Author:
Jonas Erik Laane

Mobile Bioclass celebrated its anniversary

On March 27th, the 10th anniversary of the science popularization project Mobile Bioclass was celebrated by the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and the Biosciences Students' Association.

The Mobile Bioclass, a collaborative project between students and schools aimed at popularizing science among high school students, began with the support of the leading biotechnology company Thermo Fisher Scientific's Baltic branch in Vilnius in early 2014, and visits to Estonian schools started in March 2014.

Thermo Fisher Scientific had launched the mobile science popularization project in Lithuania and was looking to expand it to Estonia and Latvia. In Estonia, the partner became the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Tartu, the only institution in Estonia where scientific research is symbiotically integrated into preparing future biologists at all levels of higher education.

Thermo Fisher Scientific developed a protocol suitable for high school students for the bioclass and equipped it with mobile components, from necessary equipment for conducting experiments to pipettes, chemicals, and disposable lab coats. Thermo Fisher Scientific's initial funding for equipping the bioclass in Estonia amounted to $50,000. The company's financial support continues to this day, without which it would not be possible to supply the class with equipment or replace outdated laboratory equipment.

Ten years ago, workshops were organized in schools, but the Mobile Bioclass project came with a totally new format. Knowledge is shared from young people to young people, giving students the opportunity to conduct experiments with modern laboratory techniques. Student mentors gain experience by applying theoretical knowledge in front of the class and demonstrating it in practice.

Ants Kurg, Professor of Molecular Biotechnology, General Manager of the class in Estonia

The task of the onsite teams in each country was to assemble bioclass teams, provide consistent training to team members, cover expenses related to travelling across the country, handle various mentoring and operational costs, and communicate with school management and teachers. The motto of the Mobile bioclass from the beginning was "Science from the young to the young," meaning that student mentors were involved for travelling to schools.

As the Mobile Bioclass celebrates its first decade in Lithuania and Estonia, we first want to congratulate you and also express sincere gratitude for the excellent cooperation. We especially want to highlight Professor Ants Kurg's contribution to leading the project and inspiring teams in Estonia 

Egidijus Jaseliūnas, Communications Director, Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltics

In the spring of 2013, the work of the Biosciences Students' Association began, where most of the student mentors for the bioclass were found. This remains the case today, with most bioclass mentors also being members of the association. Popularizing science works better when young people stand in front of young people, having chosen gene technology or biology curriculum only a year or two ago. Students dare to ask questions and do so in a broader context than just the bioclass experiment. They ask about student life in Tartu and studying at university in general.

The Mobile Bioclass has enabled me to grow as a person and broaden my understanding about biosciences and science outreach, it has encouraged me to lead teams and take responsibility. 

Marcella Laura Polverino, Bachelor Student of Gene Technology, Coordinator of Mobile Bioclass in 2022-2024

The work of the Mobile Bioclass, like any other contact learning form, was paused during the pandemic years, from spring 2020 to fall 2021. Despite this, over the ten years, the class has made more than 200 school visits and participated in fifty other events (e.g. Researchers’ Night, Open House Days in the University).

Visits of the Mobile Bioclass by counties in Estonia
The map shows Estonian counties and how many visits the bioclass has made to schools in these counties since 2014. Darker color indicates an increase in frequency. The latest data goes back to the end of March, 2024. 
Authors of the map: Teele Eensaar, Jonas Erik Laane
 

The bioclass is nationally recognized for popularizing science. In 2017, the project won the main award in the competition organized by the Estonian Research Council among activities and series of activities popularizing science and technology.

10 years of Mobile Bioclass in numbers: 

  • 1 general coordinator
  • 11 student coordinators
  • 2 assisting lab technicians
  • an average of 14 school visits per academic year
  • participation in 50 events 
  • 60,000 kilometers travelled across Estonia
  • 15 Estonian counties visited
  • 4,700 high school students engaged
  • 100 biotechnology students as class mentors
  • 8 different sponsors over the years

What is Mobile Bioclass?

  • A mobile fully equipped bioclass that arrives at schools
  • Aims to introduce life sciences and increase students' interest in biotechnology
  • Class duration at schools is 5 hours, including setup and teardown
  • Targeted at 10th-12th grade students
  • Group size is 24 students, with 4-8 mentors
  • The bioclass includes a brief introductory theoretical part and several biology and molecular biology experiments that align with the high school curriculum's applied biology part.

Upon entering university, I wanted to do something practical immediately, and luckily, we were introduced to the Mobile bioclass project on the introductory day, where we could start experimenting. Within the first two months of my university time, I gained basic skills in pipetting, PCR, and electrophoresis - much earlier than within my curriculum. Visiting schools tests my teaching skills and my expression and teaching skills in Estonian have also improved. Additionally, I have found good friends through the class, making my social life at university much richer.

Kirill Nitsenko, Bioclass mentor, 3rd-year student in Gene Technology Bachelor's programm in UT

Additional reading (in Estonian): 

Rändava bioklassi koduleht (sisaldab ka kõikide külastuste loetelu)
Tudengid panevad kooliõpilasi katseid tegema

 

MR podcasti salvestuse pilt3 (3.09.2021 Ermo Leuska).jpg

Recordings (incl Inauguration Speeches)

Rändav biolass

Mobile Bioclass