DNA, the ‘building block of life’, is what makes us so alike yet so different. This molecule is the subject of three hands-on activities for families at this year’s Glasgow Science Festival, led by postgraduates Weronika, Lauren and Millie.
1.Who are you and what do you do?
Weronika: My name is Weronika and I am currently working on a PhD project, which aims to design a quick and simple diagnostic test for hepatitis C virus.
Lauren: My name is Lauren and I am currently working on a PhD project which aims to find new treatments for haemorrhagic stroke.
Milly: My name is Milly and I am currently a PhD student working on prostate cancer
2. Have you done public engagement before? What made you want to get involved?
Weronika: I have never done public engagement work before, but I thought that taking part in the Glasgow Science Festival would be a perfect opportunity. I genuinely like to try out different experiences and challenges and I always found the prospect of working with people exciting. There is nothing more rewarding than to engage with the public, especially non-scientific people as it helps to remind me why I love science so much.
Lauren: Glasgow Science Festival is my first public engagement work! I enjoy the challenge of trying to make relatively complex concepts more accessible to those without much prior knowledge of the subject. I think it is really important for children and young people to be exposed to the amazing work that is going on within the field at the moment. Sometimes it can be difficult to relate what is learned in the classroom to how this knowledge could be applied in real life and I think the Glasgow Science Festival gives current science students a fantastic opportunity to be able to forge this link and spark interest in the sciences!
Milly: Being a part of the Glasgow Science Festival Internship has been my first experience with public engagement. I find public engagement such an important part of research, allowing scientists to talk about their research and teach the public on relatively complicated topics in a much more understandable way. I got involved so I could help children understand science in a fun and creative way!
3. Describe your activity to us. Why should we come along?
Our activity is based around DNA and how each of us has our own unique changes to this DNA sequence which makes us, us! Through activities including building a DNA molecule from sweeties to catching a criminal and saving the Scottish Wildcat through DNA analysis, our activity will leave everyone with a greater appreciation for the importance of DNA technologies in our world today. Plus you will get a chance to gain some scientific knowledge in a fun, family-friendly way!
4. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?
Weronika: I definitely could not live without my smartphone. It allows me to send emails, read scientific articles and communicate with people. That definitely saves my time tremendously and not to mention space in my already overly large bag!
Lauren: I think my answer may be similar to many people – my smartphone! It is extremely helpful nowadays to be connected wherever you are – whether that be for work or keeping in touch with friends/family. I think you only realise how important your device is to your day to day life when you forget to charge it and your day seems to run much less efficiently!
Milly: The internet has to be the BEST innovation of all time. It allows me to keep in contact with people all over the world as well as keeping me up to date on research …. and shopping!
5. Impress us with your favourite science joke or fact
There is enough DNA in an average person’s body to stretch from the sun to Pluto and back. 17 times.
Weronika, Lauren and Milly will be bringing fun science to the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash on 19 June from 10:00-16:00 at the Hunter Hall, University of Glasgow.