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Histology workshop puts emphasis on practical learning

17 May 2017

Dr Cathy Gorrie seated in front of a microscope.

Dr Cathy Gorrie was awarded a Vice-Chancellor Teaching and Learning grant for a new histology workshop. Image by Filip Stempien.

Wagyu or Kangaroo?

That is one of the meaty questions histology students could be answering in a proposed histology workshop that was recently awarded a 2017 UTS Vice-Chancellor Teaching and Learning grant.

Run by Senior lecturer Dr Catherine Gorrie, the turbo charged week-long pilot project will focus on questions that can only be answered at the microscopic level.

“They might be looking at the percentage of fat cells in Wagyu beef compared to Kangaroo meat or they might look at chicken muscle compared to beef muscle and see if they have the same muscle properties,” Dr Gorrie said.

Twenty volunteer students will be able to take part in the hands-on workshop, which is a prototype for a more practical way to teach histology.

Students will buy meat from a butcher then propose a question around what they bought. They will then prepare the meat for analysis and hopefully find the evidence to answer their question. 

Dr Gorrie hopes that by placing more emphasis on the preparation phase, students will dip their toes into histotechnology, a field which isn’t currently taught in depth at the University level.

“In the teaching of histology the students do a lot of microscope work, so they’re good at looking down the microscope and identifying tissue sections but they don’t do a lot of preparation–it’s almost another skill set,” she said.

The inspiration behind the project was an article written by two Canadian students who examined a hotdog sausage to see if there were there was any “tissue elements” that shouldn’t have been there.

“I saw that and I thought it would be really cool to have something similar in our subject,” Dr Gorrie said.

The volunteer students will work in partnership with UTS teaching staff, providing feedback along the way. The workshop will also include aspects of creativity, innovation and team work enabling students to develop new practical skills.

Dr Gorrie said one of the benefits of the project is that even if something goes wrong, students will still gain from the learning experience.

“Whatever the students choose to do with the project, the beauty is they can’t get it wrong,” she said. “I think it’s good to give students the opportunity to be involved without the pressure of getting it wrong.”

The pilot project with 20 student volunteers is scheduled for this July.