The Danish Olympic team in biology visits the Departments of Biology and Molecular Biology and Genetics
Last week, the Departments of Molecular Biology and Genetics and Biology organised the 17th Danish semifinal in the Biology Olympiad for secondary school students from all over the country. Half of the students advanced to the national final.
On 8-10 January 2020, Aarhus University and the Departments of Molecular Biology and Genetics and Biology hosted the 17th Danish semifinal in the Biology Olympiad, where talented secondary school students from around the country competed in biology and biochemistry. Thursday’s tightly packed programme – lasting from 7 am to late evening – offered both lectures, theoretical tests without aids, and two practical laboratory tests in microbiology and cable bacteria (Department of Biology) and enzyme kinetics (Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics).
In the experimental test in enzyme kinetics that took place in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics’ teaching labs on campus, students were presented with a set of solutions, a set of pipettes, a spectrophotometer and a written guide, and were then left to themselves for two hours without the opportunity to ask for help. The task consisted of both initial, stoichiometric calculations, execution of the experiment and subsequent data processing including setting up a Lineweaver-Burke plot to determine enzymatic parameters for the enzyme. And all this only with paper, pencil, and a simple calculator provided.
In the experimental test in microbiology, the students measured low oxygen profiles in sediment samples using microsensors, and analysed cable bacteria using microscopes, among other things. Here, too, the written guide was the students' only lifeline.
It was clear that the exercises were challenging for the young people who had not received any introduction to the tests and thus did not know whether they would be exposed to a frog or an enzyme before sitting in the room. Nevertheless, several of the 30 students managed to get high scores in their exams. The 15 best-performing students advanced to the national finals, which –after an intense training camp at Sorø Academy – will be held in two rounds in April-May at the University of Southern Denmark and Gefion Gymnasium, respectively, followed by a ceremony for the winners at the Technical University of Denmark. The four winners of the national round will then get a free trip to participate in the international IBO competition, which this year will take place in Nagasaki, Japan.