Biology

and the Importance of Practical Experiments

Biology A level

Biology is the study of life. It is the story of cells, and the structure of DNA. It is the human story.

At ELSS we follow the AQA curriculum. In Year 12 we study biochemistry, cell biology, anatomy and physiology, variation and ecology. In Year 13 we study bioenergetics, homeostasis, genetics and evolution, along with DNA technologies. Practical work and experiments are also used to visualise theory and test ideas.

In Biochemistry we study the chemical compounds that make the structure and function of our cells.. Learning how cell biology works sets the stage to describe and explain how organs work- or not. This is Anatomy and physiology and pathology. Wider we go still – organs and organ systems make up organisms, and these organisms can interact with each other – this is Ecology.

Interspersed in these topics you find the areas that explain how and why things happen – genetics and Evolution.

Biology is also the science of the research of today. PCR, drug development and neuroscience to name a few.

Biology A level prepares students for further study at university – be that in medicine, biomedical science, pharmacy or physiotherapy. These are all different aspects of the study of life.

The importance of practical experiments

Dr. Fredrik Berglund, our Biology lead, explains the importance of practical investigations in the sciences:

As a research scientist before becoming a biology teacher I spent many years in biomedical research laboratories, doing many of the techniques that are now part of the A level theory. Laboratory work is a major part of the life of a researcher, and laboratory work is a major part of life as an ELSS A level science student.

Practical investigations are a large part of all the science degrees which together with the theory we study makes for a well-qualified and independent minded scientist. Scientific theory is learned, but it can only take you so far. At some point you find that books can take you no further; there is no answer on the internet for what you have observed. This is where investigation and experiments can find out the answer(s).
These investigations serve to study the world around us and bring forth new knowledge and test ideas. Scientists observe, hypothesise and then design experiments to test hypotheses. It is very satisfying when results from investigations prove a hypothesis to be correct – and challenging when they prove it wrong!

Scientists must be resileient when their hypotheses need refining but can rightly get excited when they find something new that is not in text books or on google. It is humbling to think that you have contributed to the expansion of human knowledge
Questions breed more questions. The investigation might take unexpected paths; serendipity is the source of many discoveries with Fleming and penicillin being a good example.

At ELSS we aim to start you on the journey to be a theoretical and an investigative scientist and to find and ask those questions that we did not know we had to ask about the world.