Author: Dr Darryl Nelson, Head of Curriculum, Head of Faculty (Science)

The Academies of Excellence Program at SMGS provides many opportunities to students, in multiple areas. Last year, through the Science Academy, two of our Year 11 students accepted the opportunity to work in a laboratory with some old colleagues of mine from my PhD days. Now that Antonia Murphy and Austin Beck are in Year 12, they can look back at that opportunity as an excellent learning experience.

Not only did Austin and Antonia learn how a “real” laboratory works, they also have a scientific publication to their name, something which very few high school students can claim. This is an excellent achievement because it gives Austin and Antonia an edge should they choose to study any science subjects at university. As they can attest, it was not an easy task for them, as contributing to a scientific publication takes determination and is highly complex.

Their paper, “Method Development for Discovery of Potential Antibiotics”, required them to produce Winogradsky Columns, which are essentially microcosms in which the interaction of soil microbes can be observed. As bacteria and fungi fight for supremacy, they resort to producing compounds that are toxic to each other, which we know as antibiotics. Penicillin, the first antibiotic discovered by Howard Florey in the 1930s, is produced by the fungus Penicillium chrysogenum specifically to kill bacteria that may compete for food in whichever environment it is found. Several other techniques were also used to try and isolate potential antibiotics.  The processes were found to be highly useful and potential antibiotic candidates are currently being assessed.

Their paper was published in the Journal of the Future Project, Volume 4 2017.

This is but one example of the opportunities that the Academies of Excellence program at SMGS offers students and we are looking forward to many other exciting opportunities for students.