SPARQ-ed 2-day Junior Research Immersions are aimed at providing Year 6-9 students from all over Queensland an opportunity to explore concepts and use techniques not normally covered in a school science laboratory. These are hands-on experiences which focus on skills used by biomedical scientists in a range of situations, including DNA extraction and analysis, the use of microscopes, forensic investigations, microbiology and hygiene, and cell biology.

The programs are conducted in the SPARQ-ed teaching laboratory, a PC2 rated facility located on the ground floor of the Translational Research Institute in Woolloongabba, Brisbane. Each one is developed and supervised by the SPARQ-ed teacher-scientists in conjunction with researchers from the University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute.

Students from regional Queensland or schools with an ICSEA (Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage) rating of ≤950 may be eligible for a scholarship.

How to apply

Buy tickets for SPARQ-ed 2-day Junior Immersions

Please note: If you are having trouble accessing the above link, please contact the SPARQ-ed team at

Fees: Government school students ICSEA rating ≤950 $50, Government school students ICSEA rating >950 $100, Non-Government school students $150. 

Important notes

Please note the following points:

  • Temporary parking for small buses on the hospital grounds can be arranged by the Coordinator. Alternatively, the TRI is on a public transport hub, with City Express bus stops on Ipswich Road, a dedicated stop on the Southeastern Busway and is quite close to Dutton Park railway station.
  • The TRI has a cafe, however the time allocated for breaks do not permit a class of 24 students all buying their lunch. We encourage schools to have students make their own arrangements for food. Drinking fountains and toilet facilities are provided.
  • OH&S requirements state that all people in PC2 laboratories wear flat, closed in shoes which do not expose the toes, heels or tops of the feet. Long hair must be tied back. We cannot permit entry to people who do not follow these requirements. Personal protective equipment (laboratory gowns, gloves and safety glasses) will be provided by SPARQ-ed.
  • This is a specialist science outreach program and SPARQ-ed staff are working as specialist resident presenters. For reasons pertaining to OH&S, classroom teachers must be present and actively supervising students in the workshop at a ratio of at least 1 teacher : 24 students.  

This year, one of our themes will be the use of fluorescent proteins in Cell and Molecular Biology. Students will express Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) in bacterial or mammalian cells, purify the protein by ion-exchange chromatography, and analyse the protein by SDS Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE). They will also perform DNA plasmid extraction from bacteria by alkaline lysis, followed by analysis of the purified DNA by agarose gel electrophoresis. Mammalian cells expressing GFP will also be examined by fluorescence microscopy.




Junior Biochemist

In this program students will use chromatography to extract and purify a green fluorescent protein. Green fluorescent protein has been cloned from a gene originally produced by jellyfish, and is a commonly used a marker molecule in molecular biology.  The chemical concepts of concentration, bonding and hydrophobicity will be covered along with the basic structure of amino acids proteins.

Day one

  • Enzymatic lysis of bacterial cells
  • Purification of protein via hydrophobic interaction chromatography
  • Colorimetric chemical assay to graph a standard curve of protein concentration and use numerical methods to calculate the concentration of protein in their sample.

Day two

  • SDS PAGE analysis of purified protein sample
  • Computer analysis of colorimetric data, using graphing software to calculate the protein concentration
  • Bioinformatics session using 3D computer modeling, and using graphing software to calculate the protein concentration

Junior Geneticist

In this program students use molecular biology techniques to clone a gene for a fluorescent marker protein into a bacterial cell.  This process involves a range of techniques such as PCR, bacterial transformation, restriction digestion of DNA and electrophoresis. The program can be modified to meet the needs of different year levels/extension groups.

Day one

  • Introduction to DNA and genes
  • PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) to amplify gene of interest
  • Transformation of plasmid into bacterial cell

Day two

  • Analysis of bacterial colonies check for fluorescence
  • Extraction of plasmid DNA from bacterial cells
  • Computer analysis of gene sequences of the cloned gene and plasmid vector
  • Restriction Digestion and electrophoresis

This program can be combined with the Junior Biochemist program which follows on from this to make a longer program.  

Junior Microbiologist

This is designed to be accessible for our younger scientists, and can be combined with the immunology program to make longer or done in consecutive years. Students will investigate the world of microbes and learn how they can both help and harm us.

Day one

  • Prepare specimens of and observe look at bacterial and yeast cells under the microscope.
  • Design and perform and investigation to analyse fermentation in yeast cells.
  • Learn aseptic technique and use this to culture microorganisms from dairy foods.
  • Analyse and graph experimental data

Day two

  • Observe and quantify microorganisms grown
  • Discuss and investigate the role of microbes in the human body
  • Present their findings in small groups