Below is a selection of some of the research projects currently taking place at Benenden.
Decoding the genome of the Human whipworm
What the project is trying to achieve: Students are analysing over 15,000 predicted genes on a computer-based program, created by scientists at Apollo, to aid clinical research into finding out how it would be possible to create a method of combating the parasite - also known as Trichuris Trichiura - which harbours in the small intestine, such as developing a drug they could provide people who have been affected.
Summary of project: I have really enjoyed this project as not only are we learning new skills and knowledge which we wouldn’t always get a chance to do outside the curriculum, but we are also helping scientists at this very moment in time to fight a life-threatening disease which affects millions of people worldwide.It feels really special to be able to be a part of something so important, and especially rewarding when we complete different stages of the project to see how far we have progressed.
Although at first the computer program is quite difficult to master, it soon becomes really interesting to see all the data that has been sequenced and know that everything we check and confirm regarding this data will be used to try and find a cure, which would be extremely beneficial to less developed areas with poor sanitation and hygiene.This project is on the frontier to help fight Third World poverty.
by Scarlett, Upper Fifth pupil
James Webb Space Telescope - cosmic mining project
What the project is trying to achieve: We analyse data from the Spitzer Space telescope to identify unusual and potentially interesting stellar objects for the James Webb telescope to look at.
Summary of the project: The James Webb Telescope will be launched in March 2021. It gathers infrared light and will sit at Lagrange point 2, which is 1.5 million km from the Earth. These Lagrange points occur due to the way the forces of gravity and orbiting bodies interact.
There are thousands of pieces of spectral data on the CASSIS (Combined Atlas of Sources with IRS Spectra) database for us to analyse. To achieve the goal of this project we fill in a classification form to record the characteristics exhibited by the stellar object; for example, the shape of the continuum, the broad features like absorption and emission and whether the spectrum of the stellar objects is cut-off or not.
Currently, we have completed our first set of data analysis and are waiting for feedback and the exciting new data.
By Caroline, Six Two pupil
Colloidal stability and gold nanoparticles for drug delivery
What the project is trying to achieve: A colloid is a mixture in which microscopic insoluble particles are suspended throughout another substance. In our case, gold nanoparticles are suspended throughout our Fmoc Galactosamine gelator (an amino sugar that forms a ‘reversible’ gel after processing: it breaks down into liquid form when shaken, but will gel again if left to stand).
Colloidal systems have been significantly investigated for drug delivery, but difficulties in controlling the behaviour of the nanoparticles, during long-term storage and once surrounded by a biological environment, have limited their clinical use. A new way of formulation and storage of these nanomaterials is needed. In this project, we trap nanoparticles in a reversible hydrogel and study the various effects.
Summary of the project: At the beginning of the year, I visited Mrs Harris to speak about doing a Crest Award and found myself exploring the depths of STEM like I could never have imagined. At the end of the Autumn term, I became the Head of STEM Ambassadors at Benenden and this has been one of the most rewarding experiences. I am incredibly passionate about STEM and Professor Parker, Mrs Harris and I have been working very hard to ramp it up here at Benenden. Personally, my research with colloidal stability has been brilliant; being able to be involved in the progression of such a pressing issue has been awe-inspiring.
By Fara, Six Two pupil