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Aberystwyth University hosted SUPI

SusNet Wales

Principal Investigator: Professor John Grattan

Title: SusNet Wales (Sustainability Network Wales): A collaborative multidisciplinary platform for inspiration and transformation of the next generation

Lead school: Penglais School (Aberystwyth)

Year 13 students from Penglais High School, with researcher Dr Elizabeth Hart, taking part in the Biology unit of the SusNet Project at Aberystwyth University

Original project proposal

SusNet Wales is a collaborative multi-disciplinary approach to delivering a "Module" in Sustainability and Social Responsibility developed, led and delivered by practising researchers within Aberystwyth University. The module consists of four units; a central generic "Research Skills" unit and three "Academic Discipline" units which can be blended to tailor the programme to individual schools or individual students within each school. Developed with the schools, the "Academic Discipline" units will add value to, and extend the range of, A level curriculum activities.

Aberystwyth University will engage with the seven comprehensive schools comprising the Ceredigion schools alliance (led by Penglais School) by providing opportunities to engage students with practising researchers working in disciplines across the breadth of the university. Closely aligned with RCUK’s Public Engagement with Research Strategy we aim to inspire young people and enhance their experience of contemporary research. The schools within the alliance vary in size and two are designated as bilingual schools where the majority of subjects are taught in Welsh. The rural location of Aberystwyth can limit opportunities for students to engage with research and areas of Ceredigion are also recorded as pockets of deprivation within the Communities First Programme. The schools within the alliance would therefore particularly benefit from the support provided by RCUK. Aberystwyth University is ideally placed to provide exposure to world class research coupled with communication in the language of choice, thus encouraging young people to pursue relevant post-16 studies, establish research careers and become better informed global citizens.

Recent and forthcoming activities


Students on the SusNet Geography and Earth Sciences Unit measure the size of lichens on the gravestones in Hafod Church graveyard

  • SusNet Sport and Exercise Science (SES) Unit
    • In September 2015 students and teachers from Bro Hyddgen and Penweddig Schools attended the SES unit on The Cardiovascular Responses to Exercise and Implications for Health delivered by Dr Rhys Thatcher. Rhys delivered this unit again in November to Coleg Ceredigion students, many of whom are mature students with family commitments and were unable to attend the standard early evening sessions for the SES unit delivered earlier in the year. It took place over a period of 2 weeks during the college day. This meant it was no longer optional for the students to attend so working together with lecturers from Coleg Ceredigion Rhys restructured the unit to align with the specific content requirements on the BTEC Extended Diploma in Health Science, whilst still providing the students with the opportunity to take part in research and have a University experience.
    • Coleg Ceredigion Students measuring the cardiovascular responses to exercise on the SusNet Sport and Exercise Science Unit 
  • SusNet Biology Unit  
    • Students from Penweddig and Penglais took part in the SusNet Biology unit: Drug Resistance in Parasitic Nematode Worms with Professor Jo Hamilton after school in November 2015. The students carried out their own research project to investigate if the free living nematode Panagrellus redivivus was resistant to specific drugs. They used microscopes to observe the phenotype and nematode body structure and examined how specific drug pressure affected the nematodes. Students were then able to use DNA extracted from the nematodes to set up their own PCR reaction. The sequences generated were used to carry out bioinformatics to confirm the resistance or non-resistance to the drugs by the nematodes. Students also had tours of the University’s Bioimaging Suite, the Plant Phenomic Centre and the Next Generation Sequencing laboratory.
    • DNA extraction - Professor Hamilton showing the students how to use a microcentrifuge
  • SusNet Geography and Earth Sciences Unit
    • Students from Penglais and Bro Pedr took part in the unit: Barriers and Solutions to Water Sustainability delivered by Dr Hywel Griffiths. Hywel led a field trip to Hafod Church graveyard and Cwmystwyth mine site where students collected lichen data in order to construct lichen growth curves and apply them to date fluvial landforms. Students carried out the practical work to measure the size of 2 different lichens Porpidia tuberculosa and Rhizocarpon geographicum on the gravestones. The dates on the gravestones were also recorded so they could directly relate the size of the lichen to a known age. This is referred to as lichenometry and is a standard and widely used dating technique in geomorphology.
    • Geography students measuring the size of lichens on the gravestones in Hafod Church graveyard
  • SusNet INTERPOL Unit
    • Professor Milja Kurki led the final seminar of this SusNet unit on Democracy Promotion in World Politics in April, where students’ reading and thinking on the subject culminated through a series of discussions of contemporary aspects of democracy promotion including: Why does the US promote democracy in the Middle East and what are the strengths and the weaknesses of US democracy promotion in the Middle East?
    • Professor Milja Kurki leads a seminar with Penglais students to discuss how they got on with their tasks researching aspects of democracy promotion
  • SusNet Chemistry Unit
    • This unit focussing on aspects of Green Technology was delivered by Dr Ifat Parveen, Senior Research Scientist and lecturer in Chemistry in IBERS in March 2016. Students from Penglais, Penweddig and Bro Hyddgen took part in the practical sessions and the guided tour of the Beacon Facility.
    • A student investigating the conversion of vegetable oil to biodiesel

  • Continuing Professional Development for Teachers
    • To deliver this event we worked with the University’s Centre for Widening Participation and Social Inclusion (CWPSI) who organise the annual Aberystwyth University Science Fair (15-17 March 2016).  We targeted secondary school science teachers accompanying pupils and provided them with the opportunity to take part in a ‘Poster Avenue’ arranged at the centre of the fair. PhD researchers from IBERS and Institute of Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science (IMPCS) had designed posters, specifically aimed at teachers, and where available to discuss their research and how it aligns with the curriculum.

    • Teachers were also given the chance to order copies of their favourite posters for display back in school. The Poster Avenue was viewed by 21 teachers (from 10 schools) and all requested copies of specific posters. 

    • Teachers feedback demonstrated they could take this professional development back to school at several levels: ‘to feedback to pupils about Welsh research’, ‘incorporate in to lessons - especially with poster support’, ‘some ideas for displays and practical work’, ‘share with other members in the department’, ‘careers - promote the opportunities for researchers in a range of fields’
    • PhD student, Rebecca Entwistle (IBERS), discussing her research with Mark Lewis from Llandrindod High


Project contact: Dr Paula Hughes (

Associated case study: 
Developing meaningful ‘added value’ activities between researchers and schools
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