Discovery Night 2013

'Not just teeth' – Research at Sheffield Dental School

Following on from the success of Researchers Night in September last year, on the 18th of March, the University once again opened its doors to the general public inviting them to come and meet its scientists and engineers.  Researchers from the Dental School were there presenting an interactive set of exhibits highlighting ground-breaking research, targeted once again at dispelling any myths that what we do is ‘all about teeth’.

The Dental School Stand in Firth Hall

team crop

All of the research groups had activities to help explain their work to the visiting public.  Kathryn Hurrell-Gillingham once again coordinated the School stand with help and support from Helen Owen and Sue Spriggs.

Bioengineering & Health Technologies (BHT)

The BHT team's exhibits showed the interdisciplinary nature of the groups work.  Rob Moorehead brought along a 3D printer and spent the evening printing letters of the alphabet for people to take away with them.  He showed them how we use this technology to create replacement body parts and also scaffolds to grow cells on. Aileen Crawford helped by Caroline, Harriet and Sarah explained to the visitors about the tissue engineering and cell work that the group is involved in, linking in with the 3D printer.

The children visiting the stand also had a go at a 'scaled up' version of 3D printing themselves using waxed string and sequins to create their own alphabet scaffold structures.

In addition to the open evening, Paul Hatton presented an interesting lecture called '10 Years Younger: Use or Abuse of Science?' on the 14th of March.  This explored how television has given society a spate of programmes on improving human appearance, everything from “10 Years Younger” through to “My Ugly Best Friend”. Media celebrities make no secret of their use of Botox, cosmetic dentistry and even surgery to maintain their appearance, and many members of the public are eager to follow their example. His lecture helped to explain the science behind these chemical and surgical interventions, at the same time revealing the risks and true costs that the camera never shows. It concluded by considering the societal implications of our obsession with beauty and human perfection.

3d printingletters

Integrated Bioscience (iBio)

The iBio group had lots to see and do.

Lynne Bingle, Simon Whawell and Abby invited members of the public to find out what was in their spit! Having taken a sample, the spit was spun down and then placed on a slide to view under a microscope.  Most people could see food, bacteria and dead cells from their mouths!  They also had a microscope set up to look at living and fixed cells, which Craig Murdoch and Keith Hunterpopped in to help with.

Graham Stafford, Matt Hicks, Prachi Stafford, Rebecca, Andy, Charlotte and Kate with help from some cuddly bugs explained about the different bacteria that can be found in your body and also wowed people with a lego flagellum! Children visiting the stand were asked to design their own bugs, the resulting designs were weird and wonderful. The winning bugs are at the bottom of this page and the full gallery of bugs here.

Graham also gave a talk as part of the evening, it was called 'the animalcules within: mini-creatures in your mouth'.  This interactive talk showed what can be found in our mouths, what the little friends (and enemies) look like, how they move around, how bacteria catch colds and what happens if we do not brush our teeth!

bug and friends

Fiona Boissonade, Emma Bird, Adam and Sarah gave an interesting insight into the work of the neuroscience researchers.  They helped the children to make their own model of a neurone.  Fiona had crafted a nerve scale which involved a piece of string around 15m long! They also used pin-prick pain sensation, two point discrimination tests and taste stimulation to show the role the nerves.


Person-centred and Population Oral Health Research Group (PAPOR)

Barry Gibson and Mel Hall from the PAPOR group used the evening as an opportunity to try a research technique.  Firstly, they blindfolded the participants and then invited them to choose either piece of chocolate or a lemon to eat and then to think about how that felt in their mouth. They then were asked to explore the feelings they experienced for a minute or two. They were then passed a pen to draw (still blindfolded) the sensations and the feeling of the food in their mouth.

The little girl pictured here tried lemon, she chose a green pencil and drew a pictures showing spikey shapes to depict the tangy taste of the lemon. She said that it was a really interesting experiment.


Winning Bug Design - 5 and under - Wilf (3)

Winning Bug Design - 6 - 8 years - Isla (6)

Winning Bug Design - 9 and over - Isabelle (11)

wilf's bug

isla's bug


Judge's comment: this is a sinister looking bug and looks potentially dangerous

Judge's comment: some bugs are friendly and live with us and look after us - this bug looks like a very happy bug! Judge's comment: a creepy crawly bug