And, more to the point, so will his students.
Hailing from Cowra High School in regional New South Wales, the science teacher has joined an international molecular biology project that will see his classes use research-grade tools to manufacture insulin.
Currently being trialled in Australia, the educator says latching onto the Amgen Biotech Experience is a big deal for the rural school.
“It just gives a really specific, hands-on, direct application to an actual industry; it’s no longer words on a page, it’s actually something that’s tangible that the kids can see the process from start to finish and it means more to them,” Edmonds reflects.
“This is all the stuff that I did and loved doing, but was never able to effectively show the kids … because it’s just not capable of being done in [our] secondary school.
“So it opens up a door that was previously closed, you know, you’d have to wait for the CSIRO to come…”
Intent on exposing his students to the university-level experiment, a white-coated Edmonds, along with his colleague Megan Mackenzie, found themselves deep in the bowels of a Sydney University lab.
The PD that followed was practical, targetted, and sparked quite a few university-day flashbacks.
“We ran through from a teacher’s perspective how each of the sessions would run, so the pre-lab, the lab and the post-lab section,” Edmonds says.
“Then they would flip it on its head and we would then do the pracs that the kids would do. So they provide us with the gear and we would sit down and go ‘OK these are the micropipetters, these are the electrophoresis tanks, this is how you set it up, this is how you use them’.”
The experience has relumed Edmonds’ drive to take children right to the forefront of scientific discovery.
“Getting out there and giv
ing things a go is really important and extending the boundaries of how we teach science I think is really important.
“[It’s about] giving the kids real world applications and applying it to areas that are relevant to now – biotechnology and biochemistry, genetics, cellular biology, microbiology, is where it’s sort of happening at the moment in terms of disease resistance and all that sort of stuff,” Edmonds shares.
Over the coming weeks Edmonds’ students will undergo precisely the same procedures that play out in Amgen laboratories as they pump out biopharmaceutical products.
When it comes to hands-on STEM learning, this is the real deal, Edmonds says.
“So the steps that they go through, from getting the gene, putting it in the bacteria, growing the bacteria up, extracting the protein at the end, are all the same steps that they would do if there were making insulin for someone who is a diabetic.”
There’s only one minor difference: Edmond’s scientists will be working in colour.
“…Instead of transforming the bacteria with a plasmid that has the human insulin gene, they’re transforming a plasmid that has this red fluorescent protein on it, so the kids actually get to see that their bacteria are making this specific protein, which is really, really cool.”