This week I taught a lesson where we compared light microscopy with electron microscopy and I used some of the micrograph images I had taken during my time as a research scientist. When I was planning the lesson I didn’t think anything of it, I had the images, why not use them? However, when I came to deliver the lesson the level of engagement, simply because I had been the photographer and had used electron microscopes as part of my work was amazing. I I had brought something extra to lesson, introducing real life experience of what it is like to work as a biologist.
At first glance, you may assume that someone who specialised in a niche as small as aquatic immunology would only have a limited amount of related experience to add to studies in ‘general’ biology. However, the opposite is true, because the niche is so small I had to be a master of all trades. I worked in a variety of laboratories including: radiation, genetics, vaccine, bacteriology, parasitology and nutrition. I did everything from make monoclonals, collect and purify bacteria, artificial insemination, use light, electron and confocal microscopes, carry out data analysis, plan and carry out experimental studies, PCR, SDS-PAGE, immunological assays eg ELISA, lysozyme, NBT respiratory burst. I worked as a flow cytometry technician during the final year of my PhD. I supervised BSc and MSc projects and presented work at multi-national conferences. The list continues!
In A-Level biology there is a unit on monoclonals, I imagine that there are not many biology teachers who have actually made them themselves!
Pupils looking at micrographs for the first time, especially with knowledge that I had taken the photographs myself generated a lot of interest and engagement in the topic, it really helped to make the lesson a success. This continued with the following lesson where a class of year 7’s were introduced to the topic of pathogens and were literally open mouthed when I told them that I had made vaccines before.
The fact that I have worked as a biologist and am able to share what I did as part of my lessons increases pupils engagement in their learning in a way that I really had not anticipated. I feel like I have won the lottery!