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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The Big Bang North West

The Big Bang Near Me is a programme of events that get young people excited about science, technology, engineering and maths.  The Big Bang North West, organised by MerseySTEM, took place yesterday, Wednesday 8th of July, with nearly 6000 thousands children coming to Aintree Racecourse to visit a number of exhibitions from a variety of parners, and to present their own scientific projects as part of the national science+engineering competition.

The School of Life Sciences and the Institute of Integrative Biology staff and students were present and supporting the event in a variety of ways. So many in fact that this post will remain for a few days “in construction”: I hope that colleagues will give more details of their involvement in the comments section and I will update the post as needed!

Institute of Integrative Biology Exhibit

Daria Pastock, Chris Corbin, Amy Eacok

In the comments section, please add details of the activities that were on the stand and the people involved, thanks!

Project Patient 0

Beth Levick, Cassandra Raby, and Amanda Minter.

Beth and her team ran an amazing project on infection spread. In the end, they had 120 individual participants recorded over 40 different groups. They are planning to do further analysis of the data so watch this space!

Beth, let me know in the comments everyone who was involved, the number of people infected, etc (feel free also to write a separate post just about this project if you wish!).

Judge of the NSEC regional heat competition

Raphaël Lévy 

I had been invited by former student Zoe Chapman, communication officer for MerseySTEM to judge projects. It was good fun. I learnt about black holes, hydrophobic coatings, the hydrodynamics of cycle helmets, throrium as the future (?)of energy production, and a few essential science tricks to survive in case of an (infectious) apocalypse.

The judging team:

Aquaponics Jens Thomas, Paul Myers and Dan Groom

Jens, Paul and Dan  from Farm Urban had a beautiful stand next to the main stage showing off their new @VydroFarm growing system and demonstrating their “Build Your Own” aquaponics systems for schools. Although the VydroFarm can grow 140 lettuces every 28 days and glows a psychedelic pink with its full spectrum Valoya grow lights, it had trouble competing with fishy and fishy; the two goldfish in our aquaponics system named by Paul’s two-year old daughter. It was a great day and we had a tremendous amount of interest in our systems and workshops. During our spare time we learnt how to milk a cow, extract DNA from strawberry’s and discussed the potential mechanisms through which caterpillars may change colour.

‘Meet the Future You’

Kate Hammond

Kate Hammond took part in the ‘Meet the Future You’ event organised by Tomorrows Engineers. Students got the chance to quiz a group of STEM professionals about our careers, including Kate (a lecturer in Genetics and Molecular Biology), an engineer from Landrover and Sarah who designs nuclear reactors for submarines (very cool!). The students asked us everything from what we do each day, to what inspired us to take up our career to, most crucially, how much we get paid.

Kate Hammond at the

Kate Hammond at the “Meet the Future You” event #BigBangNW

Life Sciences Outreach Society

Juhi Gupta, Hannah Sharp, Lauren Evans, Sapphire Rogers, Ant Smith, Amal Abdulkadhir, Hannah Smallwood and Amy Gillespie. Dr Hammond helped with the set up of the workshops.

Children at the Life Sciences stall at the Big Bang North West

Children at the Life Sciences stall at the Big Bang North West

Juhi says:

Us students from the Life Sciences Outreach Society joined in with the fun and excitement at this year’s fantastic Big Bang Fair! Returning for a second year, with the DNA Sweet Models and Strawberry DNA extraction workshops, we inspired yet more merseyside pupils. We got lots of great feedback from both the staff and pupils intrigued by our science – we certainly had lots of fun too!