IB Biology Students Visit Medical Research Foundation

September 04, 2015 at 1:41 PM

With thanks to student reporter, Emma Westbrooke

This week, the Year 12 IB Biology students visited Auckland University to explore their medical facilities and gain an understanding of the possible careers in the health field. Boasting a impressively lengthy name, the Auckland Medical Research Foundation Medical Sciences Learning Centre is where our trip began. This award-winning room showcased New Zealand’s largest pathology collection with over 11,000 samples taken from 1950-1970 as well numerous anatomical structures.

To recreate the structure of a body, the room was divided into body systems, and journals were dedicated to providing the medical records of each sample including symptoms the patient had, the treatment that was given and the result from this. 

With an array of medical dramas airing on television, it was unsurprising that students were drawn to the Forensic Sciences section, where injuries ranged from homicides, to a large gastro trichobezoar (a hairball!) which was removed from a young girl’s intestine! 

As we explored the room, we were able to ask the room’s manager, Nick Jones about the biological causes of these issues.  I personally had a fascinating discussion with him about how the different types of strokes affect the brain and the visible effects of these in the samples. As a group, we discussed the transition science has undergone to become less invasive and how this would have saved a number of these patients. However, it also made us appreciate the diversity involved with these diseases and a number of our aspiring medical students can’t wait to return and help to further this research.

Next, we were taken into one of the University’s impressive physiology labs to explore the process of respiration.  Dr Raj Selvaratnam began by explaining the differences in respiratory mechanisms in animals, including how crocodiles use their liver to control the changes in pressure to aid their breathing.  He also explained how snakes are able to store oxygen far more effectively than humans and use the fluidity of their body shape to respire when engulfing large prey. After discussing human respiration, we were finally able to use the equipment we had all be desperate to get our hands on!  Using a spirometer, we were able to measure our lung capacity and residual volume when exhaling.  This hands-on learning will bring extra interest to the human physiology topic we will be looking at later in the course.

After this, an electronic pulse massager was used to demonstrate how signals are transported throughout our body.  By running it along our calves, it was able to interfere with the signal pathways to alter the message of our posture. Some of the students reacted dramatically and begun to lose balance and fall backwards while others, who relied more on structures in the inner ear for balance, were minimally effected.  Dr Raj explained how these students who were affected less were more likely to be prone to travel sicknesses as the inner ear suffers from more fluctuation in movement. Our newly acquired knowledge will add another dimension to our learning and remind us of the value of biology.

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