. A really fabulous opportunity.

In the afternoon we viewed the Body Worlds Exhibition which is based on the process of plastination (a relatively new way of preserving bodies). Although a little bit strange, the exhibition was both encapsulating and intriguing, definitely worth a visit before it ends at the end of November.

We also got to watch a short video on Dark Energy in the planetarium and to go on the 4D ride which was based on the Amazon rainforest.

Our day out to the Centre for Life provided us with an opportunity to gain new lab skills, learn more about DNA analysis techniques and view an international exhibition of a fairly new development in the preservation of human bodies. To have such a centre of excellence so close to where we live is fantastic.

We all thoroughly enjoyed the day and would like to thank Mrs Reeves and Mrs Sowerby for making the outing possible and help make our classroom studies come alive.

Georgia Soan, Year 13