Pupils at an independent school in Hertford are working alongside world-leading scientists at Stanford University and the University of Oxford to contribute to finding cures for diseases including pancreatic cancer and diabetes.
A small group of A-level and IB pupils at Haileybury are part of a pioneering study of genetics using fruit flies.
The science programme – Stan-X – is based on experimental biology and has been created by Professor Seung Kim of Stanford University. Professor Kim said too often science is taught “in a very general way”.
“The Haileybury pupils will play an important role in this research but, perhaps most importantly, will experience the joy, mystery and anxiety of attempting to make a discovery at an earlier stage of their education than most school pupils,” said Professor Kim.
Haileybury have created a purpose-built laboratory for the study, and pupils and staff are using high-tech microscopes to identify phenotypic markers in Drosophila melanogaster (otherwise known as fruit flies), such as curly wings, stubble hair or white eyes.
Fruit flies are considered a model organism, and humans and fruit flies share many mechanisms that are crucial for development and survival. The aim of the research is to use fruit flies to understand the genetic processes that drive human diseases, with the results obtained at Haileybury providing new tools and insights to a global community of researchers investigating diseases like diabetes and cancer.
We are very proud to have been invited to be involved in this project and to be the only school in Europe offering Stan-X – Martin Collier, master, Haileybury
Martin Collier, master at Haileybury, said: “We are very proud to have been invited to be involved in this project and to be the only school in Europe offering Stan-X. It is very exciting indeed to be involved in a project that so significantly enhances our pupils’ scientific understanding.
“Stan-X is the first of many advanced research projects that will be undertaken at Haileybury by our pupils over the course of the coming years.”
The school is set to open a new research facility, called Scitech, towards the end of 2022. The centre will cater for subjects from astrophysics to biology.There are also plans to establish an award for a Haileybury Stan-X Scholar to join a placement over the summer months at the University of Oxford or Stanford University.
How does the research work?
Pupils work at Fly Stations, using a Fly Pad and a very fine paint brush to sort and file the flies who are put to sleep with carbon dioxide which is pumped into their chamber. A glow-in-the-dark protein helps establish where an injected chunk of DNA has ‘landed’.
The process involves a series of ‘crosses’ which act as checkpoints throughout the breeding programme. The findings are sent to Stanford University research associate Lutz Kockel to verify them.
More information about Stan-X can be found here https://www.stan-x.org/about-stan-x