Glasgow Science Festival: TXTual Health?

How might texting help men reduce their binge drinking? How can social media improve sexual health among young people? How can webcam technology help parents bond with sick or premature babies admitted to special care baby units? These are some of the issues being explored at Glasgow Science Festival this year, with a special event led by Glasgow Caledonian University researchers. We chatted one of the researchers behind the event, Prof Lawrie Elliott.

Professor Lawrie Elliott

1. Who are you and what do you do?

I am Professor Lawrie Elliott. I evaluate public health interventions that aim to help people with alcohol, drug or sexual health problems.

Recent examples: a Parenting Intervention for Drug-Using Fathers (PUPs); an alcohol reduction programmes for older drinkers (Drink Wise Age Well); and a Digital Sexual Health intervention for secondary school pupils STASH).

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

The opportunity to share our science with you.

3. Why should we come to your event?

Because public health is exciting and we want to hear what you think.

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

Your ideas to improve our research

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

Doing stuff no-one has done before which makes a real difference to peoples’ lives.

Join Lawrie and colleagues on 12 June for ‘Can we harness the digital revolution to improve health in Scotland?’. This will take place at 6pm at Glasgow Caledonian University. Free but ticketed. For full details, visit the website.

Glasgow Science Festival: The Wonders of Perception

After successful events in 2015 and 2016, philosophers from the University of Glasgow are set to bring more thought-provoking activities and illusions to Glasgow Science Festival this year. We chatted to Dr Jennifer Corns about what’s in store.


1. Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Dr Jennifer Corns and I am a philosopher at the University of Glasgow.

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

I am part of a team from the Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience who will be hosting an interactive station on the Wonders of Perception.

3. Why should we come to your event?

Perception is amazing! At our interactive event, you can undergo hallucinations and illusions to learn more about the wonders of the mind and the way that you perceive the world around you. Experts on the nature of perceptual experience will be on hand to chat with you and answers questions about the mysteries of your mind.

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

I love to travel and am most keen to explore more of Asia.

5. What’s the best thing about being a philosopher?

As a philosopher, I get to interact with science, engineering, and other areas to ask deep questions about what they do, why they’re valuable, and how they are useful. The best thing about being a philosopher is asking questions!

Join Jennifer for the Wonders of Perception at Science Sunday on Sunday 18 June at the University of Glasgow. The event is free and drop-in. Full details on the website.

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.

Glasgow Science Festival: SCOPE for Science

In today’s blog, we interview ‘SCOPE’, who are bringing hands-on science fun to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum at this year’s Glasgow Science Festival.


1. Who are you and what do you do?

SCOPE (the University of Strathclyde’s Student Community for Optics, Physics, and Engineering) is a student body headed by a committee of eight members (all postgraduate students) and an academic advisor. We run a range of activities for the benefit of the student and wider research community, including participating in outreach events, organising company visits and career/networking events, running a physics journal club, and social gatherings.

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

We have been taking part in the Glasgow Science Festival for several years now, and we are always enthusiastic about outreach activities.

The Glasgow Science Festival brings families closer to science, inspiring the younger generation about how exciting science can be, and we are glad to be part of it.

3. Why should we come to your event?

Our activity this year is called ‘Catching Waves: Surfing on Light’. We want attendees to learn and explore waves, the properties of light, and its characteristics and applications.

Are you ready to become a light surfer and start your career in physics?

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

We’d like to explore… light! The goal of our show is to cover the key features and properties of light and their applications. Also, we will include several devices (polarizers, prismas, colours, 3D glasses..), each illustrating different phenomena, like polarisation, interference, diffraction and scattering. We will intend to cover also information about new technologies based on waves, specially on light.

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

To learn more every day about the world around us, it is a never-ending process!

Join the SCOPE team at Glasgow Explores at Kelvingrove on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 June in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. For more details, visit the website.

Glasgow Science Festival: Tiny Worlds

Every year, University of Glasgow postgraduate students work with the festival team to develop brand new activities that inspire the next generation of scientists. We chatted to Jessica, Chiara and David, three PhDs students from the School of Science and Engineering.

The Group

1. Who are you and what do you do?

Jessica – I’m Jessica, a third year PhD student at the University of Glasgow. I work with Historic Environment Scotland to study sandstone decay of historic buildings.

Chiara –  I’m Chiara, first year PhD student at the University of Glasgow.  I work in the physics departmenent, where I help improving speed and quality of a special microscopy technique used to look at small animals and plants in 3D!

David – My name is David and I started my PhD at the University of Glasgow in October 2016. I am building a new type of microscope which will enable us to have a closer look into how the cells of our body function.

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

Jessica – I’ve been involved in Pint of Science and several other exhibitions. Catching people’s interest and spreading knowledge is in my opinion one of the most important tasks for a scientist.

Chiara – I had been involved in other outreach activities before, and I find it great for many reasons. It helps us learn to communicate what we do and be creative, and it is good for the community to have the chance to get involved in what we do, inspire us and maybe get inspired.

David – The science festival is my first public engagement activity. I want to get engaged because science has revealed so many exciting things about our world which I would like to share.

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

Have you ever wondered what a fly’s leg would look like if it was the size of a toothpick? Come and try our microscopes looking at some exciting samples! You can also test your knowledge on “tiny worlds” with our microscopy memory game. And since we are all working with microscopes ourselves, you can ask us more about how microscopy advances our understanding of the world in today’s science. We’ll show you how to build a portable microscope with just a few cheap objects that you probably already have in your house and we’ll explore with you how a small drop of water can make big things….and things big! We will have a microscopy game for the youngest as well, so bring along your whole family and have fun with us at our micro-stand!

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

Jessica – If possible, travel in time would be the coolest way to explore the past and future.

Chiara – I’d like to explore the space, being able to teleport myself everywhere I want and see what’s out there!

David – I’d like to explore the bottom of the ocean.

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

Jessica – The best thing about being a scientist is constantly learning new things about how the world is held together.

Chiara – Learning and experimenting new things all the time.

David – It is still possible to explore/do something no one has done or seen before and it never gets boring.

Join Jessica, Chiara and David at Science Sunday on Sunday 18 June. Free, drop-in. For more details, visit the website.

Glasgow Science Festival: Exploring Renewable Energy

At this year’s Glasgow Science Festival, researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University will share their cutting-edge research in renewable energy. We had a chat about what’s in store.

1. Who are you and what do you do?



Daria: My name is Daria, I am a renewable energy engineer and currently working as a Doctorate Researcher at Glasgow Caledonian University. I am investigating how to make solar power more affordable for poor people in developing countries.



Clara: Hi, my name is Clara and I am an Audio engineer.



Waqas: I’m Waqas. I am doing research on the generation and use of electricity for homes and the safety hazards associated with solar and wind energy systems

Geroge cropeed


George: My name is George and I am a lecturer and researcher in renewable energy (amongst others) at Glasgow Caledonian University

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

Daria: I love my subject and work and I’m always keen to communicate the ideas and benefits of renewable energies to students.

Clara: The fun I had last year!

Waqas: I’m enthusiastic about raising public awareness of renewable energy physics resources and their applications.

George: I had so much fun last year and going by the dogma “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, I would like to repeat it this year as well.

3. Why should we come to your event?

Daria: We’re running hands-on renewable energy sessions where students can experiment with wind and solar power. Come and experience the latest in environmentally-friendly energy technologies.

Clara: Everybody talks about renewable energy, but how does it work? Through our workshop, pupils will see, feel and hear what it’s all about.

Waqas: There is much to explore about the real and basic science involved behind renewable energy which is quite interesting. The effects of nature on renewable energy generation can be learned easily while playing with simple tools.

George: You should come because a hands-on experience working with renewable energy will leave you hooked for life.

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

Daria: I like to explore different countries and cultures but also the depth of science in front of my computer.

Clara: In the human brain.

Waqas: I would like to explore the “Wildness of Glasgow” – the wild forest part of Glasgow among the mountains.

George: Space – although I would also like to find out what is happening inside the brains (?!?) of many political leaders of the world.

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

Daria: As a scientist and engineer, you get the chance to create something new and to have input into new ideas and designs. It’s a very interesting and creative job which bring new tasks and challenges every day.

Clara: Ending each working day with the knowledge of having created a thing that did not exist in the morning of that same day.

Waqas: The best thing is thinking of ways to tackle global problems, and making life for human beings more comfortable by providing appropriate solutions. The other excitement is when an experiment works and you find out something new for the first time. So, you’re the first person in the world to know something.

George: Trying to make the world a better place, failing and trying again until we get it right. Plus knowing how the world works is an added bonus and it makes us good team members in pub quizzes.

Daria, Clara, Waqas and George will be sharing their expertise at ‘Renewable Energy Physics’ for secondary schools from 12-15 June. For full details and booking, visit our website. You can also catch George at ‘Glasgow Skeptics: Energy Myth Busting‘, a talk and debate in the pub on 12 June.

Cosmic Cabaret: Behind the Scenes

‘Peake into Space: Cosmic Cabaret’ was an evening of live poetry, music and comedy funded by the Institute of Physics and performed at Glasgow Science Festival 2016. The entertainment was directly inspired by the work of physicists and engineers from the University of Glasgow, working on cutting-edge research linked to space exploration. We chatted to one such engineer, Michael Perreur-Lloyd, about the cosmic work he’s doing in the School of Physics and Astronomy.


Michael at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida

1. Who are you and where do you work?

I am Michael Perreur-Lloyd and I am a Mechanical Design Engineer working in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow.

2. What was your involvement with the Cosmic Cabaret night?

As part of a group of scientists and engineers I met with the Cabaret artists to tell them about my area of research and what my job entailed. The artists took that information, and that of many other researchers, to craft the songs, poetry and comedy that was highlighted at the Cosmic Cabaret.


Michael demonstrates safety procedures to poet Calum Rodger, comedian Gemma Flynn and musician Stuart Cromarty

3. Can you explain your work (in simple terms!)?

I design instrumentation for space gravitational wave observatories. I am project engineer for the Glasgow team that developed the optical bench interferometer for the European Space Agency LISA Pathfinder mission that was launched in December 2015. An interferometer – mostly made of very high quality glasses – is essentially a very precise measuring device that reads out the interference pattern of two laser beams and is sensitive to measurements as small as a picometre (10^-12m), or one trillionth of a metre. The LISA Pathfinder mission has successfully tested many technologies that will find their way on to a space gravitational wave observatory called eLISA in the early 2030s.

4. What’s your favourite thing about your job?

I am very fortunate to work with many intelligent and talented people on a beautiful campus in the west end of Glasgow.

5. Impress us with your favourite science fact

The LISA mission will involve flying three satellites in a triangular formation at a spacing a million kilometres!

We would like to thank Michael and all of the other scientists who helped inspire the fantastic performances at Peake into Space: Cosmic Cabaret. You can watch clips of some of the performances below.