The University of Southampton

Blog: Re-opening our doors to students as LifeLab goes ‘on tour’

LifeLab teaching fellow Lisa Bagust talks about why it’s great to have young people back at LifeLablisab

We got back to our roots last week when we opened our doors to students again for the first time in 21 months.

Getting hands-on with learning and allowing young people to discover for themselves the impact of their choices on their own health through immersive experiences just wasn’t possible as we lived through the toughest restrictions that COVID-19 brought.

As we gradually gained our freedoms conversations began around how we could restart LifeLab in a safe way. Our natural home at University Hospital Southampton was always going to be our biggest challenge as the epicentre of where the impact of the pandemic was being most keenly felt.

Our attention then turned to creating a temporary base away from the hospital so that young people could be welcomed back to our labs. So here we are, on tour at the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus.Students enjoying our pop up LifeLab at the University of Southampton

Our temporary base is now the Maths and Science Learning Centre where we have been made to feel incredibly welcome as we have repurposed the learning space to accommodate our wet and dry lab spaces for students to carry out their investigations and experiments.

We packed all our teaching resources and practical equipment including 8 gel electrophoresis kits, DNA samples, a UV box, along with few anatomical models  and a whole health circus into a fight case which was safely delivered by courier to our new base, we even have a handy portal ultrasound machine so we can still check out those arteries!

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It was a big challenge but with good old-fashioned teamwork and a can do attitude we were ready in time to welcome our first students back. Last week 80 students from Cantell school became the first to enjoy ‘LifeLab on tour’, and it was great to have them back.

We came up with some really creative solutions to enable us to continue to deliver LifeLab programmes virtually through the pandemic, but nothing beats face to face teaching.

Great to see young people getting hands on with science
Great to see young people getting hands on with science

You can see the moment a young person discovers something amazing for the first time or when what you are saying just ‘clicks’ with them. Being alongside them to help them craft their health pledges and enjoying the banter of being in the class again is priceless.

Last week the students had the benefit of hearing from Rachel Owen who wowed them with her research around Tasmanian Devils in our ‘Meet the Scientist’ session. Being inspired with people like her who can demonstrate how science can take you to some weird and wonderful places is such a key part of what we do.

Although not our long-term base, our LifeLab camp will undoubtedly be a lovely home from home. Restarting our LifeLab days as part of our EACH-B research programme feels like an important step for me personally towards getting back to where we want to be in terms of our everyday lives.

It was wonderful to have the young people back with us and we are looking forward to seeing many more of you in our new home and one day back at LifeLab HQ.