Mobile Bioclass Starts Tour of Estonia
On 25 March, the Mobile Bioclass of the University of Tartu started a tour of Estonian schools, allowing students to perform different experiments with the hereditary material, i.e. DNA with the tools of a modern molecular biology and gene technology laboratory. All of Estonia's regions will be reached by the project, including even remote schools. Around 30-40 high schools will be visited every year.
The aim of the Mobile Bioclass is to introduce life sciences to students and increase their interest in the domain of biotechnology. The target group is formed by students of years 10–12. “During the course of the project, we drive our mobile lab across Estonia, visit schools, do experiments that are so far only been described in the textbooks and talk about the achievements within the domain of life sciences,” said the leader of the mobile bioclass, UT Professor of Molecular Biotechnology Ants Kurg.
The Mobile Bioclass is a joint initiative of the University of Tartu and Thermo Fisher Scientific, the world leader in serving science. Thermo Fisher Scientific donated more than $50,000 worth of modern scientific equipment to the project and supplies reagents as consumables for experiments.
Algimantas Markauskas, Vice-President and General Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltics, says: “The Mobile Bioclass is a great opportunity to raise the interest in sciences among young people and even to inspire them to pursue career in sciences. We are especially delighted to launch the biotechnology outreach project in Estonia together with the University of Tartu. The university is the oldest and largest institution of higher education in Estonia, and a leader in research and discovery. I am confident that the Mobile Bioclass will extend those valuable knowledge resources to the next generation of scientists.”
During a school visit, the Mobile Bioclass equips the school laboratory with the equipment it carries, enabling to perform several experiments. “The experiments are integrated into the section of applied biology of the national curriculum. For example, the secondary school textbook includes an image of a PCR machine and also the apparatus of gel electrophoresis. We take this equipment with us and students can use it in practical assignments, reinforcing the learnt theory,” Kurg said.
In the Mobile Bioclass, students first learn to use micropipettes as the basic tools of modern molecular biology. “As a scientific experiment, we perform the measuring and precipitation of a bacteria’s DNA concentration, which allows us to make DNA visible,” said Kurg, adding: “We also perform a test with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in which we investigate whether the DNA under analysis contains the sequences we are interested in. We research the results of PCR reactions with a gel electrophoresis.”
The Mobile Bioclass is coordinated by the UT Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology; a leading science enterprise Thermo Fisher Scientific sponsors the project with lab technology and tools.