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.


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.


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:

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.


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