Boroughbridge High School have been running their Royal Society Partnership Grants project as a lunchtime science club – students gave up their free time to participate. ‘I got really into it,’ said Gina Gill, aged 15, from the school in North Yorkshire. Antibiotic resistance, she says, is ‘as big a problem as climate change or global warming’.

Essential Oils Dave Treddinick

Colin Inglis, Head of Science, collaborated with Professor Kevin Kerr, from Harrogate District Hospital to lead a project investigating alternative microbial agents, whilst educating students on the potential effects of increased antibiotic resistance. Students at the school tested several different Essential Oils and two different bacteria – E Coli and Staphylococcus – to find out whether the Essential Oils have antimicrobial properties. They then conducted further tests to see whether the bacteria developed resistance to the Essential Oils over time. ‘We tested 5 different Essential Oils and found out that Thyme and Lavender have the most effect on the different bacteria that we tested’, said Gina. .’

The students’ dedication to the project paid off when they were invited by the Royal Society to our annual Summer Science Exhibition, where scientists from universities and industries up and down the country set up interactive displays and demonstrate their work to the general public at the Society.

Each year, as well as professional scientists, the Royal Society invites a top school from its Partnership Grants programme, a programme to give money to schools for educational STEM projects conducted in partnership with a professional scientist or engineer. The school students create an interactive stall and exhibit their work alongside researchers.

A team of 14students, aged between 14 and 18, attended the exhibition and demonstrated their science to the public, their peers and Fellows of the Royal Society. Over the course, of the week, they met the Duke of Kent, Professor Martyn Poliakoff FRS, who was fascinated to see their project, and made links with many organisations and schools attending the exhibition. Colin Inglis was even interviewed by the BBC and featured on the weekly Guardian science podcast.

Several of the students working on the project are hoping to develop careers as scientists, and this project has given them invaluable experience, not only of designing and implementing tests to check hypotheses, but of communicating their science to the wider world. It has also given them a growing awareness of the role that scientific research can play in solving the problems we are confronted with today.