06 December 2012
Egg whites and Nature articles lure high school students to university
For a typical student in their final year of high school, an article in the renowned scientific journal Nature is tough to swallow – that was one of the insights that Associate Professor Leila Lo Leggio learned after she and the University of Copenhagen were visited by 25 students from the Borupgård High School located in Ballerup. The 25 students, all of whom study chemistry at a high level, visited the Department of Chemistry over a four day period in November as part of the “Progression and Transition” project.
Associate Professor learnt from High School students
The project is an attempt by the Capital Region of Denmark (Region Hovedstaden) to make it easier for high school students to make their way to education as an adult in the university world. Lo Leggio is thrilled to have participated. “ As a university lecturer it is rare to meet high school aged students. I think that I learned as much as our guests,” says Leggio.
Even though the Nature article needed to be chewed on considerably before gliding down, the high school students actually learned quite a bit during their visit. They received a course in the laboratory in which they were allowed to crystallize and characterize an egg-white enzyme under the guidance of Jens-Christian Poulsen and Kristian Frandsen. They also attended lectures and experienced more exercises with Associate professor Lo Leggio, Professor Jan Jensen and Associate Professor Preben Graae Sørensen about enzymes, chemical variations in yeast and protein folding. The exercises were adapted to a high school level, but only to a degree. Among other things, the students had to find information that they needed, just as they needed to choose a calculation programme on their own.
The visitors even learned a little about source selection, explains Leila Lo Leggio. For example, even though an article from Nature is heavy reading, it is more valuable than a Wikipedia article, and that Wikipedia in English has better information than Wikipedia in Danish.
“We wanted to show the students that self-reliance is an important attribute when one makes the jump from high school to university, so we wanted to challenge the students. Therefore, it was great to see that they really worked hard on the tasks that they were confronted with,” says Lo Leggio.
During their experience, many of the students indicated that they intended to continue on into university. This suggests that the idea works. How many of them will pursue an education in chemistry will ultimately be revealed at summer’s end.