Molecular Exploration at the Science Festival
The Babraham Institute created a bit of a stir at the Cambridge Science Festival on the weekend 14-15 March. Thanks to the launch of a new 'Molecular Explorers' exhibit, visitors flocked round the exhibit to learn more about the Institute's scientific activities and embark on a journey of molecular discovery.
The exhibit was developed by a team of Babraham scientists and covered a wide range of the research into healthy ageing studied at the Institute. Starting with DNA-themed Russian dolls explaining the concept of epigenetics and finishing with an iPad game that encouraged its players to have a go at autophagy (recycling inside cells), the exhibit had something for everyone.
As one mum put it "Guys well done, you translate hard science facts into brilliant games. Mum loves it - Children are enjoying it a lot!". The exhibit also presented the work of two of the scientific facilities provided at Babraham; educational microscopes allowed visitors to see and draw stem cells and nerve cells, and a cell-sorting flow cytometer allowed them to separate ‘white blood cells’.
Every visitor received a Laboratory Notebook, with further explanations of the science as well as spaces to fill in the results of their activities. Each completed activity earned a special stamp from the scientists and competition was keen to earn every stamp! The exhibit’s research stations were always busy and volunteers were put through their paces with questions from children and adults alike.
Staffed by an army of Babraham Institute scientists comprising of early career researchers as well as Group Leaders, the team enjoyed the experience as much as the visitors. Speaking after the event one group leader told us "I thought the exhibit was wonderful and it as really great to see lots of new people helping out. The adults-only session was a lot of fun - I hope they do that again." This year for the first time, the doors of the Corn Exchange were opened to adults only on the Saturday evening, allowing greater exposure and opportunities for adults to engage with the exhibits. Surprisingly they were just as keen to collect those lab book stamps!
One important outcome was when a secondary school teacher mentioned that epigenetics has finally made it onto the science curriculum. The Babraham Institute’s Public Engagement team are only too happy to help with resources to give teachers confidence in explaining this area of science. Watch this space!
It is estimated that over 6000 visitors attended the Corn Exchange activities over the two days and enjoyed interactions with BI and other scientists. We hope that this year, as with other years, this exhibit and these interactions will help to set many young people off on a journey into science and science-based careers.