Glasgow Science Festival: Wizard Science

At this year’s Glasgow Science Festival, the ‘Harry Potter and the Garden of Secrets‘ will invite the public to engage with science in a truly unique way. Supported by RCUK, the event will give muggles the chance to explore chemistry, genetics and other science subjects through wizard experiments in The Concrete Garden, Possilpark. We chatted to three University of Glasgow PhD students about what they have in store…

hagrids1. Who are you and what do you do?

Sarah – I worked as a vet for ten years before coming to Glasgow Veterinary School to do a PhD. I am researching the causes of a type of skin cancer (sarcoids) in donkeys. I am also trying to find a way of telling the difference between tumours that will respond well or badly to treatment.

Amelia – I am in the third year of my PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Glasgow where I research how our cells’ powerhouses, mitochondria, respond to stress. I have an undergraduate MSci in Genetics also from the University of Glasgow and in my spare time I like to compete in triathlons around Scotland.

Tolu – After a first and second degree in my country Nigeria, I started my PhD in Human Molecular Genetics here at the University of Glasgow and I am now in my final year of study. My research focuses on developing new methods for screening human populations for rare genetic (heritable) diseases that affect the nervous system.

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

Sarah – Whilst working as a vet I dealt with the public daily; I enjoyed thinking of ways to explain complicated diseases and treatments. We also ran client evenings at the practice to give people the latest information on managing their animals. Since joining the University of Glasgow I have taken part in workshops teaching primary school children about parasites – I like helping people understand topics that are unfamiliar to them.

Amelia – Yes, I have done various public engagement activities before including giving a talk and running an activity at Explorathon 2015 and 2016, Glasgow Science Centre European Researcher’s night. I have also helped run activities at science festivals organised by the Royal Society of Biology and also with primary school kids on visits to the University of Glasgow. I like to get involved because I believe it’s incredibly important to enthuse young people about science and also to showcase research to the general public.

Tolu –  Yes. I have participated in quite a number of public engagement events: one of which involved meeting with people affected (and their families) by the rare genetic disease, myotonic dystrophy.

I like helping people affected with rare genetic diseases to understand how their body works with the aim of getting them to make the most out of their condition and to prevent future occurrence in their family lineage.

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

Our activity is centred on the fact that we inherit many characteristics from our parents, but which we get is down to chance. Come along to see what sort of baby dragon you’ll get from the parents we’ve chosen!

4. This year’s festival theme is ‘Glasgow Explores’. Where would you like to explore?

Sarah – Having only moved to Glasgow in November I’m very much enjoying exploring this area. I love hiking so I’m keen to explore more Munros, Scotland is a beautiful place!

Amelia – As I enjoy long bike rides I would like to explore all of Scotland’s many cycle routes and spend more time exploring the countryside.

Tolu – Having lived all my life in an entirely different and far-away part of the world, I’d like to explore Scotland’s museums and sites of cultural heritage and history.

5. What’s the best thing about being a scientist or engineer?

Sarah – The world of animals and biology contains such amazingly interesting things, I could never get bored of learning about them.

Amelia – Investigating the unknown.

Tolu – Solving problems, preventing them from happening.

Sarah, Amelia and Tolu will bring baby dragon genetics fun to the Concrete Garden on Saturday 17 June. The event is now sold out. Some tickets remain, however, for our morning screening of ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’. For more details, visit the website.

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