Final year students loose in London – pickled moles, dinosaurs and the Houses of Parliament

On 31st Jan, the Biosciences students at the University of Gloucestershire had a fascinating visit to London museums and the Houses of Parliament.

Students taking the third year Parasitology module visited the Wellcome Trust museum. The collection houses a number of exhibits for the “incurably curious” and explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future. Students were able to view a range of exhibits including “Foreign Bodies, Common Ground”. This showcases the work of six artists in residence from different medical research centres from Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam and the UK.

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From here we went to Grant Museum of Zoology which houses around 67,000 specimens, covering the whole Animal Kingdom. Founded in 1828 as a teaching collection, the Museum is packed full of skeletons, mounted animals and specimens preserved in fluid. Many of the species are now endangered or extinct including the Tasmanian Tiger, the Quagga, and the Dodo. It also gave the students the opportunity to meet the world’s only tweeting Jar of Moles.

https://twitter.com/GlassJarOfMoles

https://twitter.com/GlassJarOfMoles

Meanwhile, the rest of the third year group visited the Natural History Museum. They spent time learning from the museum’s large collection of bird and mammal specimens, as well as the fossil collection.  As always, the fossil highlight was Dippy, the full-skeleton Diplodocus that has been on display in the main hall for over 100 years.

Dippy the Diplodocus
Dippy the Diplodocus

In the afternoon, the full group spent a fascinating few hours at the Houses of Parliament. The afternoon began in the Thatcher Room, one of the debating rooms used by the Science and Technology Select Committee. Here, we were met by The Society of Biology’s Director of Parliamentary Affairs Dr Stephen Benn (son of politician Tony Benn) and given a detailed insight into how science is debated by MPs and how those debates, informed by the work of the Select Committee, lead to new Parliamentary Acts. We focused on recent Select Committee enquiries into forensic science and the problem of antibiotic resistance. Students were also able to assume roles of committee members for a debate that had taken place, in that very room, just days before on science funding.

We were then given a full tour, which covered the 900 year old Westminster Hall, the House of Commons, the House of Lords and even the Queen’s Robing Room (used before the state opening of Parliament – no photography allowed!). We also saw the voting chambers where MPs cast their votes on important bills. Everyone was surprised at just how small the House of Commons is in real live compared to how it looks on television (somewhat of a reverse tardis) and just how grand the House of Lords is! All in all, it was an extremely interesting and educational day for all concerned.

Adam Hart, Rik Rolfe, Anne Goodenough

Image4BigBen

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