The Gravitational Wave Detectors

Communicating complex concepts and specialised research is a big challenge for scientists. This group of postgraduates have developed a fun, interactive activity to explain gravitational waves to a public audience at the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash.

graviwaves

 

1. Who are you and what do you do?

Holly: I’m a PhD student in the chemistry department and I make materials that can levitate trains using powerful magnetic fields!

Euan: I’m a PhD student in the particle theory group of Glasgow university. I study ways of simulating small patches of spacetime on a supercomputer.

Finlay: I’m Finlay, and I’m a PhD student who fires lasers at strange liquids to make crystals grow in them.

Fraser: I’m Fraser, a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Glasgow. I use nanotechnology to make millions of tiny pillars that fit on a slide no larger than your thumbnail, and we want to use these to get stem cells to do what they’re told.

2. What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

Holly: I’ve never carried out public engagement before, but am really excited about the prospect of making science cool for non-scientists!

Euan: Besides GSF I am a volunteer organiser for the Pint of Science festival, in which researchers give talks about their work to general audiences in pubs. I am attracted to public engagement by the prospect of inspiring the next generation of scientists.

Finlay: I love teaching, and helping others see that ‘complicated science’ is actually easier than it seems. This is my first time being involved with Glasgow Science Festival, but won’t be the last!

Fraser: I’ve never been properly involved with public engagement, but I’ve taught in a high school before as part of my undergraduate course in Physics. I really loved seeing young people, and even the teachers, getting involved in some “complicated” concepts like Gravitational Waves and Spacetime, and seeing the questions they asked and the ideas that they had towards it. Public engagement is also really good for teaching yourself things, because if you want to explain something in a really easy way to understand you need to really understand it yourself first.

3. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

We’ve built ourselves a pretty cool make-shift gravitational wave detector that you can come and try out to detect a gravitational wave, and have a chunk of spacetime that we’ve cleverly captured in a tupperware box, along with a star on a stick, to show you how spacetime really makes gravity happen.

4. It’s Glasgow Science Festival’s 10th birthday! We’ll be celebrating with some science-themed cake and balloons. What’s your birthday treat of choice?

Holly: Definitely mascara.

Euan: google maps

Finlay: My GPS watch.

Fraser: Hot showers. Have you tried going a day or two with only cold showers? Brrrr.

5. And finally: impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

There are places in the universe which are physically impossible for humans to reach, since they are moving away from us faster than the speed of light.

Holly, Euan, Finlay and Fraser will be at the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash on 19th June from 10:00-16:00 in the Hunter Hall, University of Glasgow. For more information, visit the website.

 

Green Biotech?

Can you be ‘green’ and in favour of genetic engineering? That’s the question under scrutiny at this year’s Café Scientifique, led by the Royal Society of Biology and the Biochemical Society. We had a chat with one of the panelists, Dr Louise Horsfall from the University of Edinburgh.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

Louise Horsfall

I am a synthetic biologist and lecturer in biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh

louisehorsfall

Photo: Copyright (c) Peter Tuffy Photography/Edinburgh Research and Innovation Ltd.

 

2. What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

I’m taking part in the free Glasgow Café Scientifique event ‘Can we give biotech the green light?’ organised by the Biochemical Society and the Royal Society of Biology.

It’s being held in the Victorian Bar at the Tron Theatre, so I’m expecting quite a lively discussion about the pros and cons of modern biotechnology.

3. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

Vaccinations, I’d likely be dead by now if I hadn’t received any.

4. It’s Glasgow Science Festival’s 10th birthday! We’ll be celebrating with some science-themed cake and balloons. What’s your birthday treat of choice?

Birthday cake for breakfast, it’s only once a year and I swear it makes it taste even better!

5. And finally: impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

I’m not too good at remembering jokes, and certainly not science ones.

What do you call a teletubbie that’s been burgled?

….a tubbie

Technology based jokes count, right?

Listen to Louise and other panelists at ‘Café Scientifique: Can We Give New Biotech the Green Light?’ on Monday 13 June, 19:00-21:00 in the Tron Theatre. The event is FREE and no booking is required. For more details, visit our website.

Science-themed Monopoloy

Our postgraduate internship brings together researchers from a huge range of subjects, be it stem cells, ice sheets, nano-sized materials or renewable energy. We chatted to one of the postgrad teams as they prepare to bring their hands-on activity to the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash on 19th June.

team

The team preparing for GSF 2016

1. Who are you and what do you do?

crystal

Crystal: Hi, my name is Crystal Smiley and I am in my final year of my PhD within the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences. My research focuses on detecting oxygen and hydrogen isotopes within water from different terrestrial sources, such as the Greenland Ice Sheet and the annual snow cover, within the marine environment in retrospect to marine palaeo-runoff proxies.

Mark

Mark: I’m Mark and I am currently doing a PhD in Biomedical Engineering. My research involves understanding how cells change their behaviour based on what kind of surface that they are growing on, which could be used to make stem cells turn into bone.

Eddy: I’m Eddy and I’m in my first year of a Chemistry PhD at Glasgow University. I’m investigating nano-sized metal oxide clusters that could be used as molecular magnets.

Roberta

Roberta: I am Roberta, a first year PhD at the Chemistry department. I have always been fascinated by the use of renewable sources to produce clean energy. My research is focused on this field by looking at an alternative way to store energy using hydrogen.

2. Have you done public engagement before? What made you want to get involved?

Crystal: Yes, I have done two public engagement activities before. I participated in the Glasgow Science Festival in 2013 presenting Ocean Acidification affects on corals. In 2014, I travelled to the US to give a seminar on “Opportunities in Earth Science” within the Aberdeen, Washington and McCleary, Washington School Districts. I started public engagement because I wanted to share the world of science and its many fascinating discoveries. I also wanted to strengthen my presenting skills to a non-science based community.

Mark: I’ve not done any public engagement before. I wanted to get involved because I wanted to take advantage of as many opportunities that a PhD provides as possible. A PhD gives you a chance to take part in so many things that you’d never thought about before and this is one of those things that you don’t know what it’s all about or whether you’ll like until you’ve tried it.

Eddy: This is my first time doing public engagement. I wanted share my enthusiasm for science and how science has changed our world for the better.

Roberta: This is the first time I’ve done public engagement but I really like the idea of sharing my passion with others. I think that doing public engagement is a beautiful way to inspire young minds to pursue a career in science and I really like the idea of being a part of this.

3. Describe your activity to us. Why should we come along?

Come visit us and discover some of the Scottish Innovation technologies that make Glasgow a greener, cleaner, safer and smarter city. Join in on the fun by playing a giant innovation version of your family friendly board game, MONOPOLY! As you move around the board you will have the opportunity to learn and collect some of the new innovations that are happening around Glasgow. Collecting four innovations of the same colour or one of each colour wins a special prize and bragging rights for the year!

4. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

Crystal: It’s hard to narrow down one innovation to live without but I couldn’t live without my camera.

Mark: Too many things that, I think, we wouldn’t even realise we needed until they weren’t there. I would say a microwave; it makes it really easy to heat up all my leftover meals.

Eddy: The kettle.

Roberta: I think I could never live without a smartphone. This is very funny because actually I was one of the last among my group of friends to get one and now I use it for almost everything.

4. Finally… impress us with your favourite science fact or joke!

Crystal: Why wasn’t the Geologist hungry? Because they lost their APATITE.

How often do you like jokes about elements? PERIODICALLY

Eddy: Atoms, with a callous disregard for etymology, can in fact be split.

Never trust an atom. They make up everything

Roberta: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate!

Meet Crystal, Mark, Eddy and Robert and have fun with giant Monopoly at the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash on 19 June, 10:00-16:00 in the Hunter Hall, University of Glasgow. More information on the website.

Bugs in the Pub

Some of the best chats happen in the pub! So why not throw some science into the mix? ‘Bugs in the Pub’ will give pub-goers the chance to hear some fascinating research over a pint with friends. Dr Connor Bamford is the lead organiser.

connor

1. Who are you and what do you do?

Connor Bamford: I am a postdoc researcher at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR) out at the Garscube campus. My research focuses on understanding how our immune systems defend us against virus infection.

 

 2. What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

I believe that it is our duty to communicate research and engage with the public and the GSF is an ideal opportunity to do this. I ran an event last year (microTALKs), which was a success, and I wanted to repeat it in 2016. To do this we are running a ‘pint of science’ style event exploring the role of structure, architecture and innovation in virus infection. Basically I think that evolution is the greatest innovator and that we can observe evolution by looking at viruses and the animals they infect.

3. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

If it wasn’t for antibiotics we would probably all not survive very long.

4. It’s Glasgow Science Festival’s 10thbirthday! We’ll be celebrating with some science-themed cake and balloons. What’s your birthday treat of choice?

Pizza – it’s always pizza.

5. And finally: impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

Every living thing on the planet gets infected by viruses, even viruses do!

Join Connor and friends in The Admiral Bar, Waterloo Street on Thursday 16 June from 19:00-21:00. The event is free but ticketed – book online.

The Science of Superbugs

Antiobiotic resistance is a growing problem in public health, yet overuse or misuse of antiobiotics remains an issue. Every year, 700,000 people die from drug-resistant infections. For this year’s Glasgow Science Festival, a group of postgraduate interns from the University of Glasgow have developed a fun, hands-on activity to explore the science of antiobiotics at the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

Andrei loves liquid helium

My name is Andrei Kamenski, and I’m doing a PhD at the University of Glasgow. I’m trying to find out the structure of a protein (a large biological molecule) that is involved in transferring information in the cell and, probably, in breast cancer.

Biav

My name is Biav Kittani. I’m a Clinical Pharmacist.  And currently, trying to be an optimistic PhD student.  The focus of my PhD is to find a new therapy for Stroke.

Edu

My name is Edubiel Alpizar. I am veterinary doctor. I have worked with marine mammals, zoo and domestic animals, my favorites are sea lions. I have been an athlete my entire life. I worked as an artist and stunt-sports man for many years, but I always had some energy left so I decided to work as a scientist the rest of my life. I am currently doing my PhD research in Brazil, Mexico and UK to understand how parasites evolve and their mechanisms of resistance to different drugs. During my spare time, I am training to compete in an Ironman Triathlon.

Cheeky Nuria after horse surgery

My name is Nuria Terron and I am vet surgeon that has embarked on a PhD at the University of Glasgow, studying a virus that causes skin cancer in horses.

2. Have you done public engagement before? What made you want to get involved?

Andrei: Never, but I have considered it for quite a while. I think that going out there and speaking to people is beneficial for everyone involved. We often hear about some cool discoveries from the media, but to me it all looks like it’s happening behind the glass if there is no contact with the people who actually do the research. Having obtained some experience in biology, I want to share how it’s done day-to-day, and what topics are currently in the spotlight, as well as learn more about what people find important, and what concerns they have about modern science.

Biav: As a STEM Ambassador, I participated in a number of STEM and career fairs in schools. I also took part in the 3 minutes thesis competition. You can have a look at my presentation here: http://youtu.be/2SvN0eE-5bU

Personally, I enjoy public engagement events enormously. For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than to see kids curious about science and having fun at the same time. Science events give us the opportunity to promote science, and to demonstrate that science can be fun and entertaining.

Edubiel: Yes, quite a few activities in Mexico, Brazil and more recently in the UK. In the past I worked with Public Health and developed many activities and workshops teaching school children from poor communities, key messages to prevent many of the most neglected parasitic diseases of the world. The reason I have done public engagement is that one of the main reasons why the world has more football players than scientists, is that scientists we have forgotten to do a very important part of our job: to make it fun and entertaining for everybody. Also because one of the best sensations that I have experienced in my life, is a very special energy, like an electric current going all over my body when I am sharing knowledge, that is why I became a scientist. And I do believe, science is changing the world rapidly.

Nuria: I always enjoyed interacting with people and science and public engagement events are just that for me: a fun way of conveying science and a fulfilling experience because I learn so much from the audience every time I participate in those events. I have volunteered for the Glasgow Science Festival in several occasions and I have been an event manager at the Glasgow Science Centre during Explorathon. I also have participated in events in community centres where I have had very rewarding experiences with kids particularly.

3. Describe your activity to us. Why should we come along?

We have designed a couple of activities with two main purposes: to make people aware of the problem of antibiotic resistance and to have fun while learning from each other!

The first activity is a straightforward yet very easy and visual experiment whereby you will learn how bacteria become resistant when exposed to antibiotics without killing them. Be prepared to be amused with colour-changing bacteria, and to put your science skills to the test while using pipettes!

The second activity is a hands-on experiment (literally) whereby you will discover what bacteria do with the antibiotic when they have become resistant. You will be very surprised with the outcome, and just a hint… our bacteria can move and ‘eat’ things!

4. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

Andrei: That would probably be the Internet, and it would be quite difficult writing for this blog without it… Pretty sure invention of logarithms by a Scotsman John Napier in the 16th century has played a big role here.

Biav: If it wasn’t for the Scottish genius Mr. John Logie Baird, I wouldn’t be able to watch my favourite tv shows such as “Doctor Who?”.

Edubiel: The perfect 4D design of my brain. More accurately, Science.

Nuria: My mum makes the most amazing fig jam in the world and I could not enjoy my favourite breakfast if it wasn’t for Mr. Alan MacMasters, the Scotsman who invented the toaster, the Scottish innovation I could most definitely not live without.

5. Impress us with your favourite science joke or fact.

How can you tell the difference between a chemist and a plumber? Ask them to pronounce “unionized”.

Join Andrei, Biav, Edubiel and Nuria at the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash on 19 June from 10:00-16:00 at the Hunter Hall, University of Glasgow. The event is FREE and filled with fun activities for all ages, to shortcut you into the world of research.

Café Scientifique at Glasgow Science Festival

Professor Kevin O’Dell has been a long-standing contributor to Glasgow Science Festival, from the science of ‘zombie-ism’ to his ‘blame your parents’ workshops on genetics. He stopped for a chat ahead of ‘Café Scientifique’ which will run on Monday 13 June at the Tron Theatre.

KevinODell

1. Who are you and what do you do?

Kevin O’Dell, Professor of Behavioural Genetics at the University of Glasgow

2. What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

Glasgow Café Scientifique is running a ‘Can we give new biotechnology the green light?’ event, in collaboration with the Royal Society of Biology. It should be a fascinating evening as we pose the question Can you be ‘green’ and in favour of genetic engineering?

3. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

Entirely predictable I know, but I’m going to say my iPhone

4. It’s Glasgow Science Festival’s 10th birthday! We’ll be celebrating with some science-themed cake and balloons. What’s your birthday treat of choice?

Industrial-scale portions of coffee cake

5. And finally: impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

For a scientific joke, you need to look no further than ‘Creationism’

Join Kevin and friends at Café Scientifique: Can We Give New Biotech the Green Light? on Monday 13 June at the Tron Theatre. The free event will run from 19:00-21:00. More details on the website.

Trackers

From planets to particles, tracking movement is carried out by scientists from all disciplines. We chatted to two of our postgraduate interns, Kim and Mat, about their tracking-themed activity which will be on show as part of the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash on 19 June.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

Kim: I’m Kim Wood, a PhD student at the University of Glasgow. My research focuses on the use of stable isotopes to uncover information on the diet, health and movement of wildebeest in the Serengeti.

Mat: I’m Mat and I research the interaction between high power ultrasonic waves (waves that vibrate just a bit faster than the ones you can hear) and material microstructure. In my spare time I like to go rock climbing and campaign for human rights.

2. Have you done public engagement before? What made you want to get involved?

Kim: I’ve been lucky enough to get involved in a quite a bit of public engagement work in the past, mostly centred around zoology and conservation; from teaching tourists about turtles on Greek boat trips to helping produce biology-themed articles for theGIST magazine here in Glasgow. I wanted to get involved with Glasgow Science Festival, as it’s a great opportunity to develop my hands-on science communication skills in a setting that is very different from my day-to-day academic environment.

Mat: I’ve always really enjoyed teaching and thinking up ways to make science more accessible to people who might not initially think they are interested in it. There is a lot of public engagement in the human rights work that I do, and I thought that bridging the gap between that work and my research would be really fun.

3. Describe your activity to us. Why should we come along?

Our theme is ‘tracking in science’ and we look at how and why scientists need to be able to measure movement at different scales, from planets to particles. For the activity itself, you will become detectives, tracking different animals using all of your senses. You will have to identify birds, frogs, fish and predators using different tracking techniques. The skills you will learn are used by scientists for a huge range of things in everyday research – you will even be able to use them to search for other animals in the wild.

4. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

Kim: Google – the know-it-all’s holy grail! Honestly, I can’t imagine how people survived without it. I’m a fan of medical and criminal procedural dramas and I watch them equipped with my smart phone, ready to double check any ‘facts’ I’ve not heard before. Ditto with spelling – if I come across a word I’ve not seen previously, I google the spelling/definition and copy it out into a little notebook!

Mat: I have arthritis and therefore couldn’t live without the advances biologists and medics have made in targeting specific drugs to treat it. The recent advances in this medicine have been a game-changer for people with arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, enabling us to get on with what we want to do just like everyone else!

5. Impress us with your favourite science joke or fact

Despite the impressive length of a giraffe’s neck, they contain only 7 cervical vertebrae (neck bones) – the same amount as a human! The bones are simply elongated in the giraffe, and each can be up to a foot long. Google a picture! This is compelling evidence for evolution and the constraints that anatomy may impose on it.

Join Kim and Mat on 19 June from 10:00-16:00 in the Hunter Hall, University of Glasgow. For more information, visit our website.