Fourteen students from different backgrounds and high schools in Peshawar were awarded certificates for their successful completion of BIOCAMP 2015, at the Institute of Integrative Bioscience, CECOS University, Peshawar.

BIOCAMP is a unique 5-day workshop that gives 16-18 years old science students a practical deep-dive in the world of biotechnology and gets them up to speed with the latest in 21st century medicine and biology. The course is part of an elaborate Science Outreach programme at the Institute and is a first of its kind in Pakistan.

7 girls and 7 boys were invited out of around 70 applicants to attend the workshop, who came from different educational backgrounds, i.e. both A-levels and FSc, and from different parts of the City.

Biocamp 2015

‘Such activities not only give students a chance to practically experience what they study in the classroom but also help students get a taste of real-world career paths that help them in making decisions about their own careers’ said Professor Riaz A. Khattak, Vice chancellor, CECOS University who distributed the certificates.

Five days of lectures and lab-work at the workshop covered different topics, from cell biology and microscopy to bioinformatics and synthetic biology. Studentshad the chance to observe different cells using microscopes and extract DNA from living tissues in the lab and also learned how to use research-grade computer software to compare DNA sequences from different organisms and how new DNA molecules are designed by scientists.

‘DNA extraction was the most fun lab and I also enjoyed the daily quizzes’ said SamiaIhsan, a second year student from Jinnah College.

The students seem to have responded to the cross-disciplinary backgrounds of fellow attendees and also contents of the course material. ‘I want to develop software that can help students in their biologists in DNA sequencing’ said Junaid Khalid, a 17-year old student who is studying computer science and mathematics.

Others left with drastically changed career plans like Abdul Moiz, a 10-th grade student who said ‘Before Biocamp my career plan was to become a civil engineer, now I really want to take up biotechnology’.

‘Biology has already moved on from whole organism studies like those in traditional Botany and Zoology, to molecular level studies mostly carried out by computers and machines’, said Dr Faisal Khan, Director at the Institute of Integrative Biosciences. ‘This is a paradigm shift and we desperately need to embrace it in Pakistan so our students graduate with relevant skills and toolkits’, he added.