Science in the Square

Science in the Square

LifeLab is a project which marks European Researchers’ Night and aims to inspire and interest young people about the variety of careers in science and to engage with new audiences. To meet these objectives and to try something different, the Babraham Institute, together with partner institutes, travelled to Peterborough to talk to the public in a marquee at Cathedral Square. We took two Institute exhibits; the Race Against the Ageing Clock, which explores epigenetics research, and ‘Work with us, Learn with us’, which explores careers supporting the use of animals in research. Additionally, we held story reading sessions, as part of the LIBRA project, to encourage families to break with gender stereotypes.

After an early morning train ride, I arrived at the square in Peterborough to find five tents ready to be filled with exciting research! Even during set-up several members of the public came into the tent to find out what was going on and many returned once all the activities and researchers were ready to go!

As you can imagine just like any other day in a market square, the audience was a diverse mix of backgrounds and ages and certainly different from visitors to a science festival. Some people started telling us about their own (past) research careers while others had never looked through a microscope before. My favourite interaction was with a little girl who found the live C. elegans worms underneath the microscope so inspiring that she performed her own little worm-dance.

During the two days we had over 900 people interacted with LifeLab on Cathedral Square. Institute researchers were talking about the latest findings in epigenetics research and telling stories that challenge stereotypes in the big marquee, while in a different tent our animal facility staff were talking about the use of animals in research, how the animals’ health is maintained and career opportunities in animal care – including our apprenticeship scheme. From our partner organisations on the square, the Wellcome Genome Campus, EMBL-EBI, MRC Epidemiology Unit and MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, there were activities containing a “wheel of risk”, stem cell robots and games and incredibly cute stuffed microbes to spark discussions around antimicrobial resistance. A visual impression of LifeLab 2018 can be found in the picture gallery on the Institute’s website.

It is now time for us to evaluate the event and return to the drawing board, for LifeLab will be back! On 27th and 28th September 2019, European research will once again be celebrated with a range of activities in schools and public spaces in Peterborough, Cambridge and Ely. Keep an eye on our website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stay informed, or get in touch and get involved with LifeLab 2019.