Plants are “masters of biochemistry”. This was one of the conclusions reached by the 30 teenagers who visited the Sainsbury Laboratory for a morning of science challenges. Working in collaboration with Science and Plants for Schools, the Sainsbury Laboratory hosted the event as part of a week-long programme run by the Sutton Trust, designed to give bright students from non-privileged homes a taste of life at a leading university.
After a welcome by Professor Elliot Meyerowitz, Director of the Laboratory, the pupils attended an undergraduate-style lecture entitled ‘Plants: The Great Poisoners’ by Dr Beverley Glover of the Department of Plant Sciences. An opportunity to chat with Sainsbury Lab researchers over tea and biscuits followed.
The students then donned lab coats and used new equipment in a hands-on practical, looking at the effects of one particular plant poison – caffeine – on water fleas. Putting their new knowledge into context, the teenagers finished the morning with a visit to some of the world’s most poisonous plants in the benign setting of the Botanic Garden’s Tropical House.
The Sainsbury Lab was delighted to be able to assist in this collaborative effort to engage students in plant sciences, and intends to support more events of this nature.