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

fake blood, mucus and saliva

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!

 

 

Judging at North West heat of the Big Bang Competition

This post has been written by Rob Beynon. If you are interested in the Big Bang North West, check also this other post detailing many contributions our students and post-doctoral researchers made to the event, including some more judging by Rebecca Jones and Beth Levick.

VictoriaHVictoria Harman, STEM Ambassador and member of the Centre for Proteome Research has completed another year as judge in the North West heat of the Big Bang Competition. Victoria has been a judge for four years, and has been acting as a head science judge for the last two.

What’s involved? Judge are allocated a judging partner and about five projects to assess in the morning being given about 20min to speak to each group/individual. The score is based on criteria such as planning, method design, analysis of results, whether the project is the student’s own idea, and how well it is presented.

There’s quite a lot of pressure on judges – the students have worked so hard over the last academic year on their projects and assessment in just 20 minutes is a big responsibility!

Students dedicate their spare time to produce a project – sometimes individuals, mostly teams. There are juniors, intermediates and seniors categories so there is quite an age span.  As with all competitions there is a range in the standard of projects but every single student or group puts in a lot of hard work. Victoria comments “It’s wonderful to see how proud they are of their work. Some students can be nervous to begin with but in the end they’re all so eager to tell you all about what they have achieved”.

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After the morning judging session, the head judges review the scores for the science projects from the morning, and select projects for the shortlist for the nationals. A smaller team of head judges and moderators then meets the students again to review the shortlisted projects before selecting those that will be put forward for the national final. A project is nominated for the Endeavour prize which recognizes exceptional hard work, determination and enthusiasm from a student or team.

Victoria says “The Endeavour prize is actually my favorite bit. Considering that science isn’t always about getting the perfect results it’s brilliant to be able to recognize a student or students who have really put their heart and soul into a project”.

If you’d be interested in engaging with the Big Bang Competition, feel free to get in touch with Victoria (vharman@liverpool.ac.uk). She’ll direct you to the right people.

 

Big Bang NorthWest 2016

The Big Bang North West is a science fair with a variety of companies, stalls and events to excite students from primary school up to sixth form about science, technology, engineering and maths. The Big Bang North West, organised by MerseySTEM, took place last week, Tuesday 5th July, with 5000 students descending upon the fabulous new venue, the Exhibition Centre, Liverpool. This new venue meant all the exhibits were located in one hall with a central stage where various shows would take place, including someone who was screening his bronchoscopy exam! Students from various schools also had the opportunity to present their own scientific projects as part of a National Science and Engineering competition, with quite a varied selection on display.

The School of Life Sciences and the Institute of Integrative Biology were well represented at the event with members taking part in exhibits, judging and moderating.

If you were also exhibiting at the event, please add a comment at the bottom and we will update the page. Thanks!

Institute of Integrative Biology Exhibit

Beth Levick, Gabriel Pedra, Vinnie Keenan

Beth, Gabi and Vinnie ran a game based on a simple SIR (susceptible, infected, recovered) model in the fashion of a Microbe Premier League. Teams battled it out to try and infect the entire population based on random dice rolls in a set time limit. Students loved the game with some returning multiple times to try and beat their friends.

Amy Eacock

Amy took some peppered moths to the exhibit in moth and caterpillar form to discuss her phd work examining how these twig-mimicing caterpillars are able to detect colour and adapt their bodies. Students were really interested in holding the caterpillars although there were screams from some! Amy also had a match the caterpillar to its moth game which went down well with both adults and students.

Lewis White

Lewis brought a selection of animal skulls for students to examine before they tackled his challenging game of placing a number of animals in the correct order on a phylogenetic tree. These included, whales, dolphins, sharks, cats and pandas but it was the primary school children who fared the best!

Rebecca Jones

Becky’s activity involved students and teachers sticking parasites on to the animals they thought those parasites lived in/on. There were some pesky parasites that kept them all guessing though!

Judging and Moderating the NSEC regional heats

Becky and Beth were selected as a judge and moderator for the school projects for the NSEC regional heats.

Victoria Harman

Victoria Harman, STEM Ambassador and member of the Centre for Proteome Research has completed another year as judge in the North West heat of the Big Bang Competition Victoria has been a judge for four years, and has been acting as a head science judge for the last two.

VictoriaH

What’s involved? Judges are allocated a judging partner and about five projects to asses in the morning being given about 20min to speak to each group/individual. The score is based on criteria such as planning, method design, analysis of results, whether the project is the students own idea, and how well it is presented.

There’s quite a lot of pressure on judges – the students have worked so hard over the last academic year on their projects and assessment in just 20 minutes is a big responsibility!

Students dedicate their spare time to produce a project – sometimes individuals, mostly teams. There are juniors, intermediates and seniors categories so there is quite an age span.  As with all competitions there is a range in the standard of projects but every single student or group puts in a lot of hard work. Victoria comments “It’s wonderful to see how proud they are of their work. Some students can be nervous to begin with but in the end they’re all so eager to tell you all about what they have achieved”.

After the morning judging session, the head judges review the scores for the science projects from the morning, and select projects for the shortlist for the nationals. A smaller team of head judges and moderators then meets the students again to review the shortlisted projects before selecting those that will be put forward for the national final. A project is nominated for the Endeavour prize which recognises exceptional hard work, determination and enthusiasm from a student or team.

prize

Victoria says “The Endeavour prize is actually my favorite bit. Considering that science isn’t always about getting the perfect results it’s brilliant to be able to recognize a student or students who have really put their heart and soul into a project”.

If you’d be interested in engaging with the Big Bang Competition, feel free to get in touch with Victoria (vharman@liverpool.ac.uk). She’ll direct you to the right people.

 

Rebecca Jones

I judged the senior category which had some interesting projects ranging from ‘Can mealworms eat plastic?’ to information leaflets on the BRCA gene which could be used in the NHS and online. I also learnt about how environmental issues associated with the Great Barrier Reef can be highlighted to primary school children through an educational toolkit. I also had the privilege of judging and shortlisting for regionals the eventual winners of the Young Scientist of the Year Award from Sandbach High School. Natural Skin Remedies, championed by two girls, had produced and tested a number of different creams to treat eczema. They had carried out a lot of experimental research and presented their work brilliantly. I wish them all the best in the finals next year. Go girls!!

Beth Levick

 I acted as a moderator for the judging, helping to decide which of the teams shortlisted by the main judges would go ahead to the final in March! I met some excellent teams and individuals, with projects ranging from how the length of skis affect your speed, to creating exciting videos of scientific topics using sweets. I was delighted to meet the winner of the “Endeavour” award and discuss her ideas for a greenhouse powered by burning waste. Of the 5 teams that went on to the final I and my partner moderator (also from IIB!) put forward two very clean projects: one on the efficacy of surface cleaners in removing bacteria, and one on commercial bleach products compared to home remedies. The hard work that had gone in to producing some really quality projects was truly inspiring, and all the teams that competed should be proud of the work they put in.

Aquaponics

Jens Thomas

Life Sciences Outreach Society

Juhi Gupta

The University of Liverpool’s Life Sciences Outreach team were back at Big Bang this year. Following last year’s successful workshops, Life Sciences undergraduate students got involved with making sweet DNA models and Breaking Berries in our strawberry DNA extraction workshop! We had a great response from kids and school teachers. And our volunteers had lots of fun too! Thank you to all of the students who helped at the event 🙂

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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.

Endosymbiont talk at Loreto College, Manchester

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Department of Evolution, ecology and behaviour student Louise Reynolds recently gave a talk on endosymbionts and here is what she had to say:

 

‘On Thursday 21st April I visited Loreto College, Manchester to give a talk to around 60 Upper Sixth biology students about endosymbionts. Biology is a very popular option at the college, which has 1000 students taking the subject at A-level.

Endosymbionts, such as Wolbachia are commonly found in insects and other arthropods. They live within the cells of their host and are inherited through females. During my talk I spoke about different aspects of Wolbachia biology.

Wolbachia is able to manipulate the sex determination system of its host, for instance some strains of Wolbachia cause the male offspring of infected females to die. Wolbachia is currently being trialed as a form of biological pest control to halt diseases that are spread by the mosquito Aedes aegypti, such as Dengue Fever, Zika, and Chikungunya. I also spoke about my own research investigating the genetics of rapid evolutionary change in the blue moon butterfly. This butterfly is infected with a strain of Wolbachia that causes male offspring of infected female butterflies to die. The blue moon butterfly has evolved the ability to suppress male-killing so that infected butterflies are able to produce both male and female offspring.

After the talk I had some sandwiches and juice, and spoke to students interested in studying biology at university.’

Sniffing infected insects at PubhD Liverpool

PubhD is a new event that originated in Nottingham and has recently started up in Liverpool which aims to bring scientific research to the general public. At each event, three PhD students have 10 minutes to explain their research to a pub audience in exchange for a couple of pints. This is then normally followed by 20 (or so) minutes of friendly questions. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the first event but was then ‘head hunted’ on Twitter to speak at their second event which took place on 14th April.

I showed up to The Vines pub near Liverpool Lime Street station where I was met by Kat who runs the operation. There were three of us talking, one on biodiversity and another on infant feeding. After securing my first drink and listening to the first speaker I was up. At the events no powerpoint slides are allowed so I took along a couple of petri dishes of waxworms that were either infected or uninfected with the parasite Heterorhabditis bacteriophora, my study system.

I kicked off with a brief description of how parasites manipulate their hosts in order to increase transmission before delving into the parasites I study.

I was then able to talk about how the parasites I study utilise a number of different methods to avoid predation such as glowing in the dark, smelling and tasting really bad and even turning red. Infected individuals smell quite bad so people had to get quite close to have a sniff!

After my talk I had a lot of questions from the diverse audience of about 30 individuals and returned to my seat. However, upon returning to my table, I discovered that one of the petri dishes was now empty and it turned out my work colleagues had eaten all my uninfected waxworms!

I would recommend this event to other PhD students in IIB and beyond as I had to tailor my talk to a non-academic pub audience, as well as not being able to use slides. I really enjoyed the event and was able to discuss various aspects of my PhD further with interested individuals.

If you’re interested in giving a talk in a friendly atmosphere and challenging yourself not to use slides then check the event out on Twitter: @PubhD_Liverpool and facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1514714745501023/

 

by Rebecca Jones

Engineering Your Future Event Review

On 16th October, as part of my role as a STEM ambassador with MerseySTEM, I attended the Engineering Your Future event that was held at Liverpool Football Club. After meeting the other ambassadors, we were assigned a group of 25 students. I supervised my group throughout the day as we attended workshops run by different engineering companies. First up for us was Astra Zeneca. After a short talk on biomedical engineering and vaccines, the students were split into teams and challenged to build a balloon powered car. Unfortunately, none in my group managed to get their cars to move more than a couple of centimetres.

A balloon powered car made in the Astra Zeneca workshop, Image courtesy of MerseySTEM http://www.merseystem.co.uk/ ©MerseySTEM ©CheshireSTEM

A balloon powered car made in the Astra Zeneca workshop, Image courtesy of MerseySTEM http://www.merseystem.co.uk/ ©MerseySTEM ©CheshireSTEM

Luckily the group’s morale was unaffected and we cheerily moved on to the next workshop, run by Aecom. Here, we got a talk by two graduate engineers about careers in civil engineering and some local projects that the engineers had worked on. The students were set the challenge of designing a new bridge over the river Mersey – a real project that Aecom is developing. There were a couple of students in my group who were interested in civil engineering and they immersed themselves in the project, carefully considering factors such as materials and locations.

The students discuss bridge types for the new Mersey Crossing, Image courtesy of MerseySTEM http://www.merseystem.co.uk/ ©MerseySTEM ©CheshireSTEM

The students discuss bridge types for the new Mersey crossing, Image courtesy of MerseySTEM http://www.merseystem.co.uk/ ©MerseySTEM ©CheshireSTEM

Once the bridges were designed, the group moved on to Essar, an oil and gas company. After a short introduction, the students were told about a real oil spillage that occurred at one of Essar’s plants. The students were given example valves from oil containers and each team was assigned an engineer. The teams had to quiz the engineers and identify the cause of the spillage. This gave the students a chance to find out what day to day life is like for an Essar engineer.

Example valves are used to how oil is stored and transported, Image courtesy of MerseySTEM http://www.merseystem.co.uk/ ©MerseySTEM ©CheshireSTEM

Example valves are used to how oil is stored and transported by Essar, Image courtesy of MerseySTEM http://www.merseystem.co.uk/ ©MerseySTEM ©CheshireSTEM

After lunch, my group were given time to attend the market place. This was a careers fair where companies from all over the country had stalls with information about the work they do. At this point, I was able to explore the fair myself and speak to the engineers manning the stalls. It was really interesting to hear about different types of engineering, some of which I was previously unaware of! After the fair, my group headed over to a talk from ESR Technologies about the role of a safety engineer. By this point, some of the students in my group started to quiz me about my PhD and my route through education. I was able to give them insight into university life and further education options, as well as the career options that come with a degree in Mathematics. The final workshop of the day was from Atkins Global. Three engineers talked about their roles in the nuclear sector and their career paths. The students participated in some games that highlighted nuclear safety issues and the importance of personal protective equipment.

Nuclear Safety games were used to demonstrate the importance of personal protective equipment, Image courtesy of MerseySTEM http://www.merseystem.co.uk/ ©MerseySTEM ©CheshireSTEM

Nuclear Safety games were used to demonstrate the importance of personal protective equipment, Image courtesy of MerseySTEM http://www.merseystem.co.uk/ ©MerseySTEM ©CheshireSTEM

Overall, the EYF event was enjoyable and educationally rewarding both for me, and for the students who attended.