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The University of Southampton
Public Engagement with Research

Public Engagement with Research - Development Projects 2017/18

Twenty one projects were awarded PER Development Funding within our 17/18 Call, from an extremely strong field of 28 bids.  For an overview of each project please see the drop-down sections below.  If you would like to find out more about any of them, please contact the project lead, or email .

The projects will draw to a close in July and submit their final reports in early September - please check again in October 2018 to see how they got on.

The Electrochemical Circus

The Electrochemical Circus is the outreach vision of the ADEPT Program grant. It brings together an array of modular hands-on activities to demonstrate key scientific concepts at the cutting edge of electrochemical and materials research, highlight the multidisciplinary nature of this work, and provoke conversations and two-way learning interactions between members of the public and the ADEPT research team. The project will offer the following activities:

  • the suitcase of curiosities: a collection of items that are both visually and texturally appealing and relevant to ADEPT research, providing ’hooks’ for conversations with the public. The items are chosen to help make science more approachable (“hands on”) for non-scientists.
  • thermal imaging camera and printer: this will allow conversations on the topic of infrared detectors, and on how the ADEPT approach is contributing to development in this field. The printer allows us to provide branded souvenirs to the public.
  • the glovebox challenge: a hands-on model of a glovebox with tasks inside, the purpose of which is to give the audience insight into the daily life of a scientist on the ADEPT programme
  • a large-scale (table-top) model of electrodeposition: a visual representation of what happens at the atomic level during the plating process

Project Lead: Josephine Corsi, FPSE,

Smart City workshop to improve Air Quality

Air quality is a concern for cities across the world as it has an impact on public health. Citizen driven sensor networks are gaining in popularity. The project team will run a series of open, public, repeatable workshop during the Science and Engineering Festival to educate the public about the challenges of air quality monitoring. Attendees will build an air quality sensor device, transmit and receive data and visualise collated results. Festival attendees will help identify the actions for improving AQ, these results will be collated and shared to Southampton City Council, Clean Air and other interested parties. 

The aim of the project is to teach the public about air quality sensing, challenges and opportunities. To explore public’s opinion on cause of the air pollution, potential actions that the public can take towards achieving cleaner air and obstacles that might be preventing them to take action.

Project Lead: Dr Steven Johnston, FEE,

Developing an interactive exhibition for raising public awareness of innovations in applied healthcare: upper limb prosthetics

The Upper Limb Prosthetics project will design and build a permanent interactive exhibition at Winchester Science Centre to help raise awareness of the on-going prosthetic research at the University of Southampton. Our aim is to provide a hand that users can control using their own forearm muscles, therefore combining engineering and human physiology. This will be the first fully-realised public engagement exhibition for the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) and be a step-change in the approach taken to public engagement.  

Project Lead: Dr Cheryl Metcalf, Health Sciences,


Everyday living without everyday tasks

Everyday living without everyday tasks is a project that aims to educate people about what it is like to live with stroke. Stroke is a leading cause of disability worldwide, and significantly impacts on people’s ability to undertake daily living tasks, such as buttoning a shirt. In this project we will foster engagement between stroke survivors, artists, researchers, students and the public to create artwork that uses everyday objects that stroke survivors have difficulty in interacting with to portray feelings and experiences of stroke survivors. The project will:

  • Engage the public to improve awareness of everyday living difficulties in stroke survivors. We will educate and stimulate interest through artwork and interactive activities at events
  • Highlight research being undertaken by researchers on the MRC SMARTmove grant and other research at the University of Southampton that uses cutting edge technology and methodology to facilitate stroke rehabilitation
  • Strengthen existing links with Different Strokes
  • Create and strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration across different faculties in the University

Project Lead: Katie Meadmore, Health Sciences,

Women of Cinema

Women of Cinema is a public engagement project that will create a conversation between research experts in the field and the film-going public about the role of women in the history of cinema and their current status in the industry. In the context of news stories about the low numbers of women working behind the camera in the industry and the widespread stories about sexual harassment and the perennial ‘casting couch’ culture of Hollywood, it is important for contemporary film fans to know about the significant contributions of women to the history of filmmaking and for researchers to find out what audiences think about gender inequality in film and what we should be doing about it.

Project Lead: Shelley Cobb, Humanities,

Brown Planet

Brown Planet will put the public into the centre of the discussion and research around humanities impact
on marine biodiversity. Through a unique and immersive approach the public will gain a glimpse into the
often hidden world under our seas through a simulated immersive environment at Winchester Science
Centre (WSC). The installation will outline the contribution that species make to globally important
processes and challenge both attitudes and perceptions about the consequences of species loss for
society. The project will feature:

  • Follow up online content from visit to WSC. A visit to WSC will also feature a ‘take-home’ experience allowing younger visitors to continue the conversation with their families or schools regarding the unique choices they made on their visit. As well as allowing for updatable content this would also provide a link between researchers and the public to take advantage of the raised awareness and allow the creation/sharing of follow-up schemes.
  • Local Schools engagement. WSC and UoS will collaboratively develop school workshop resources, which will focus on the context outlined by the exhibit. This will allow for the upskilling of UoS researchers for the project in science communication best practice and raise WSC staff awareness of current research at the UoS. Both organisations would use the resource, ensuring an active legacy and long-term relationship after the exhibit is complete.
  • Online Mini-(M)OOC. To support the post visit online content a mini-(M)OOC will be created drawing more visitors to the exhibit but also to provide additional learning experiences for families of visitors to WSC.
  • Themed events. To support the launch of the exhibit a themed weekend will be hosted at WSC to further raise awareness. This will be supported by researchers and academics from UoS and the experience of the PERu team. These events will be accessible ways of prolonging conversations with public audiences and allowing for the public to meet researchers and role models for the future.

Project Lead: Prof. Martin Solan, Ocean and Earth Science,

Hyde900 and the Winchester Bridewell

HYDE900 is a community project in Winchester concerned with the former estates of Hyde Abbey, Winchester. The Bridewell project relates to an under-researched part of this history. The Abbey Church itself (including the bones of King Alfred) was torn up to provide a new prison. The Abbey site is commemorated with artwork and explanation, but the Bridewell period is not mentioned. The project seeks to fill in this gap in the public’s knowledge of the site by offering a mixture of talks, online materials and walking tours. Research guides will be given to the Hampshire Record Office.

Project Lead: Dr Helen Paul, FHSMS,

Microscopy Roadshow

The project is aimed at facilitating the broad range of ongoing Biomedical Imaging Unit's outreach activities into the future by providing component parts of an imaging / microscope “roadshow” that allows easy and safe transport of equipment and maximises potential for audience participation and engagement. The project will improve the microscopy experience for various audiences during demonstrations, lectures and school visits.

Project Lead: Dr Anton Page, Medicine,

Idea Jamming with Teenagers

The project is inspired by Pokémon Go, Snapchat, and fitness apps and will work with game designers to make an  own game for smartphones to help teenagers exercise more and eat right. To design the right kind of game which will be appealing to teenagers, the project team will hold a series of “idea jams”. In an energy packed non-threatening environment, teenagers will have opportunities to work with game design students and experts. The jams will give them a chance to have their ideas heard, to come up with new concepts and to able to shape the design of the final digital product.

Project Lead: Kath Woods-Townsend, FHSMS,

Pregnancy, change and childhood obesity

The project will engage women of childbearing age with research being carried out by the team, and to incorporate their views in ongoing research projects. We will arrange focus group sessions and utilise existing and ongoing research findings to stimulate discussions around pregnancy behaviour, maternal changes between pregnancies and childhood obesity, as well as testing the acceptability of planned research using social network and app data. This will help inform the impact and method of implementation of findings from ongoing and planned research as well as inform the feasibility of future research plans using existing routine data sources.

Project Lead: Nida Ziauddeen, Medicine,

Beach Hut Brigade - Coastal System Interactive Display

Not only is the UK an island state with thousands of kilometres of coastline – but 57% of all EU citizens live within 15km of the coast, and 40% of the global population lives within 100km of the coastline. The coastline is a home to millions of people, it has helped shape the economy, and every year there are environmental hazards on the coast.

We are a group of PhD students (Soco) who want to capture that diversity of the coastline in one exhibit. Along the way we’re receiving the help and collaboration of multiple Faculties, undergraduate and Master’s students, staff and outside organisations. This exhibit is composed of multiple segments that can stand-alone, or represent a significant part of the coastal system.
We currently have exhibit parts representing coastal flood process, coastal flood management, microplastics and the coast, and cultural heritage on the coast.
Feel free to email to interact, add to the exhibit, join Soco, or express your interest in this project.

Project Lead: Sien van der Plank, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment,

Engaging with parents of the future about the offer of genetic screening before pregnancy

The project engages young people with research carried out by Southampton’s Faculty of Medicine. Together with LifeLab we explore how young people think about a new genetic test that makes it possible for couples considering parenthood to know whether their future baby has an increased chance of having a serious genetic disease. Students from a sixth form college will be asked to critically analyse a decision-aid for this preconception carrier screening (PCS) test and debate the ethical and societal implications of offering such a test in healthcare. In doing so we aim to stimulate critical thinking and explore effective ways of engaging with lay audiences about the issues surrounding genetic risks.

The project will be piloted with one sixth form college. The opportunity to engage in this project will be advertised to local sixth form colleges. Historically we have found that during the ‘Meet the Scientist’ sessions, the teachers are very engaged in the topics discussed and so we will hold a teacher information evening with short talks on the various aspects of this project and discuss the links with and opportunities for interactive teaching. In doing this, this meeting will give us an opportunity to ensure that our project meets the curriculum needs of the teachers and offers them new ideas for teaching difficult aspects of the curriculum.

Project Leads: Mirjam Plantinga and Gill Crawford, Medicine, and

Killer T-cell arcade game

The project will create an interactive game that explains the role of killer T-cells in correctly identifying cancer cells and destroying them, while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

This will be in the style of a 1980s arcade game with joint UoS and CRUK branding. The unit will also display a QR code for players to scan to download associated apps which expand on the theme of immunology in cancer research. The game would be on display at Winchester Science Centre as part of its permanent exhibition, but would be moveable to allow its use at science festivals and other events.

Project Lead: Dr Edd James, Medicine (Cancer Sciences),

Feet for Life: creation of a mobile lab-pod

Walking for health is a major part of modern life at all ages. So how do our feet cope with this? Many people do not understand how feet work or how to manage foot problems. Podiatry is an allied health profession that revolves around the science and medicine of the foot and ankle. This project will combine the expertise of podiatrists, researchers, Winchester science centre team and public / user feedback to develop an innovative communal ‘pop up’ exhibit that will be interactive and engage a wider public audience in understanding the complexity of our feet informed by our research.

Project Lead: Prof Catherine Bowen, Faculty of Health Sciences,

Re-Making Maps of the Mind: Medieval and Modern Journeys

The project will produce new, engaged research into place, journeying, medieval and modern, resulting in a touring public exhibition, publication, and skills development for the project team and wider research community. It builds on new research opportunities identified by the current AHRC-funded ‘St Thomas Way’ project, using collaboration and co-production with an artist as a way into new research questions concerning place and memory, relationships between maps and individual experiences of place, and spatial imaginaries in the past and today. The project benefits from in-kind support from partners including Hereford Cathedral (including permission to use their world-famous Mappa Mundi).

Project Lead: Chloe McKenzie, Humanities,

BUMP(s) in conversation

BUMP(s) in conversation involves the local community of new and expecting parents in the world-leading research done at the University of Southampton in the area of Philosophy of Pregnancy, Birth and early motherhood. The engagement project will trial a new engagement method, direct participant one-to-one interaction, in the venues that suit this target-group, such as baby/toddler groups and breastfeeding cafes. The engagement activities will be supported by an online website and mailing-list and will directly influence present and future research being done in the philosophy department.

Project Lead: Elselijn Kingma, Philosophy,


SAHW (Science, Art, Health and Wellbeing) into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths): Bringing arts, health and wellbeing into the STEAM agenda.

As part of Artswork, Arts Award Leadership South East Regional Network, John Hansard Gallery (JHG) will develop a two stage research engagement project culminating in a day of discussion, interaction and engagement of research that addresses health and wellbeing in the arts, science, engineering and technology. With contributions from a wide range of researchers and public engagement experts this multi-disciplinary FREE event is aimed at schools, colleges, students, researchers and academics as well as arts professionals.

Project Lead: Ronda Gowland-Pryde, Arts and Libraries,

Ultrasonic Geocache Scavenger Hunt

This project was initially identified as part of the Health Effects of Ultrasound in Air committee (HEFUA). This committee is looking at the possible health effects of high amplitude tones that are inaudible to most of the population. In order to find sources in public HEFUA ran a citizen science project. It involved a social media campaign asking for individuals to search for ultrasonic sources with their smartphones and tablets. The campaign was successful in identifying many sources in Southampton, London, and even a few in continental Europe.

This project will enable a campus wide activity during the Science and Engineering day 2018. Ultrasonic beacons will stream facts about various locations around campus. Smartphones can reveal the secret messages to anyone within a few meters of the beacon. An acoustic scavenger hunt will highlight the sounds all around us, even if we can’t hear them, the fact different animals can hear different frequencies, and fun facts about our facilities. We will produce approximately 20 ultrasonic-geocaches. A before and after game will quantify attitude changes and learning. This will be written up for an education journal for duplication by other institutions.

Project Lead: Craig N Dolder, FEE,

Writing in the Community

The project aims to deliver 2 blocks of 8-work CPD courses to train writers in the community, delivering jointly by LLL, English, and SO:Write.  Identifying with the thesis that art can support ‘longer lives, better lived’ and help meet major challenges facing health and social care, the training will develop skills for local writers and postgraduate research students to deliver outreach workshops aimed at building relationships between the university and marginalised community groups as well as improving the wellbeing of others such as those living with dementia, hard-to-reach young people, and recovering addicts.

A member of this team, Evan Placey, has secured prestigious Royal Society of Literature funding, based partly on these workshops.  Read more.

Project Lead: Will May, Humanities,

Hearing HIV

Hearing HIV is a new three-movement ensemble composition that musically depicts the biological
processes involved in HIV replication and how innovative ‘Shock and Kill’ treatments might provide a cure
for HIV. Presented in a lecture-recital format, Hearing HIV will enable audiences to develop an
understanding of the HIV life cycle, cutting-edge therapies for HIV and innovative contemporary music

Benjamin Oliver (composer/conductor, University of Southampton) and Chad Swanson (virologist, King’s
College London [KCL]) will present Hearing HIV in collaboration with Workers Union Ensemble at Guy’s
Chapel, KCL, in February 2018 and University of Southampton Science and Engineering Day 2018.

Project Lead: Dr Benjamin Oliver, Music/Humanities,

Bringing microscope images to life

Electron microscopy is used in our laboratory to diagnose a rare condition called Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD). Cilia are hair-like extensions that move to clear mucus up and out of the lungs. In PCD cilia are internally misshapen and dysfunctional. Two dimensional microscopy images are difficult for the public to understand and visualise. This project aims to translate microscopy images of the airway into tactile 3D-printed models. Using these 3D models the public can grasp the shape, organisation and role of these cells and organelles. This will allow us to explain the importance of cilia to the public.

Project Lead: Claire Jackson, Medicine (CES),

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