Known for his amazing guitar playing at many a Downside music event, one of Sixth Former Caspar’s other passions is science, and he has chosen the topic of CRISPR gene-editing for his EPQ (Extended Project Qualification).

CRISPR is an economical and powerful gene-editing tool. Its origin lies in the natural adaptive immunity of bacteria, and enables DNA to be cut at precise locations, allowing for its accurate and targeted renewal or replacement.

Downside Jazz Band

From Caspar: ‘I chose this topic because of its surreality. Gene-editing has a place in dystopian literature which often makes people fearful of it but, at the same time, dismissive that is ever likely become part of our lives. I like the parts of science which seem surreal because they highlight how underlying natural laws are so far-reaching that they give rise to phenomena and applications that we would consider supernatural.

Gene-editing will be an integral part of our descendant’s lives, thanks to the ease of use and cost-effectiveness of CRISPR. This technology could be used to cure illnesses ranging from Sickle Cell Anemia to Leukaemia in a clinical environment, not to mention paving the way for other techniques such as the use of pig organs in transplants. However, its applications (especially those involving embryos) have ethical issues that must be discussed, and its ease of use means that it could be abused to terrible effect – potentially leading to a novel-esque dystopian world, which is why this is topic should be written about. The best way to ensure that this technology is used ethically is for there to be public dialogue and oversight.’     

An EPQ is an extended project qualification, the aim of which is to develop the skills required to study independently at university. All Lower Sixth Form pupils have the opportunity to undertake an EPQ. They choose their own topic, research the subject and then produce a dissertation of 5,000-8,000 words, fully referenced, with critical analysis and a bibliography.

Our pupils receive some guidance in lessons and have the support of their tutor but, to develop independent skills, they work mainly on their own. Once their research is complete, pupils conduct a formal presentation and then are questioned in detail. EPQs are well regarded by Russell Group universities, and can form part of a UCAS application.

To find out more about the opportunities at Downside’s Sixth Form please email or call our Admissions Team: / +44 (0)1761 235103