Speed Dating Scientists

Convincing school pupils that scientists are actually ordinary people is no small feat, but scientists from the IIB, along with the social enterprise Farm Urban have been doing just that.

Farm Urban, in conjunction with the University of Liverpool and funded by Shaping Futures, have developed a 12 week STEM club called the Future Food Challenge, where pupils form their own social enterprise to try and help fix the world’s food production problems using high-tech growing technologies such as aquaponics and hydroponics. Before starting the program, the pupils were invited to an introductory day at the Department of Engineering on Wednesday 6th February, where they were built their own mini aquaponics system and were given talks and advice by local business leaders about how to set up their own business. Matt Murphy from the Engineering Department, who helped to organise the day, also gave a talk to help the pupils understand the design and engineering problems they might face.

As part of the day, pupils took part in a Scientist Speed Dating session, where groups of 6-10 pupils got to sit down with a real life scientist and ask them questions about their work, and how they’d ended up in their job. The idea was to break down some of the barriers preventing the pupils seeing themselves as capable of being scientists and show them that some of the scientists had similar life experiences to their own.

Laurence Anderson, Hannah Davies, Jens Thomas and James Torpey from the IIB all took part. At first, students and academics were eyeing each other with some trepidation, but by the end of each session, the groups always had to be forcibly moved on as everyone was getting on so well and didn’t want to stop the conversation. The scientists had to contend with a bewildering array of questions, from what their most important experiment was, to what their favourite food or colour was, and although they were sometimes stuck for answers (I’m still not sure what my favourite colour is) the day went incredibly well.

We hope that the day and the program will broaden the horizons of the pupils and show them that they too could be scientists and entrepreneurs, just like the people they met on the Future Food Challenge.

IIB’s Iain Young, who helped to develop the programme and is now at the Institute of Clinical Sciences, was shortlisted for a public engagement award for his part in creating the Future Food Challenge.

 

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Farm Urban’s Future Food Challenge – launch Event – Speed Date a Scientist

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150 year 9 pupils from local schools visited the University of Liverpool for one day in
February to take part in the Farm Urban Future Food Challenge Launch Event. During
the launch event students engaged in a number of activities, including speed dating
scientists.
The speed date scientist event was great fun. The scientist sat at a dating table and awaited the students. Students arrived in groups of around 6. During a 5 minute period the scientist introduced themselves and their work, after which the students were free to ask any questions they wished. Questions ranged from, ‘Is being a scientist hard?’ to ‘Do you think there is a god?’ Once a conversation started it could go anywhere from eprogramming humans to the origin of names. The event was great fun for all.

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Fish tales

Iain Young and Simon Maher, PhD students Rudi Verspoor, Vincent Keenan from IIB and colleagues from Q-technologies and FarmUrban spent an enjoyable weekend telling “fish tales” at the “Eat the Atlantic” Food Festival 4th and 5th of July.

Eat the Atlantic was part of the Transatlantic 175 celebration commemorating 175 years since the first cruise liner crossed the Atlantic to Manhattan from Liverpool. Cruise liners, vintage vehicles and classic cars, catwalk models, dancers, bands, celebrity chefs, urban growers, about 500,000 visitors and even a few scientists from the IIB all gathered on Liverpool’s Historic Waterfront for the celebration.

We took along some of our projects that we’ve been working on in partnership with collaborators from industry: AQUAMMS – an EU framework project in partnership with the University of Liverpool spin-out company Q-Technologies (http://q-technologies.co.uk) developing new miniature mass spectrometry based sensors for aquaculture (www.Aquamms.com), BiffiO – working with agriculture and aquaculture to look for new ways to gain value from their waste (www.BiFFiO.com), and various projects we have running with FarmUrban (www.FarmUrban.co.uk) focusing on sustainable urban food production.

fishtalesWith its high efficiency pink LED grow lights reminiscent of an 80’s theme cocktail bar hovering over lush green plants, our “Vydrofarm” vertical nutrient-film hydroponics unit built for us by hydrogarden (www.hydrogarden.co.uk) was certainly eye-catching. We soon became a crowd-puller in the atrium of the Mann Island Buildings (especially during Sunday’s downpours) attracting a lot of interest in aquaculture and urban farming.