97 GCSE students aged 14 to 16 from schools in Oxfordshire and London successfully ‘Battled the Bugs’ in a new full-day outreach initiative. 

Battle the Bugs was developed by the Ineos Oxford Institute (IOI) for antimicrobial research and the Chemistry Teaching Laboratory (CTL) at the University of Oxford, in collaboration with the History of Science Museum, and Trinity College. 

The study day involved a carousel of activities, which provided students with opportunities to interact with scientists , learn more about the University of Oxford's work on life-saving medicines, and gain hands-on laboratory experience by synthesising their own antifungal compound.

Attendees were the first students to experience ‘Fight the Fungus’ - a brand-new outreach laboratory session designed by Dr Craig Campbell (Departmental Lecturer, CTL), Dr Malcolm Stewart (Director of the CTL) and chemistry undergraduate Evan Rutter.

All the students met researchers from the IOI as part of their day. At Trinity College, students undertook engaging activities to learn about the research, and asked questions about the career journeys and different routes that can lead to working in a world-leading research institute. 

By making science accessible to students, we hope to demystify the work taking place in Oxford and excite students about further education and careers in science. I hope that by organising such activities and using them to showcase how varied a career in science can be, this will help many students – including girls and women – to pursue such a career.

Dr Helen Smith, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Ineos Oxford Institute

At the History of Science Museum, students were able to engage with the Museum’s impressive collection of objects and archive material, to learn about past antibiotic discovery in Oxford. They followed the stories of scientists such as Alexander Fleming, Howard Florey and Ernest Chain, and Nobel Prize winner Dorothy Hodgkin, examined the discovery of penicillin, its war-time development and the elucidation of its structure. 

We are excited to introduce students to the innovative drug discovery research taking place in labs today, and to launch a new practical experiment demonstrating antimicrobial drug discovery. 

We need talented scientists to continue the fight against the global threat of antimicrobial resistance. We hope this study day will inspire school students by giving them a holistic picture of drug-resistant infections and highlight some of the diverse career paths available to them.

Dr Ana Wallis, based in the Department of Chemistry's Outreach Team

When asked what they enjoyed the most, students said:

"Doing science experiments in a friendly and helpful environment."

 "Being in the lab mixing chemicals."

"It was a lot of fun and it was educational".