For those who have the desire and will to cultivate professional interests even more.
One Thursday morning shortly before the current Covid-19 lockdown small groups of students were outside the school buildings searching for suitable spots for collecting soil samples. Their search is part of the world wide Tiny Earth project with students and scientists from 23 nations searching for bacteria that might produce hitherto unknown types of antibiotics. The need for this is urgent as more and more infections can no longer be treated with currently known antibiotics.
“Our biotech teacher Tina suggested this project to us,” one of the students, Natalie Dahl, explains. “We all agreed that it would be really great to participate in it, because it fitted very well into the medicine unit that we are currently doing.”
Her classmate, Nanna Laursen, agrees. “You really feel the purpose of the theoretical knowledge in the books when you get the hands on experience. It’s fine to read about the antibiotic resistance crisis, but it is even better to get to help on the search for new antibiotics,” she says.
“Exactly,” Natalie says, “ and it makes it easier to memorize and understand.”
Biotechnology teacher Tina Trold puts the issue into perspective: “Covid-19 is not the only global health threat facing the world,” she says. “If remedies are not found it will become much more difficult to fight infections. Surgical operations, childbirth and infectious deseases like pneumonia will become much more life-threatening, just like they were a century ago.”
The biotechnology students have joined the Tiny Earth project via the Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering at Aarhus University, and on the day of collecting the samples a PhD-student came to make sure that the samples were collected correctly and all necessary data of gps location, temperature etc., were included.
“I definitely find that one learns more when being part of a project like Tiny Earth,” Natalie says. “Our results matter and it is important that we are meticulous. You really want to avoid mistakes, because the consequence might be that the samples are useless to the scientists. So you really make sure you’ve understood everything before starting,” she explains.
Having collected the samples the students prepared them for further analysis, just like the researchers at the university do: the bacteria were isolated, the samples diluted according to very precise measures and placed in culture dishes.
“Learning activites like this clearly strengthen my urge to learn,” Nanna says. “If one only gets the theoretical perspective it feels a lot more uphill than when you get to take it into the lab as well. I also really like that the aim of this project is to save the world from disease.”
The culture dishes have now been delivered to the university department for further analysis. The students’ planned visit at the department was unfortunately cancelled due to the current Covid-19 lock-down.