More than 10,500 students use their DNA to analyse evolution of taste gene
More than 10,500 students from schools and colleges across the
North West have taken part in the Question of Taste practical
science workshop since it started 13 years ago.
In the workshop, students analyse their own DNA to explore the
evolution of an unusual trait, where some people taste a particular
chemical as being horribly bitter, while others can't taste it at
Since the workshops began back in 2003, there have been around
10,524 student visits to
The Nowgen Centre laboratory. More than 670 pupils from 25
schools enjoyed the sessions during the 2015/16 academic year.
The hands-on workshops for post-16 biology students uses
polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to investigate human evolution and
answer questions including around why humans and chimpanzees have
evolved different responses to taste. Importantly, it provides
students with the opportunity to use scientific equipment and
techniques that are within the curriculum, but that most schools
don't have access to.
The one-day sessions are aimed at helping students to better
understand areas of biology including the genetic code; classifying
organisms; variation, adaption and evolution, and gives practical
experience of isolating DNA, use of restriction enzymes and gel
Students work with their own DNA to classify themselves into one
of three common genotypes and then compare their DNA sequence with
that of a chimpanzee, helping them to understand convergent
evolution between the two species.
Holmes PhD, Director of Public Programmes at Central
Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Our
Question of Taste workshops have proved incredibly popular with
local students. Most of the schools involved return each year and
some have been visiting since the workshops began back in
"PhD students from The University of Manchester support the
delivery of the sessions and we train approximately 15 students
each year, in communication and presentation skills to deliver the
workshop. They are predominantly from a medical science and
genetics background and are able to share their experiences and
insight from their research, which is incredibly inspiring for
students who attend the workshops and want to develop a career in
Students who've attended the workshops in the past have
The researchers delivering the workshop were great at
explaining, assisting and encouraging.
"It was great to be able to work with my own DNA!"
"Very interesting and now I actually understand the PCR
"Interesting and engaging activities - pitched at the correct
To find out more about the sessions, visit the Genomics for Schools