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‘Wonder drugs’ popular topic at Waikato biology event

11 June 2013

‘Wonder drugs’ popular topic at Waikato biology event

A talk covering the ‘wonder drug’ effect attracted a packed lecture theatre yesterday, during the University of Waikato’s annual Waikato Experience Biology (WEB) Days.

Around 550 Year 12 and 13 secondary school students from around the central North Island attended the event from 10-11 June.

University of Waikato Biological Sciences lecturer Dr Pawel Olszewski explained how misinterpretation of scientific findings goes as far back as the Babylonian era, when priests/scientists used the lunar eclipse to convince the king that he was at risk of death and that they had the answers to fix him.

“These days the consumer is the king and companies are effectively the priests/scientists, who are telling us what food, medicine and other products we should buy to help us live longer, be thinner, and look better,” says Dr Olszewski.

He went on to show how claims made on product labels are often exaggerated, and do not give the consumer the full story.

“What we look for when bringing students to WEB Days are topics which align well with the NCEA Achievement Standards they are studying at school. Dr Olszewski’s talk was excellent in the way that it emphasised how opinions must be justified with evidence when it comes to science. We’re actually thinking of using the ideas he presented for our Year 9 students, as a great example of why learning science is so important,” says Aquinas College biology teacher Ange McManaway.

The students also attended lectures given by Waikato University lecturers, on topics such as DNA technologies, plant responses to the environment and animal behaviour, human evolution, and the process of evolution.

In addition, the groups of students enjoyed practical workshops which covered microscope work and key biotechnology lab skills. They also heard from current students describing their research experiences while at University of Waikato.

ENDS

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