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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Truly promoting discovery in the biosciences

Published: 31 March 2009
Discovery with microscopes

Something for everyone at University’s Engineering and Science Day

Rapidly becoming a tradition, National Science and Engineering Day was recently celebrated by the School of Biological Sciences with staff and students taking part in an exciting event organised by the University of Southampton.

National Science and Engineering Week 2009 provided an opportunity for the School to demonstrate simple scientific activities to people of all ages, from studying drunken worms to examining animal skulls and making origami models of the DNA double helix. Visitors young and old could find out more about how the brain works and what goes wrong in diseases that affect the brain, or take part in a football game targeting proteins.

The displays and exhibits improve year on year, and 2009 was no exception. This year almost 2,500 people attended the event, and the support from the general public for research, and their genuine interest in science, made it a very rewarding experience for all involved.

Will it bite?

Each activity had a serious purpose: for instance, the drunken worm is used by research scientists to find out more about how alcohol affects the activity of nerve cells and to provide a better understanding of alcohol dependency.

The protein targeting game included a quiz for children about the function of each part of a cell; then they could try kicking a football at a giant neuron to get the ball through the holes representing the different parts.

Biological Sciences postgraduate student Helen Watson, who organised the protein targeting game, said “The day went really well – we were busy all day and the children seemed really fascinated. We had lots of interested parents who did the quiz themselves!”

Another postgraduate student Helga Groll, who organised a display showing creatures living in compost, said she had a lot of fun working on the exhibit. “I wanted to find a novel way to communicate science to the wider public,” she says. “I was very impressed by the huge number of people who turned up and showed an interest in our stand. I was also really surprised to hear how many people already have composters in their gardens and are aware of the different species living inside. This is something I would like to continue in the future, maybe organising exhibitions for museums. My colleagues were all really enthusiastic too, and I think we’ve awakened an interest in science in quite a lot of people.”

Organiser for the School of Biological Sciences, Professor Lindy Holden-Dye, said “It was a really successful day all round. The skulls hit the headlines but we were all very busy with so many visitors; it was quite a day. I’d like to thank everyone involved in helping - next year it will be bigger and better still!”

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