Thursday, 14 February 2013

Keeping Up with the World of Biology

If you were to guess what NEC’s most enrolled-on course was, what would you go for? Maths GCSE perhaps?  Or maybe one of our extremely popular childcare courses?

In actual fact though, of all the 100-plus home study courses on offer at NEC, its most popular remains A level biology.

This fascinating subject continues to attract hundreds of students every year due to its relevance to such a broad range of careers. If you want to work in healthcare or pursue a career in an area involving any form of science, an A level in biology is practically essential.

New advances in the science are happening all the time. It was in NEC’s home city of Cambridge that last month a team of scientists from Cambridge University produced strong evidence that the DNA G-quadruplex – a square-shaped type of DNA made up of four ‘guanines’ – occurs in human cells. These scientists are right at the forefront of their field: making new discoveries about the way genetic structures form that could eventually lead to something as incredible as the discovery of a cure for cancer.

This cutting-edge work is obviously an extreme example of where a biology A level could progress to, but it demonstrates how biology is a practical science, and one in which discoveries have the power to make real changes to our lives.

As the science of biology constantly changes, so too must NEC’s teaching priorities. The College continually reviews the topics covered in its course, ensuring it stays relevant despite biology’s continually shifting sands.

A meeting held in the NEC offices brought together biology tutors, staff and a representative from the Open University, senior lecturer Saroj Datta, to discuss how NEC will continue to improve its service to biology students in the future.

The Open University’s Open Laboratory project is a revolutionary new initiative designed to make it possible for the OU’s students to conduct experiments from their homes.  Students will control actual lab equipment by remote control, a method already employed in astronomy, meaning learners all over the world can benefit from data from real physical experiments.

Like the OU, NEC is continuously investigating ways to improve its courses, and the way it delivers its practicals for A level biology is an area being closely focused on. The College strives to make its courses as useful and relevant as they can be, to ensure students are fully prepared for their exams.

As it continues to attract large numbers of students, it’s fascinating to wonder exactly where each learner’s A level in biology will eventually take them. Who knows – perhaps one of the hundreds of students who enrol on the subject with NEC this year could one day be on a team of scientists making a major breakthrough of their own!

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