Public engagement activities in MBB
Our staff and students are enthusiastically involved in a wide range of activities to take our science into schools and to the general public, and to engage with policymakers. Here is a flavour.
KrebsFest was a major event that took place in Sheffield City Centre and in the University, mainly in September and October 2015. It was a celebration of the life and achievements of Sir Hans Krebs, our first Professor of Biochemistry, and involved both arts and science. See this site for more details and pictures. We should make a special mention of the Krebs rap, performed by rap artist Oort Kuiper, which as well worth watching and can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDw81wGTunU&feature=youtu.be.
Engaging families with science
We are fortunate in that one of the early career researchers in MBB is Dr Nate Adams. Nate is an enthusiastic communicator, with already an impressive CV, including having acted as a consultant for several TV programmes including BBC science. He has done many science demonstrations and lectures for schools and young people (right, at Discovery night), and is now focussing his efforts on engaging families, as being a better way of supporting career aspirations and helping young people sustain their interest in science. To this end he has presented a demonstration on Throwing Spanners at Nanobots (left) at SMASHfestUK, an innovative family science festival in a deprived area of London. This explores his research, which uses an improved understanding of photosynthesis to help food security and sustainability. He is also a regular visitor to the Cheltenham Science Festival, and this year is leading a team to the Shambala Festival - a very different target audience than SMASHFestUK, but a relaxed and informal way of introducing science.
Influencing Science Policy
We are undertaking a range of activities to engage with and influence science policy. We sent a small team to the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris in December 2015, to highlight the issue of food security, a major research interest at Sheffield. We have held several meetings with MPs. In February 2016, Nate Adams was invited to the Houses of Parliament to demonstrate practical science and address a group of MPs on the importance of specialist science teachers in primary schools. In the photo he is encouraging Shadow Minister for Business and Culture Chi Onwurah MP to set fire to the House of Commons, assisted by TV science presenter Fran Scott. He commented 'You wouldn't believe how hard it is to take a flamethrower into the Houses of Parliament!'.
Brainwaves is organised and run by students, and is aimed at communicating science to schoolchildren (plus the odd adult!). It also runs an after-school club and contributes a science slot to Forge Radio, the University's radio station (thus bringing science to our non-scientific students!). Brainwaves is to be found at many events in and around Sheffield, and activities include extracting DNA from strawberries, running chromatography on sweets and making models of microbes. They also organise entertaining science lectures. Many of its members come from MBB, and their website is to be found at http://www.sciencebrainwaves.com/.
A question of taste
“Hands on DNA: A Question of Taste” is a practical molecular biology workshop for A-level students. Students are able to use equipment and biological materials, which are not commonly available in school and they may have only read about in textbooks or seen on TV. The workshop covers DNA extraction, PCR, Restriction Digests and Gel Electrophoresis.
Students extract their own DNA (from cheek cells) and analyse them by PCR ('gene footprinting') to tell if they have the gene for tasting PTC, which is what makes sprouts taste bitter. (Some of us genuinely do not taste them as bitter because we have a different gene!) The full day workshop takes place in the Perak teaching laboratories and is delivered by PhD students and early career researchers from MBB. Workshops are also delivered as part of festivals and special university events and these are open to all members of the public.
Atom labs is run by early career researchers (PhD students and postdocs) in the department and presents the research of the department. They got money from Sheffield Alumni to buy a 3D printer, which has been used to print 3D versions of biomolecules. On the left is a 3D version of the DNA double helix, with one strand in blue and one in white. Atom labs also has some virtual reality headsets, which can be used to see inside biomolecules, as well as the world's largest Atomic Force Microscope tip. They can be found at a variety of venues in Sheffield, including Discovery Night, the annual presentation of fun science to the general public.
Some of our graduates go into teaching. We therefore organise projects in the third year, where our students can work with local schools to devise and present exciting practical science in schools, and take part in the teaching of science, across a range of ages. The lessons often focus on micro-organisms, both the good and the bad. Some of our third year students also do projects on science communication.