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Students make strides in human whipworm genome

September 2020

Students from over 50 UK schools have contributed more than 8,500 annotations of the genome of the human whipworm, Trichuris trichiura as part of Genome Decoders. The parasitic worm causes a Neglected Tropical Disease linked to malnutrition and cognitive developmental problems.

 

The ground-breaking project allows young people to take part in a research effort to improve the health of their peers in distance countries.  Thanks to students’ contribution, scientists are 80 per cent towards completion of the annotation of the protein-coding gene set. Students aim to finish the necessary annotations by the end of 2021.

 

Lampton School has been the greatest contributor so far with 44 students completing more than 3,500 annotations. Students were rewarded for their efforts with an invitation to the Wellcome Genome Campus in Cambridgeshire, where they showcased their work.

 

“This has allowed us to get insight into how scientists work in the real world to combat major disease outbreaks. Manual curation has enabled us to embed our prior biological knowledge into real life problem solving,” commented a student from Lampton.

This has allowed us to get insight into how scientists work in the real world to combat major disease outbreaks. Manual curation has enabled us to embed our prior biological knowledge into real life problem solving.

StudentLampton School

For Razika Berboucha, technician at Lampton, Genome Decoders was her first IRIS experience. She strongly believes that projects like these have a significant impact on teachers – it is how she learned to annotate a genome – as well as students.

 

“IRIS’ work is very important as it gives students the opportunity to access real life research. We have a national shortage of scientists and engineers and with IRIS projects I can see students getting more attracted to scientific degrees and research at university level,” says Razika. “It also gives them an opportunity to boost their CVs.”

 

By empowering students to become scientists, they gained confidence in their ability to change the world around them.