Beyond the Cell – Centre for Proteome Research Science Club @VictoriaGallery

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Guest post by Victoria Harman, Centre for Proteome Research

Five members of the Centre for Proteome Research ran the first of six science club sessions hosted at the Victoria Gallery & Museum.  The session was entitled “Beyond the Cell” and was attended by 13 students aged between seven and 10. We started out the afternoon by introducing the students to the concept of our DNA being stored in the nucleus of our cells – to accompany this idea the students extracted DNA from strawberries and made DNA models from sweeties. We then talked about DNA being the code for proteins and how there are different types of proteins in our bodies. The studentsimg_4462 matched descriptions of proteins to the types of “sample” were that protein might be found. We also used jelly beans to demonstrate how different amounts of proteins, or the presence of a new protein, could help us to diagnose a disease. To round off the afternoon the students tried out three different analysis techniques – testing the pH of household solutions using red cabbage indicator, running dyes and inks on paper chromatography, and measuring the travel time of differently weighted marbles on a model mass spectrometer. We really wanted to encourage the students to ask as many questions as possible and try to think like scientists, any they absolutely loved the hands-on activities, especially those involving sweets!

 

 

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Biochemical Society Scientific Outreach Grant award for Centre for Proteome Research PostDoc

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Dr. Guadalupe Gómez Baena, a postdoctoral research associate in the Centre for Proteome Research in the Institute of Integrative Biology has won a Scientific Outreach Grant from the Biochemical Society to support the costs of running a Science Club titled ‘Learning to think like scientists’ at New Park Primary School. The club will run during the academic year 2016-2017 and is aimed at promoting the understanding of the scientific environment in primary school children.

Engaging children in science at an early stage is important, not only to assure a solid foundation for the future scientific generation, but also to develop significant skills and attitudes important in learning and understanding. The club will demonstrate why science is important and what is it like to work as a scientist, while teaching basic aspects of science and research.

The Centre for Proteome Research is actively involved in a number of activities aimed at disseminating the importance of science.  This activity will be delivered by members of Centre for Proteome Research who are registered as STEM ambassadors.

Edinburgh Science Festival

Edinburgh Science Festival

Edinburgh Science Festival is one of the largest public science festivals in Europe. Over a two week period, it provides events, workshops, and lectures for adults and children alike. Over Easter, I worked for Edinburgh Science Festival as a Science Communicator in their flagship children’s venue based in the City Arts Centre.

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The City Arts Centre, Edinburgh

The City Arts Centre is a large, 6 story art gallery located in the centre of Edinburgh. The building was taken over by the Festival to provide a space filled with workshops and activities for children of all ages, with each floor containing two or three workshops or activity spaces. Visitors could book into age appropriate workshops, or visit drop-in activity spaces. Due to my biology background, I was placed into the Carnival of the Mind, a drop-in area designed to teach children of all ages about how the brain works.

The Carnival had been assembled by a skilled team and contained a variety of activities that explored different parts of the brain. The most popular activities were a coconut shy that used prism goggles to teach how vision is processed in the occipital lobe and a life-sized, plastic clown named Brian who demonstrated how the peripheral nervous system is activated when his foot got hit by a hammer. A fortune teller tested the visitor’s frontal lobe with puzzles and games, and told the story of Phineas Gauge who lost part of his frontal lobe in an accident. A sound stall confused the temporal lobes with some auditory illusions and a sensory play area stimulated the brains of the young visitors. The highlight of the Carnival was the Big Top, where a show was run twice an hour that allowed the audience to explore the difference sections of the brain by holding and feeling a real sheep’s brain.

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A sheep’s brain used during the big top show

The Carnival was an extremely popular activity, with many families returning multiple times. As it was based in the family venue, my role mainly involved communicating with children and occasionally with interested parents. However, as part of the adults program, the City Arts Centre was opened one evening for adults only. Working at the adult event was an amazingly different experience to the normal day-to-day festival, in part due to the temporary bar that was opened for the visitors!

Working at Edinburgh Science Festival was utterly exhausting but fantastic experience. I learnt many valuable lessons such as the importance of comfortable footwear and how to look after my voice. As well as providing me with excellent work experience with a large science communication company, it allowed me to practise my communication skills with people of all ages from babies to (sometimes drunk!) adults and everyone in between!

34th Bolton Brownies’ Science Investigator Badge

The Brownies are a guiding group for girls aged 7-10. They complete challenges and activities in order to earn badges, and one badge they can do is their Science Investigator badge. To get this badge, the girls must complete three science or engineering based challenges and get a visit from a Scientist or Engineer. Last week, I visited the 34th Bolton Brownies to help them finish their badge. After the group had sung the Brownie welcome song, I put on my lab coat and safety goggles to tell the girls a little bit about what I do as a scientist and the importance of scientists and engineers in our
society.

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Explaining the importance of Science and Engineering

I then helped the group with the final challenge needed to complete their badge – bridge building! Armed with bags of spaghetti and marshmallows and a help sheet from bexscience.co.uk, the Brownies set about building a bridge that could span a 25cm gap. It proved to be quite a tricky challenge as the gap was slightly longer than the length of a piece of spaghetti, meaning that we needed to join two pieces together to get the length. However, I think the hardest thing for some of the girls was resisting eating the building materials!

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Materials for bridge building

After 40 minutes, we had three bridges waiting to be tested. To test the bridges, a girl from each group donned a hi vis vest and a hard hat (safety first with our budding engineers!). Weights were gently placed on the bridges until they collapsed. One bridge had suffered a collision with a Brownie during construction and so could only hold 200g when tested. The other two bridges managed to hold 800g and 1200g, quite an impressive feat for spaghetti and marshmallow constructions!

After a quick clean up, the girls were all awarded their well-deserved Science Investigator badge. To thank me for my help, I was also awarded one which will take pride of place on my lab coat! The girls seemed to really enjoy making (and breaking) their bridges and some of them were really keen to tell me about the vinegar volcano they had made the week before. The Science Investigator badge seems like a really good way to introduce science and engineering to young girls, allowing them to participate in a hands on way that isn’t always possible in a classroom. I was honoured to have been asked to help with this badge and I look forward to any opportunities to help other Brownie units to complete it!

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My badge

Summer Science Club

Guest post by Prof Blair Grubb, Head of the School of Life Sciences

summer science club 2015 - Blair Grubb

Children aged 7-13, from Merseyside and the Wirral, attended a workshop aimed at discovering what different parts of the body do and how they work. The workshop took place at the Victoria Gallery and Museum. The budding scientists measured how big their lungs are and learned why we need oxygen to live. The youngsters then measured their own heart rate when sitting quietly (not easy!) and then jumped up and down vigorously to see how much their heart rate changed as a result of exercise. The activity ended with a discussion about the brain and what it does – they enthusiastically cut out and made brain hats which show which parts of the brain are involved in sight, sound, movement and sensation. Before leaving they were presented with special rulers, donated by The Physiological Society, which will allow them to measure the reaction times of their friends and families.

Professor Blair Grubb, who presented the workshop said, “I was amazed at the very high level of knowledge shown by the young scientists at the science workshop. They threw themselves into all of the activities with great enthusiasm and asked really good and probing questions. It was a fantastic day and I was really delighted to be asked to participate!”

‘I’m a Scientist, get me out of here’

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Rebecca Jones recently competed in the ‘I’m a Scientist, get me out of here’ competition and here’s what she had to say on the experience:

Having heard great things from fellow colleagues about the ‘I’m a Scientist, get me out of here’ competition I decided to submit myself for questioning by the students around the country on all kinds of science. With my research summed up in one sentence I waited for the response from ‘I’m a scientist’ with anticipation. I got the email back and I was in! Now for the tough part…

‘I’m a Scientist, get me out of here’ is a nationwide public outreach event sponsored by the Wellcome Trust where school children get to interact with scientists in a diverse range of topics. They do this through profiles that scientists create (mine’s here) as well as through questions and live chats. Kids then vote for their favourite scientist and these get knocked out over the course of the second week of the competition, with the winner gaining £500 to put towards outreach.

I was allocated a general zone, rather than a themed zone such as the colour or electromagnetic zone, called the Ytterbium zone. This meant I was not with scientists in my own field but was pitted against a linguist, physicist, microbiologist and radioactive waste disposer!

The first week of the competition was full of questions and live chats and they were definitely interesting! Each live chat with a school class is open to all the scientists to take part, which is great as the questions come in thick and fast. I had some great chats with students and some really insightful and probing questions such as asking about the virulence of different parasites and different transmission methods. A few students asked interesting questions about potential science careers and the teachers even got involved in the chats too! Although the occasional chat was affected by some spamming students the majority proved to be a hugely enjoyable experience for myself and the students.

Outside of the live chats students are able to ask questions and this fed the scientists with a steady stream of questions to constantly keep us occupied. Some questions I was asked personally (What’s your favourite horse breed?) but the majority were asked to all the scientists (Do you like rock?!). I could answer questions anytime and students could write back asking further questions or challenging what you’d put. Once the first week was over it was then time for the knock out rounds!

Thankfully we didn’t have a live chat whilst the first set of evictions was announced on the Tuesday of week 2 so we nervously awaited the results online. I wasn’t the first out so I lived to fight another day, answering questions and joining in on more live chats. The week then ended with the microbiologist crowned as the winner of my zone but I thoroughly enjoyed my 2 weeks of I’m a scientist. The questions were great, the ‘I’m a scientist’ staff were excellent during the chats and I’d recommend the experience to anyone!

The next event is running in November so if you’re interested in outreach and communicating any aspect of science I’d definitely recommend you apply!